An address by Dr. Ifthikar Ahmad Ayaz at Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium – Malta.
Posted on April 17th, 2012

By A. Abdul Aziz,

  (Given below is the gist of the speech delivered by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz, O.B.E. atPeace Symposium organized by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Malta recently.)

 Dr. Ifthikhar Ahmad Ayaz, OBE

1.(Officer of the Excellent Order of the British Empire)
2. Consul General of Tuvalu Island in the United Kingdom
3. Senator World Nations Congress
4. Ambassador of Peace appointed Universal Peace Foundation
5. Recipient of International Peace Prize
6. Member UN Human Rights Council Committee in the Rights of
Minorities “”…” Rights of Woman / Rights of Children
7. Member World Poverty Alleviation Forum

8. Honored as the 2010 Man of the Year in Human Rights.

9.  An eminent member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Islam.

10. Visited Sri Lanka in 2009.

I witness that there is no God but Allah.  He is one,  and I testify that Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah.  I seek the refuge of Allah from satan and I begin in the name of Allah the Gracious ever Merciful.

 The topic of my speech today is Democracy and Human Rights in Islam.

The concept of Democracy, despite its Greek origins, is based on Abraham Lincoln’s brief definition of “ƒ”¹…”government of the people, by the people, for the people.’

According to the Holy Quran, people have a free choice to adopt any system of rule which suits them. Democracy, sovereignty, tribal or feudal systems are valid provided they are accepted by the people as the traditional heritage of their society.However, it seems that democracy is preferred and highly commended in the Holy Quran. The Muslims are advised to have a democratic system though not exactly on the pattern of Western style democracy.

Islam does not present a hollow definition of democracy anywhere in the Holy Quran. It only deals with principles of vital significance and leaves the rest to the people. Follow and benefit, or stray and be destroyed.

There are only two pillars to the Islamic concept of democracy. These are:

1)      Democratic process of elections must be based on trust and integrity.

Islam teaches that whenever you exercise your vote; do it with the consciousness that God is watching over you and will hold you responsible for your decision. Vote for those who are most capable of discharging their national trust and are in themselves trustworthy.

Implicit in this teaching is the requirement that the ones entitled to vote, must exercise their voting right unless there are circumstances beyond their control or impediments exist in the exercise of that right.

2)      Governments must function on the principle of absolute justice.

The second pillar of Islamic democracy is that whenever you make decisions; make them on the principle of absolute justice. Be the matter political, religious, social or economic, justice may never be compromised. After the formation of government, voting within the party should also always remain oriented towards justice. Hence no partisan interest or political consideration should be permitted to influence the process of decision-making. In the long run, every decision taken in this spirit is bound to be truly of the people, by the people and for the people.

The substance of democracy is very clearly discussed in the Holy Quran and as far as the advice to Muslims is concerned, though monarchy has never been ruled out as an irreligious and ungodly institution, democracy is most certainly preferred to all other forms of government.

Describing the ideal Muslim society, the Holy Quran declares: (42:39)

The Arabic words amruhum shura bainahum (whose affairs are administered by mutual consultation) relate to the political life of the Muslim society, clearly indicating that in matters of government, its decisions are made through mutual consultation, which, of course, reminds one of the first part of the definition of democracy i.e. government of the people. The common will of the people becomes the ruling will of the people through mutual consultation.

The second part of the definition of democracy relates to by the people. This is clearly referred to in the verse:

Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those best fitted to discharge them. (4:59)

 This means that whenever you express your will to choose your rulers, always place the trust where it rightfully belongs.

The right of the people to choose their rulers is of course mentioned but incidentally. The real emphasis is on how one should exercise this right. The Muslims are reminded that it is not just a question of their personal will which they can exercise in any way that they please, but far more than that, it is a question of national trust. In matters of trust, you are not left with many choices. You must discharge the trust with all honesty, integrity and a spirit of selflessness. The trust must repose where it truly belongs.

Many Muslim scholars quote this verse simply to indicate that Islam propounds the system and theory of democracy as understood in the Western political philosophy, but it is only partly true.

The system of consultation mentioned in the Holy Quran has no room for the party politics of the contemporary Western democracies nor does it give licence to the style and spirit of political debates in democratically elected parliaments and houses of representatives.

According to the established norms of democracy, the voter can cast his vote in favour of a puppet, or spoil or toss his ballot paper in a dustbin instead of the ballot box. He will remain irreproachable, nor can he be censured for violating any principles of democracy.

According to the Quranic definition, however, a voter is not the absolute master of his vote, but a trustee. As a trustee, he must discharge his trust fairly and squarely and place it where he feels it truly belongs. He must be vigilant and aware that he will be held responsible for his act in the sight of God.

