Salman Ahmed Shaikh
Samuel Huntington in his book raised the debate of clash of civilizations and argued that Islam has ‘bloody borders’. But, the data on actual military expenditures paints a very different picture and confirms that almost all major countries in the race to expend on military are not Muslim majority countries. Among the individual countries, United States has a share of 41.5% of global military spending followed by China, France, UK and Russia with shares of 5.8%, 4.5%, 4.5% and 4% respectively as per Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 2009. How is this related to economics is not difficult to understand as development expenditure is compromised to expend on military.
Huntington may classify democracy as an exclusive feature of western civilization. However, Islam, instead of discouraging democratic culture, directed Muslims to instigate democracy as a recurrent process and guiding principle for collective decision making in their society [Al-Qur’an, Al-Shura: 38].
However, Islamic concept of democracy is different from capitalistic democracy or Godless democracy. In a capitalistic democracy, the elite class is able to expend on political campaigns and hence take part in politics and where crony capitalism results in business and political class combining to pursue their self interest. In a Godless democracy, the accountability is restricted to laws set by humans and beyond which, there is no controlling mechanism if there is no belief in afterlife accountability.
In an Islamic political system, afterlife accountability, if it is understood and observed clearly, will result in self-regulating mechanisms in all organs of state. Institutions after all, are represented and run by humans. With its distinctive worldview, Islam inculcates in a human, the concept of afterlife accountability and which acts as a self-regulating mechanism. Indeed, historically, when rulers in Islamic state have lived in light of this recognition, they have exemplified modest and simple living.
In matters where explicit divine guidance is present, democracy in an Islamic state would take divine guidance as guiding light and the divine guidance is itself quite logical, just, and equitable and has proven to be welfare-enhancing in collective sphere of life.
The divine principles rather than giving way to autocracy and exploitation, engender strong accountability (hisbah), limit the government’s power to levy exorbitant taxes and ensure socio-economic justice and civil equality. Islam directs Muslims to uphold justice and directs that even enmity of a nation must not digress them from the path of justice. [Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 8].
Injustice is one of the main hurdles in bringing about peace in this world. Injustice in politics, in economics and in every sphere of life must be avoided as per Islam.
On the other hand, Secularism as a philosophy or comprehensive doctrine is not entirely democratic as it does not allow religion to prevail in public sphere of life even democratically. It confines religion to one’s private life only and does not permit democracy to allow religion to expand into the public sphere of life. If Muslims want state administered Zakat and Waqf (charitable endowments) for themselves in Muslim majority regions, secularism denies this right to Muslims even if Muslims put up a completely democratic desire for it through elections and referendums.
Islam permits individual freedom in choice and practice of one’s religion or comprehensive doctrine. Muslim countries may not present the best examples of this commitment and they should correct themselves based on Islamic injunctions. However, those who suggest that Muslims should follow the Western countries blindly for higher morals, they must note that some of the Western countries who claim to be secular deprive Muslims and people from other religions to practice their religion and uphold their values and cultural symbols. For instance, European countries where there is full-scale or limited-scale ban on Hijab include: France, Belgium, Latvia, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Germany. But, European countries where prostitution is legal include: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Switzerland.