Tactical, collective voting in particular instances, contests, contexts and times has been approved by many Scholars of our time.
Islam is a comprehensive system where worship (`ibadah) and legislation (Shari`ah) are merged. The distinction between the secular and religious or spiritual realms is nothing new to Christianity, but is alien to Islam and Muslims. This concept of duality in life can be deemed unacceptable to Muslims. Muslims believe that Allah (swt) is the sole Creator and Sustainer of the Worlds. One Who "…takes account of every single thing (Qur'an 72:28); that He is omnipotent and omniscient; that His mercy and bounties encompasses everyone and suffice for all. In that capacity, Allah (swt) revealed His divine guidance to humanity, made certain things permissible and others prohibited, commanded people to observe His injunctions and to judge according to them. If they do not do so, then they have committed disobedience and transgression.
Islam is a unique religion (way of life) where the life of this world gets its proper share of importance. It is neither belittled nor denied as in other religions, nor is it accorded all the significance to the exclusion of the Hereafter as in secularism. The importance of this world is superbly described by the Quranic supplication, “O our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire” (Qur’an, 2:201). This verse of the Qur’an exquisitely describes the balance in life that has to be sought if we, the best of God’s creations, have to survive the severe moral and spiritual crisis created by man’s ingratitude to his creator and his working against the golden principle of balance. Islam as a complete code of life is the only hope in the pathetic state of affairs that mankind finds itself today. Haven’t we yet heard God’s proclamation “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (way of life)” (Qur’an 5:3)
The Islamic Shariah is a complete scheme of life and an all-embracing social order where nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking. Therefore there is no separation between state and church. This artificial separation, from an Islamic perspective, destroys the transcendence of all moral values. In Qur’anic words “those who forget God eventually forget themselves” (Qur'an 59:19) and their individual and communal personalities disintegrate. Thus, Islam is considered the religion in which, through voluntary submission to God, human beings find peace with themselves and their environment. A Muslim seeks God’s guidance in all matters all the time. There is no contradiction between the divine rights of the individual, as anchored in the Qur'an, and the core right as embodied in universal human rights declarations. Muslims support fundamental human-rights, the rule of law, and division of power with accountability and transparency, universal suffrage and eligibility, freedom of speech and conscious. Islamic Shariah commands its followers to observe the local legal order and participate fully in community matters on the principals of general welfare of humanity and seeking the common good. Muslims can live anywhere in the world, provided they can fulfil their fundamental religious duties, whilst also respecting and abiding by all the regulations of the land.
Voting in Islam
Election and polling is approved in Islam from the way in which the first Khalifa, Abu Bakr(ra), and the third Khalifa, Uthman ibn ‘Affan(ra), were chosen or elected by the Muslims of Madinah-tul-Munawwarah during the first century of Islam in the first Islamic state. There was a consensus (Ijma’) of the Sahaba(ra) which is found in authentic literature and therefore, could be considered a part of Islamic ruling
Absence of the Prohibition
To make anything unlawful and haram, its prohibition must be stated in the text of the Qur’an or Hadith. In the absence of any text of the Qur’an or Hadith, a given substance or activity is lawful and halal. The opponents of Muslim political participation have failed miserably in presenting any text in support of their arguments because there is none. The quotes they present do not prohibit political participation and such an opinion is a corrupt ta’weel of those quotes. A ta’weel is not part of Shari’ah and any opinion derived from such ta’weel is non-binding.
End of the Argument
The absence of tahreem makes participation halal and this should be the end of the argument. However, below you will find a myriad of scholarly consideration and opinion on this misinterpreted topic.
One should understand that the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet(s) is applicable for all time to come. The problem is faced and dissentions appear when we try to apply 7th century teachings to a modern context within today’s global village.
I draw your attention to some of the following Fatwas which were posted at www.islamonline.com, you will also find the views of respected mainstream scholarship.