In view of this Islamic concept, if a political party has nominated a candidate who an individual party member considers will fail to discharge his national trust, that member should quit the party rather than vote for someone who does not merit the trust. Loyalty to a party is not allowed to interfere in his choice.

Again, a trust must be discharged in good faith. Therefore, every voter must participate fully in exercising his vote during the elections unless he is unable to do so. Otherwise, he will have failed in the discharge of his own trust. The concept of abstention or refraining from exercising the vote has no room in the Islamic concept of democracy.

It is becoming popular among Muslim political thinkers of the contemporary age to claim that Islam stands for democracy.

According to their political philosophy, God being the ultimate authority, sovereignty belongs to Him. Absolute sovereignty belongs to God. The Holy Quran sums up His domain in the following verse:

Then exalted be Allah, the True King. There is no god but He,

the Lord of the Glorious Throne. (23:117)

The fundamental principle, that ultimately all rights to govern belong to God and He is the Lord of Sovereignty, is mentioned in different ways in the Holy Quran of which the above verse is but one example.

This in fact is part of the larger scheme of the human rights as mentioned in the holy Quran and demonstrated by the Holy Prophet of Islam.

When we make a comparative study of human rights as prescribed by Islam and those found elsewhere, we are at once impressed by three facts;

Firstly, for Islam the question of human rights is part of a much wider question of rights of all creation of God, and for that matter the rights of the creator itself.  We cannot separate the question for human rights, from the question of, say, the rights of animals.  If we do so the very rationale of human rights would collapse.

Secondly, all kinds of rights as prescribed by Islam derive their significance from the moral and spiritual values of Islam in which they are firmly embedded and on which they are founded.  These values are, in turn, based on the concept of the unity of God.  No other view of rights has ever been able to provide such secure foundations for them.  The assumptions and the principles on which secular doctrines base the concept of rights are, on examination found to be either outright untenable or inadequate and flimsy.

Thirdly, Islam deals with all kinds of rights, including human rights in such profound depth and in such wide range that no secular view has ever been able to cover them in such depth and in such range.

To expand on, and elaborate all these points, doing full justice to the subject is not possible in the short time available.  So I shall mention just one very significant and important principle.

In Surah Rahman (chapter 55, verse 10) of the Holy Quran,  God Almighty says:

“And weigh all things with justice and fall not short of the measure.”

That is, God has set up the measure and balance so that order and harmony pervade and govern the entire universe.  It is the right of every creation of God that its order and balance should at no cost be disturbed.  We are enjoined to weigh all things with justice and not to fall short of the measure.

Thus justice’ “”…” the very principle and basis of all rights “”…” is in inexorably joined with measure, balance and order of the universe.  The fabric of rights surrounds the entire universe and is bound up with God created order,  harmony and measure of the universe;  violate rights in one area and you not only violate rights in other areas but also disturb the balance and order of the universe.  As there is an all comprehensive harmony in the whole universe,  man,  the crown and the object of creation is enjoined to maintain a just balance in everything and treat with equity and justice his fellow beings giving everyone his due and to avoid extremes and discharge his duties to his creator and his creations.

Thus, the Islamic view of human rights is pivoted on the overall view of justice,  harmony and order in the universe.  This is the prime foundation on which the entire edifice of human rights is built in Islam.

In the running of political affairs, God’s sovereignty is expressed in two ways:

1. The Law (shariah) as derived from the Holy Quran, the conduct of the Holy Prophet of Islam and also from the

established traditions attributed to him by early Muslims are supreme. They bear essential guidelines for legislation and no democratically elected government can interfere with the express Will of God.

2. No legislative process would be valid in contradiction of the aforesaid principle.

Unfortunately, however, there is no unanimity among the scholars of various sects of Islam as to what are the clear cut Laws (shariah). On this, all the scholars are agreed that legislation is the prerogative of God and that He has expressed His Will through the Quranic revelation to the Holy Founder of Islam.

Regarding the manner in which Muslim governments should be run, the popular idea is that in the day to day administrative matters, affairs and measures, the government, as representatives of the people, becomes instrumental in the expression of God’s Will. As sovereignty belongs to the people by way of delegated power, therefore, such a system is democratic.

This is the rigid view of the so-called orthodoxy who would come to an understanding with the modern democratic tendencies of the Muslim populace only on the condition that the mullah be granted the ultimate right to judge the validity of democratic decisions on the basis of shariah.

If accepted, this demand would be tantamount to placing ultimate legislative authority not in the hands of God but in the hands of the orthodox or some other school of clergy. When you consider the awesome power placed in their hands in the background of fundamental differences prevailing among the Muslim clergy itself regarding their understanding of what is and what is not shariah, the consequences appear horrendous. There are so many schools of jurisprudence among the orthodoxy. Even within each school of jurisprudence, the clergy is not always unanimous on every edict.

Again, their position regarding what the actual Will of God as expressed in Islamic shariah is has been changing in different periods of history.

