As we face Federal elections before 21 May, it’s timely to review how political systems relate with Islam. This is a topic beyond the scope of a short article, so we’ll address just a few key aspects.

Some years ago, my research found that monarchial Muslim states displayed more Islamic political elements than in democratic systems.

Since then however, some monarchies (Saudi, UAE) have become authoritarian and arguably less Islamic. On the other hand, democratic countries, Indonesia, Tunisia and Malaysia, have topped in terms of Islamic Well-Being, evaluated from Objectives of Islamic law (Maqasid al-Shari’ah) perspectives.

Essential elements of an Islamic political system include: Rule of law; Justice (‘Adl); Social justice; Popular representation; Freedom of expression; and Decision-making by consultation (Shura’). Each can be justified Islamically, and each are elements of an ideal democracy.

This will surprise Pauline Hanson, who claims incorrectly, that Islam and democracy are incompatible.

Mohammed Hashim Kamali, states that amongst Muslim scholars (himself, Rachid Ghannouchi, Yusuf al-Qaradawi), the view strengthens that a democratic system is acceptable to Islam.

“This is because democracy is about fundamental rights and liberties, rule of law, representative government, and equality before the law.” Islam “takes affirmative positions on protecting/realizing people’s welfare and maslahah [benefit], consultative government committed to accountability, and justice.”

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi noted: “The essence of democracy is most definitely in agreement with the essence of Islam, provided we go back to original sources – Qur’an, Sunna, and acts of Rightly Guided caliphs.”

In a democracy, he says: “humanity found such practical approaches as elections, majority rule, multiparty systems, right of the minority to express opposition, and judicial independence.”

He states: “Among [negative] arguments advanced by [some] Islamists … is that democracy rests on majority opinion. Islam, … does not [necessarily] privilege one opinion over others simply because of the majority principle. This is true since  Islam weighs an opinion to determine whether it is correct or incorrect [from Islamic principles].”

This verse is relevant:  If you obeyed most of those on earth, they would lead you away from God’s Path. (Quran 6:116)

There can however, be voting on matters of judgement open to differing opinions.

The majority principle is necessary to decide such disagreements, since a view held by two is ordinarily likely to be better than that held by one. Voting then, is valid to resolve such disagreements.

Allah holds absolute authority, so electoral democracy in a country aspiring to follow Islamic principles, does not authorize the people/government to change Islamic beliefs, devotional principles (‘ibadat), halal and haram, or essentials of morality grounded in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

However, the Islamic doctrine of syariah-oriented policy (siyasah al-Shar’iyyah) enables authorities to address issues/problems through shariah-compliant ordinances. This represents a residual authority, which the government exercises on behalf of citizens.

In the Muslim world today, we are recovering our ethical-legal teachings/practices that were severely curtailed under colonialism and many aspects fell into disuse.

However, Islam is the vibrant religion of Truth relevant for all times, and once demonstrated and the fruits tasted, has power to attract afresh hearts and minds to adopt its precepts.

Australian Muslims often baulk to vote in elections, taking the view they cannot vote for a party that may support un-Islamic policies.

However, such a stance may waste their vote, which could be used to elect a party that does most ‘good.’

The objection is overcome by the Islamic legal maxim of “Taking the lesser of two evils” (choosing the course resulting in less harm).

So, we do have a duty to examine party polices and make the best choice for the Muslim community, and indeed the country as a whole, from our Islamic perspective.