Cooperation with non-Muslim Brethren in Humanity
In the Name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger. Reflecting on the practices of the Prophet (pbuh), as stated in the Prophetic Biography, we will notice fine examples set by the Prophet (pbuh), making it clear that forming ties of cooperation with non-Muslims in worldly affairs is permissible as long as that will bring benefits to Muslims and the wider community whilst also helping establish justice or ward off injustice. Hence, there is nothing in Muslims' participating in elections run in non-Muslim countries, especially when such participation accrues benefits to Muslims or wards off harm.
In their response to this topic, the European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following Fatwa:
"Before answering this question, we will shed light on the following three aspects":
2- The Prophet’s participation in some activities in Makkan and Medinan societies.
3- The Constitution of Madinah.
Firstly, Al-Walaa’ can be divided into the two sections:
1- Loyalty in religious matters. It refers to creedal loyalty, which lies in believing in Allah swt) and shunning other beliefs that run counter to the Oneness of Allah(swt). This kind of Al-Walaa’ is due to Allah(swt), His Messenger and the believers. Almighty Allah Says: “ Your friend can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the poor due, and bow down (in prayer)” (Surah Al-Ma’dah: 55)
2-Loyalty as regards worldly matters: This refers to transactions between people living in the same society or between different societies, regardless of distance and religion. It is permissible for Muslims to engage with non-Muslims in commercial transactions, peace treaties and covenants according to the rules and conditions prevalent in those countries. Books of jurisprudence contain many references to such dealings.
- The second aspect: The Prophet’s participation in activities in the Makkan and Madinan societies.
Throughout his life, both before and after the Prophetic mission, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) participated in many events that took place in the Makkan and Madinan societies. The following are the more prominent events he participated in before receiving Prophethood.
-First: The Fujjar War:
This war was waged against some Arab tribes who violated the sanctity of the Holy Precinct during the sacred months. Hence, the Makkan people had to defend the holy sanctuary; this was a good custom they inherited from the upright religion of Prophet Abraham. This fight lasted for four years, and the Prophet’s age at that time was approximately 15-19 years. He participated in this war side by side with his uncles. That is, he would defend his uncles against the enemies’ attack. The Prophet (pbuh), did so out of a sense that he should share in defending his homeland and ward off aggression and injustice.
- Second: Al-Fudul Alliance:
This incident occurred in the house of Abdullah bin Jad`an between the powerful tribes in Makkah. One of the principles they agreed upon was defending any oppressed person in Makkah, regardless of his origin and the purpose behind his visit; they vowed to help him regain his rights. At the advent of his mission, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said (i.e. while referring to this alliance): “If I am invited to join a similar (alliance) after the spread of Islam, I will, surely, join it.”
Commenting on the aforementioned point regarding the Prophet’s participation in that alliance, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali stated: “Combating an oppressor however brutal he may be, and supporting an oppressed however low he may be, are consistent with the spirit of Islam that enjoins what is right, forbids what is wrong and calls for abiding by the limits set by Allah(swt).
Moreover, Islam aims at putting an end to inequity whether in the general policies adopted by countries or oppression at the individual level. The Prophet’s participation in the Al-Fudul Alliance reveals the positive attitude he took, for he considered himself part and parcel of Makkan society. Besides, the Prophet (pbuh), was aware of the fact that if any form of injustice in society is not eliminated, their ill effects will inevitably befall all and sundry.
Third: The Prophet's Response to Calls for Aid:
The humanitarian gestures of the Prophet (pbuh), towards the people of Makkah was not confined to the period he spent with them. This noble attitude continued even after he emigrating Makkah to Madinah and established the Islamic state there. He nevertheless rushed to lend the hand of support when calamities befell the people of Makkah.
It is reported that during the time of Al-Hudaibiyah peace treaty, the Prophet was informed that a famine had afflicted the Makkan people. Thus he sent Hatib bin Abi Balta’a with 500 dinars to buy foods for the poor and the needy among the Makkans. You see, he did this despite that it was these same individuals that drove him out of the city and hindered him from entering it.