This presents a complex problem to the contemporary world of Islam which still seems to be in search of its true identity. It is gradually becoming more apparent to Muslim intellectuals that the only meeting point amongst the clergy is their uncompromising demand for the enforcement of shariah.

The fact is that by and large, the Muslim intellectuals are inclined ever more towards democracy. They love Islam but are afraid of theocratic rule. They view democracy not as an alternative to Islam, but genuinely believe that as a political philosophy, it is the Holy Quran itself, which propounds democracy, as Allah says:

“Those who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what we have provided for them.” (42:39)

“And consult them in matters of administration; and when thou art determined, then put thy trust wholly in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.” (3:160)

 As a net result of this tug of war between various factions, young Muslim countries, like Pakistan, find themselves in rigmarole of confusion and contradiction. The electorate is temperamentally averse to the return of the mullah to the constituent assemblies in any sizeable number.

Even at the height of shariah fever, hardly five to tenpercent of the mullahs succeed in winning elections. Yet, having committed themselves to the Law of God in return for additional support from the mullah, the politicians find themselves in a very unenviable position. Deep within, they are fully convinced that the acceptance of shariah is in reality paradoxical to the principle of legislature through a democratically elected house of representatives.

If the authority for legislation lies with God, which a Muslim cannot deny, then, as a logical consequence, it is the divines and the mullahs who possess the prerogative of understanding and defining the law of shariah. In this scenario, the whole exercise of electing legislative bodies would become futile and meaningless. After all, members of Parliament are not required to sign only on the dotted lines where the mullah so indicates.

It is rather tragic that neither the politician nor the intellectual has ever genuinely attempted to understand the form or forms of government, which the Holy Quran really propounds or recognises.

There is no contradiction between the Word of God and Act of God.

There is no clash between loyalty to one’s state and religion in Islam. But this question does not relate to Islam alone.

There are many episodes in human history where many an established state was confronted with this question.

The fact is that on all matters affecting the rights of humanity, the Holy Quran deals with the subject of government without making any distinction whatsoever between a Muslim and a non-Muslim state.

The instructions on how a state should be run are common to humanity though it is the believers who are primarily addressed in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran speaks of statecraft equally applicable to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Confucians, Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The essence of this instruction is contained in Holy Quran and also in the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam. The Holy Prophet of Islam holds every ruler and anyone in authority over another, in the way he treats his subjects or those under his authority, as being directly answerable to God.

But as far as relations between man and God are concerned, it is an area exclusive to religion and the state has no right to interfere. There is total freedom of mind and heart in the affairs of belief and profession of faith. It is a fundamental right of man not only to believe in anything, which he so pleases, but also to worship God or idols as dictated by his religion or pagan belief.

According to Islam, therefore, religion has no right to interfere in areas exclusive to the state nor has the state any right to interfere in areas commonly shared by them. Rights and responsibilities are clearly defined in Islam such that any question of a clash is obviated.

The Holy Quran mentions the responsibilities of government towards people, the provision of food, clothing, shelter and the basic needs of its citizens.

In a true Islamic system of government, it is the responsibility of the government to be watchful so that people do not have to resort to strikes, industrial strife, demonstration, sabotage or cause of complaint, to get their rights.

Those who govern may not govern in a manner so as to promote disorder, chaos, suffering and pain but should work diligently and effectively so as to establish peace in every sphere of society.

This then concisely is what could be said on democracy and human rights in Islam in this brief presentation.

Let me conclude with a short quote from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam            Ahmad of Qadian – the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim (Community) Jama’at which indeed is a guide principle for both democracy and human rights.  He said:

“Be the true well wishers of everyone.  There should be nothing inside you except truth and there should be nothing outside you except truth and sympathy for mankind.  If you desire that God should be pleased with you in Heaven become to each other like real brothers.  It is our principle to have sympathy for the whole of mankind.”  (Malfoozat, volume 8, pg 26, 27) 

God bless all of you!

And my last words are All Praise belongs to Allah the Lord of the worlds.

4 Responses to “An address by Dr. Ifthikar Ahmad Ayaz at Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium – Malta.”

  1. Nesta Says:

    A very informative article indeed. Real teachings of Islam on HR and Democracy. Unfortunately no Arab country follows this real teachings. No real democracy is found in these so-called Muslim countries.

  2. muslimsforpeace Says:

    This is the reason why there is need for muslims and non muslims alike, to recognise the reformer of age Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who as per prophecies of Prophet Muhammad is showing true peaceful interpretation of Islam and Koran.
    Find more at http://www.alislam.org

  3. muslimsforpeace Says:

    Peace and Blessings of God be on Prophet Muhammad.

  4. JMatin Says:

    Democracy and Human Rights IS Islam.

    1-800-WHY-ISLAM

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