-The Constitution of Madinah:
Considering the constitution of Madinah or the treaty held between Muslims, Jews and the Arab polytheists who constituted the population of Madinah at that time, after emigration, one will notice that the Prophet (pbuh), stressed the importance of showing belonging and patriotism to society. Thus, he made it clear that this is a general duty shared by all regardless of religion, race or complexion. The treaty stipulated the following:
1-They (those who sign the treaty) should support one another in combating the attacks waged against them.
2-They, together, should support the oppressed.
3-They, together, should fight against any enemy attacking Yathrib (Madinah).
We deduce from these three aspects that the early Muslims managed to cooperate with people of other religions, living together in the same society of Madinah, in fighting against anyone who tried to bring about sedition among people. Thus, they maintained peaceful co-existence within their society. This form of Al-Walaa’ comes under what we term ‘Al-Walaa’ in worldly affairs’. It states that citizens can live together in the same society in spite of their different faiths and religious orientations. Moreover, the Constitution of Madinah regarded the People of the Book as part and parcel of the first Islamic State. For instance, some of its articles state:
1- The Jews of the tribe of Banu ‘Awf are part of the Muslim community.
2- Jews have their own religion and Muslims have their own religion.
3- The rest of the Jewish tribes have the same rights as do the tribe of Banu ‘Auf.
Considering the issue of Al-Walaa’, it is evident that there’s nothing wrong Islamically in having some sort of cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslim as regards worldly affairs. Besides, the Prophetic Biography is abound with fine examples of how the Prophet (pbuh), dealt amicably with non-Muslims, both in the Makkan and Madinan societies. He shared in many pacts and alliances aimed at bolstering social justice in addition, he shared in relieving the impact of adversities and famines.
According to the articles of the Madinah constitution, the residents of Madinah would cooperate in establishing justice, supporting one another in combating aggression and help one another do righteous acts.
So it’s clear that mutual cooperation in worldly affairs goes far to encompass all citizens who share a common destiny, neighbourhood and sometimes kinship. This may be extended to include economic and commercial fields. In addition, the teachings of Islam, as deduced from the Qur’an and Sunnah, show that Islam is a religion of mercy, justice, goodness. One of the main goals of Islamic law is to achieve benefits and ward off harms, whether at the individual level or society as a whole.
Furthermore, elections in the modern world systems have become a means through which people choose candidates and judge the programmes and manifestos they adopt. Muslims living in such societies enjoy rights and are bound to fulfil certain duties. If they fail to meet the duties obligated on them, they are no more entitled to receive the rights, for the rights meet the duties.
Thus, Muslims’ participation in elections is a religious duty; in addition it falls under cooperation on that which is good and righteous for society and warding off harms, Allah Almighty says: “… help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression...” (Al-Ma’dah: 2)
Therefore, we can say that Muslim participation in elections held in non-Muslim societies is Islamically permissible and there is nothing wrong in doing so. Besides, it is a type of mutual cooperation with those whom Muslims think as prospective candidates, will bring benefits for society in general and Muslims in particular."
Muslim Scholars on Voting
Shaykh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbaad of Saudi Arabia was asked whether it is permissible for Muslim minorities to vote in local elections if they believe that one of the candidates can benefit Muslims and the community. He replied,' There is no harm in voting for candidates who will be of more benefit to Muslims and the cmmunity more than the others. In this instance, voting for them is an example of doing the lesser of two evils to avoid the greater evil. The candidate who is less harmful to Muslims is better than the candidate whose harm is far greater.[Shaykh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbaad, Saudi Arabia]
I consider Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, as a form of jihad. This is our country and it would be foolish not to participate in the political processes which eventually shape our future and that of Islam. I support marching in the streets to raise awareness about certain issues. However, if we really want to change the status-quo then we have to influence those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We need to be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed.
Sayyiduna Yusuf (as) put himself forward in the political process of Egypt - the rest is history! [Refer to Quran 12:55]. He saved countless lives, united people with God and showed how rulers ought to rule. Are Muslims in our country saying they do not want to unite people with God and save them from eternal doom? Do we want to remain "slaves" under the dominion of others without power of any sort? Or do we want to become masters; just, caring and merciful? The right to vote is one of Allah's blessings over us which we can use to benefit society. There are many in the world who do not have this blessing. Allah says in the Quran:
"Allah presents an example: a slave (who is) owned and unable to do a thing and he to whom We have provided from Us good provision so he spends from it secretly and publicly. Can they be equal? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know." [Quran 16:75]
[Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Chair, Mosques and community relations committee at the MCB; Graduate of Dar-ul-Uloom, Holcombe; Al-Azhar University; S.O.A.S, London]
Looking at the situation of the Muslim community and their need to have their interests met, it becomes advisable for the Muslims to achieve this purpose through the available political system. Through voting, a man can bring to Parliament such candidates who sympathise with the Muslim cause. The vote can be treated either as a good intercession (Ayah 85, Surah An-Nisa), or as Naseehah (hadith narrated by Tamim Ad-Dari in which Naseehah is to be advanced for the betterment of the Muslims in general), or it can be treated as Tawkeel (deputising someone on your behalf to achieve a certain task). Whichever you take, by voting you can bring a better change in the affairs of this country.
[Shaykh Suhaib Hasan, Secretary, Islamic Sharia Council of Great Britain; Chairman, Masjid & Madrasah al-Tawhid, London; Graduate of Islamic University at Madinah]
“For their protection and for their identity to be preserved it is vital that Muslims participate in the political process of the society that they are living in.”
[Shaykh Aurangzeb Khan, Imam of Dar-us-Salaam, Nottingham, UK]
It has long been my position that any type of participation in democracy is a type of approval of that system. I have no doubt that democracy is antithetical to Islam. However, having read and listened to the sayings of many scholars on this issue, and being faced with the reality of a growing Muslim population here in the UK, who for all intents and purposes consider this their home, it has become clear to me that we must participate in every aspect of society as much as possible to ensure our rights and continued existence and well being in this society. This participation most certainly includes voting for whichever party or candidate best serves the needs and interests of the UK and indeed world wide Muslim population. This does not mean approval or acceptance of the ideal of secular democracy, but the intention is to use the means and avenues available to benefit Muslims and the communities we reside in.
The Prophet (saws) did not approve of the system of tribalism in Arabia , in fact he condemned it, but this did not stop the Prophet (saws) from accepting the protection of his uncle and the tribe of Banu Haashim. In addition to that it seems to me that the evil of participation is far less than the evil that will befall the Muslims if we do not, and the Shariah teaches us always to choose the path of lesser evil. This has been expounded and clarified by the scholars.
[Br Abdur Raheem Green, Dawah Administrator, Central Mosque, London]
“...it is incumbent upon Muslims to actively participate for the following reasons: 1) In order to protect our rights as American citizens, we must be involved in politics. 2) Our involvement can facilitate our support of our fellow Muslims around the world. 3) Our interaction with non-Muslims and our involvement will help to spread Islam's message. 4) It helps to convey the universality of Islam... Our participation is an obligation in Islam, and not merely "a right" that we can choose to forfeit at will. It affords us the opportunity to protect our human rights, guarantee the fulfilment of our needs, and work for the improvement of living conditions for Muslims and non-Muslims in America and abroad... Whatever helps us to achieve these noble goals becomes Islamically obligatory. This includes: ... Supporting (both politically and financially) those non-Muslim candidates whose beliefs and values are most compatible with ours as Muslims, and who most address and support our issues and causes... Registering to vote and then voting. Although separate acts, they are both an essential part of the electoral process. Our participation in that process is mandatory.”
Muslims are recommended or even obliged to vote for the party who will be of most benefit on a national and international level, who will increase upon that which is good, or at the least, lessen the extent of the current evil prevalent in the world today.
[Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad, Imam, Khateeb and Cultural Manager of al-Muntada al-Islami, London; BSc in Law & Islamic Law from Umdurman University, Khartoum, Sudan]
Voting for a non-Muslim candidate who would serve the Muslim community in the country and deal with Muslim countries on the basis of honesty, justice and fairness is not only permissible but required. It is the responsibility of the Muslim minorities in non-Muslim democratic countries to participate in public life, including voting and financing campaigns in order to be able to positively influence the political decision in these countries.
[Shaykh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqiti, Islamic Center of South Plains, Texas]
Participation helps to convey the universality of Islam... It is an obligation in Islam, and not merely "a right" that we can choose to forfeit at will. It affords us the opportunity to protect our human rights, guarantee the fulfilment of our needs, and work for the improvement of living conditions for Muslims and non-Muslims in America and abroad... Whatever helps us to achieve these noble goals becomes Islamically obligatory. This includes: ... Supporting (both politically and financially) those non-Muslim candidates whose beliefs and values are most compatible with ours as Muslims, and who most address and support our issues and causes... Registering to vote and then voting. Although separate acts, they are both an essential part of the electoral process. Our participation in that process is mandatory.”
[Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Muslim World League, Makkah; OIC Islamic Fiqh Academy ]
“I'll just give you one specific example. Suppose you have two candidates for president. Both of them might be be sympathetic to Muslim causes. In today’s world this is unlikely... however, in terms of relative harm and benefit which is a rule of Shariah it may be the collective wisdom, for example, of Muslim voters that one of them would do even greater harm to Muslim causes than the other... Well in that case, obviously, the lesser of the two harms, i.e. electing or voting for someone who will do less harm to Muslims obviously would be much better than sitting on the sidelines and just criticizing both and doing nothing about it... Voting for them and supporting them in elections is not necessarily an agreement with everything legislated. But at least it would be for that particular, limited purpose.”
[Dr. Jamal Badawi, Islamic Society of North America ; Islamic Information Foundation]
“I hold the opinion that it is lawful to participate in elections, as this may reduce suffering, and it is a way to choose the better among the available candidates. I believe participating in elections will, in any event, contribute to the reduction of evil and be a forum for countering bad policies and exposing their deficiencies, as well as being an opportunity to present proposals of a different kind that may help people.”
As for participation in politics itself, we should consider that if the parliaments and congresses of these countries do not have any Muslim members, then this will pave the way for the opposition to come forth with their harmful views and policies, which will consequently be incorporated into the laws of their countries and bring harm to the Muslims.”
”I hold this opinion to participate in elections and to vote for those who seem to be good or at least less harmful than others.”
[Shaykh Salman Al Awdah, Imam Bin Saud Islamic University]
“Since seeing that voting is a testimony (giving Shahadah) and being aware that a particular party will be more willing to fulfil our Islamic rights, not to vote for this party will he tantamount to transgression and breach of trust in the eyes of Shariah.”
[Mufti Ibrahim Desai, Darul Ifta, South Africa]
“...In a situation where there is no worthy candidate (as in non-Muslim countries, where at least the ideologies and beliefs of the relevant parties are contrary to the teachings of Shariah), then the vote should be given to the one who is the better and more trust worthy then the other candidates... Vote should be given to the candidate that one believes will give people their rights, prevent oppression, and so on... If it is thought that a particular candidate or party will be of benefit to the general public in their day to day affairs, then the vote should be given to him. And by voting a particular party, it will not be considered that one agrees with all their ideologies and beliefs... At times, voting becomes necessary. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (rAa) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (sAas) said: "If people see an oppressor and don't prevent him, then it is very likely that Allah will include all of them in the punishment" (Sunan Tirmizi & Sunan Abu Dawud). Therefore, if you see open oppression and transgression, and despite having the capability of preventing this oppression by giving your vote, you don't do so, then in the light of this Hadith you will be sinful...”
[Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, Dar al-Iftaa; Darul Uloom; student of Mufti Taqi Usmani]
“…there is nothing wrong with Muslims casting their votes in favour of the less evil candidate. In any case, this is the matter of ijtihaad based on the principle of weighing up the pros and cons, what is in the interests of Islam and what is detrimental... No one should imagine that anyone who says that it is OK to vote is thereby expressing approval or support for kufr. It is done in the interests of the Muslims, not out of love for kufr...”
[Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, Supervisor, Islam QA.com; student of Shaykhs Bin Baz and Ibn Uthaymeen]
"As Muslims, we have the duty to command good and forbid evil. When we translate this into political action, we are to support those candidates who uphold the values or principles we cherish; so if we find a candidate who upholds the values or principles that we cherish, then we are to support him, if, however, we do not find such a candidate but we are left with two and each of them has positive and negative sides, then we should support the one whose positive side outweighs the negative.”
[Shaykh Ahmad Kutty, Islamic Institute of Toronto; Islamic Center of Canada]
"All efforts should be made, bearing in mind the political situation of a particular country, to ensure full participation in the political process. This is an absolute necessity. Muslims should not be reticent about their involvement in this regard. Rather, they should make progress in this matter."
[Maulana Khalilul Rahman Sajjad Nomani Nadwi, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama and Madinah University]
The opinion of imams and scholars on taking part in election are clearly in favour of taking part in the democratic process. This gives us an opportunity to choose the candidate who will best serve the interest of our community. Not taking part in elections will deprive us of the political prowess and clout that we command in certain inner city areas of Britain. That is not in our interest. I urge every one to use their vote effectively.
[Dr. Musharraf Hussain, Director & Imam, Karimia Institute, Nottingham ; graduate of Al Azher University]
In my humble opinion participating in public affairs is mandatory for all adult Muslims, casting one’s vote are essential. My opinion is based upon the following evidences:
1. Numerous texts from the Qur'ân and Sunnah prove that to enjoin good and forbid evil is an intrinsic part of Faith, and therefore one of the greatest communal obligations in Islâm, as Allâh says, "You are the best nation ever to be brought forth for people. You enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and you believe in Allah." (âl-'Imrân, 110)
Based upon this, it is mandatory that every Muslim change the evil in his or her life. Undoubtedly, if we have the ability to potentially delay and disrupt the plans of those who are in power then this becomes an obligation for us. Likewise, blocking the BNP is undoubtedly from the communal obligations upon the Muslims.
2. The specific evil in the world that has been caused by the expansionist foreign policy of certain states is undoubtedly a great trial facing our nation today. As proved above, it is upon us to 'commit' the lesser evil of supporting some political parties in order to ward off the greater evil.
3. According to many scholars, it is allowed to enter the political system in order to elicit change using the well known principle found in Usűl ul-Fiqh namely "Shar'u man qablana, shar'un lanâ" i.e. "The legislative laws of the previous prophets is legislation for our nation too." The scholars who accepted this principle, clarifying that it would only be applicable if it had not been abrogated by legislation in our Sharî'ah, used the Qur'ânic narrative on the Prophet Yűsuf ('alayhis salâm). He accepted a ministerial position in a government that was ruling by laws other than the Law of Allâh in order to achieve the greater good. It is accepted by these scholars that there is nothing in fact within our Sharî'ah that contradicts or abrogates such an action.
Using these facts, to enter the political system either by standing for election or simply supporting those standing is something to be taken seriously. It should be encouraged with the full involvement of the people of knowledge and experience in order to safeguard the sacrosanct nature of the Sharî'ah.
Effective action is always the objective and this can only be achieved by constant contact with the 'ulemâ as previously mentioned. Finally, the following action is advised:
We must use our vote and the votes of all family members who are eligible. For instance it is imperative that our elder women who rarely use this legal right do so. It is incumbent upon us to ward off the greater evils which will be realised by our apathy at this time of need. One should consult the people of knowledge and political acumen in their local areas before making a decision on whom to vote for. There are natural advantages and disadvantages to be found in all the parties which is why we have explained the principle of accepting the lesser of the two evils in such detail.
One should consider carefully who has been supporting their Islâmic rights most and is promising the most benefit for Muslims on the whole.
Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid (Imam of Brighton Islamic Mission and Chair Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK)