Participation of Muslims in
U.S. Political System
Prepared By: Mohamed Ramadan
In recent months, the coming presidential elections in the United States, scheduled for November 2004, have raised a public debate among American Muslim organizations. Issues such as U.S. support for Israel; the occupation of Iraq; the global war against terrorism; question marks on the human and civil rights of American Muslims; feelings of general hostility towards Muslims by the American public and politicians; and the shutting down of Islamic foundations in the United States, have raised doubts among American Muslim organizations and private citizens, over whether or not the six million member-strong American Muslim constituency should take part in American political life, including the presidential elections. Meanwhile, the general opinion of Muslim leaders in the United States supports the active and intensive participation in the various election campaigns and the political life in the United States.
The Obligation of Muslims to Participate in U.S. Political System
By; Dr. Salah Sultan
President of Islamic American University, Professor of Islamic Law, Cairo University
In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful the Most Gracious
Peace and Prayers of Allah be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his Household, Companions, and those who follow His guidance until the Day of Judgment.
It is well known, as stated in the Muwfaqaat of Imam Ash-shatibi, that a fatwa is not valid unless it has been issued by a qualified scholar who is equipped in the art of understanding the Shar`i texts and rulings. In addition to this, he should know how to apply those text and rulings properly in the environment that he is living. Therefore, when discussing an issue, we should present the information from the correct angles. Thus, it enables us to come to a correct and sound ruling. Yet, some Muslims discuss the issue of participating in the American elections only from the viewpoint of permissibility or non-permissibility; however, there are many different points that should be brought up and thoroughly discussed. I wish that people would ask how to participate and how many Muslim candidates should there be! It is a wonder that Muslims live in US communities and are completely unaware of their political requirements related to: decision making, laws mechanism, and so on.
Reality and Statistics
There are many examples representing Muslims all over the world should be taken in consideration. They are as follows:
* Muslims of Germany are more than four millions; even though there is no Muslim representative in the Parliament. On the other hand, there are only 800 Jewish citizen and 9 reprehensive in the Parliament.
* Muslims in Britain are about 3 millions and still have only 2 representatives out of 659 while the Jews are no more than 5.000 but they have 20 representatives in the parliament.
* Though Muslims of Michigan, Dearborn are more than 75% out of the total number of the population, the Muslim candidate Abd Humud could not win the election because of the absence of Muslims. Generally, Muslims in America surpass the Jews in number, but, unfortunately there is no even one Muslim representative while most of US Congress members are Jewish.
The fact is that Muslims should interact with all the political and internal policies in their countries to help improve and guide that community; we have such a constructive ideology that enables us be effective and impressive in all fields of life. We should defend political Muslims’ rights and do our best to guarantee freedom to people to practice their religion. These are the points we would cover in this research.
The Obligation of Election Participating and its Shar`i Proofs
I think it is obligatory to take part in the election. This opinion is supported by the following proofs:
1. The Shar`i Rulings
a. Whatever Leads to Mandatory Is Mandatory as well.
It is well known that there are many benefits cannot be attained if Muslims do not participate in the election either that of Congress or the senator assembly.
* They do not have any law making authority and others will control all their affairs.
* The beautiful image of Islam which has been distorted could not be corrected, nor could Muslims who are a very civilized community of 8 millions defend their right without a political supporting power. Most of Americans, nearly 95% out of them, as stated by Paul Findly and the late President Nixon, do not know the reality of Islam. If Muslims remain out of the political circle, they will not be able to secure their civilian rights, if not deprived of them.
* Muslims will not get benefit from the financial aid allocated to the non-profitable associations if they do not have a powerful impact in the election process.
The Second Shar`i Ruling:
To Prevent Harm with a Lesser One.
There is no doubt that taking part in the election causes some sort of harm as the candidate for Congress or Senate will agree or theorize laws that do not move in parallel with Islamic law. However, if Muslims play a part in the election process or not, then, these laws will be run. But if Muslims contribute to the process and make their voices heard, they may prevent the harm afflicted on Muslims in USA, refute the malicious fallacies schemed against Islam, and help Muslims practice Islam freely.
In this way, we may prevent a major harm with a minor one.
The Third Shar`i Ruling:
To Prevent Harm and Get Benefit
So long as the Muslims refrain from voting or practicing their right in electoral process, their right will be open to aggression; that is why we should do our best to insure Muslims’ rights and preventing harm for them.
This aim surely will not come across if the Muslim fail to get involved and influence the major decision making bodies in their countries.
The Forth Shar`i Ruling:
Works Are Measured by Goals Behind Them
Basing on this ruling, jurists permit a Muslim to learn Medicine, Computer sciences, and Languages under the supervision of non-Muslims scholars to assist the Muslim Ummah in general and help make progress in some critical fields.
This ruling covers the area of elections also; this will help enhance Muslims’ position in society and grant them more and more rights.
Making Analogy between Election and the Case of Setting the Prisoners of War Free
Al-Bukhari reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Give food to the hungry, pay visit to the sick, and release the captive.” Imam Malik said, “Muslims have (Must do everything in their power) to release those (Muslims) who are in captivity even if they pay all their wealth.” Abu Yusuf reported that `Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Verily, it would be more beloved to me than to possess the Arabian peninsula if I saved a Muslim from the unbelievers” Furthermore, There are many scholars like Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi in al-Mughni, Ibn Taymiyah in Majmu` al-Fatawa, Al-Bahuti in Kashf Al-Qina`, Ar-Ramli in Nihayat Al-Muhataj, As-Suti in Al-Ashbah wa Nazair, Ibn Rajab in al-Qawa`id, and Ibn Salmon al-Maliki in al-`Iqd al-Munazam lilhukkam- they hold it mandatory to set the captives free and pay the ransom from the Muslim Treasury.
Knowing that it is permissible to pay ransom and give money to the Unbelievers to set the Muslim captives free, it is permissible to spend money for the election campaign of non-Muslim candidate as this may prevent harm and draw benefit to Muslims in general. We do not pay money in the hope of helping non-Muslim go against Islam but we assist those who may support the Muslims and defend their rights.
The well-known scholar, Imam Al-`Izz ibn abdilsalam mentioned that “It is permissible to help others get something wrong so long as it is the only means to attain a public interest; this is like the amount of money paid to the unbelievers to set free Muslim prisoners.
It is also permitted to pay money to the one who may kill you if you refuse to give him money.” Accordingly, it is permissible to assist a non-Muslim candidate if we are sure that he will enhance Muslims’ interests and help them come across their issues.
Fatwas Issued by Some of Ummah Scholars in Regard to Elections in West Countries.
1> A Fatwa Issued by Sheikh Jadul al-Haqq `Ali Jadul al-Haqq the Late Head of Al-Azhar.
He permitted Muslims to take part in the political process and involve in elections so long as the Muslim candidate has an impressive personality, is a good believer, enjoys a strong determination, and will help the Muslim minority and defend their rights.
2> A Fatwa issued by the Shar`a scholrs of North America in November at Detroit city, MI.
There were more than sixty scholars headed by the well-known scholar sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi permitted Muslims to take part in the election carried out in the West.
3> A Fatwa Issued by the Eruption Council for Fatwa and Research
The council issued a fatwa permitting Muslims to participate in the election of non-Muslim countries so that Muslims can defend their rights and present their cultural project.
4> A fatwa Issued by Sheikh Al-Qaradawi
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi said that it is a religious duty to vote in elections; and whoever refrains or neglects this duty causing the non-qualified person to win and the one who highly qualified to fail- does not follow the Divine Order in regard to offering the testimony; Allah Almighty said, “And if one of you entrusts to another let him who is trusted deliver up that which is entrusted to him (according to the pact between them) and let him observe his duty to Allah. Hide not testimony. He who hides it, verily his heart is sinful. Allah is Aware of what ye do” (Al-Baqarah: 283)
5> A Fatwa Issued by Sheikh Faisal Moloy
He said that it is a duty upon a Muslim to call others to Allah, spread right, forbid wrongdoing, and participate positively in all activities that bring about progress to his community wherever he lives regardless of the community he lives within; he should offer solutions for the problems facing his community according to the viewpoint of Islam. Thus, if there is a chance to participate in the elections, he should make use of it; since this will help block some evildoings, spread goodness, and keep people’s rights. But if a Muslim lags and hesitates to participate in this election, he will be responsible for not following the hadith in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, says “Whoever sees an evil (being carried on) should prevent it with his hand, if he could not, then he should prevent it with his tongue…” To change or prevent the Munkar (Evil) with a tongue means to condemn and disapprove this munkar (Evil). This matter is attained most effectively when the speaker is a representative in the parliament who is welcomed by the media. On the other hand, Da`wah in such non-Muslim countries needs the approval of the governments of these countries that give the Da`wah more freedom and help those who convert to Islam get their human rights. Thus, if the laws in countries permit minorities to practice voting even for non-Muslim candidates who may stand for Muslims’ rights and have influence upon the elected government, then it would be a shar`i necessity to be involvement in voting and support a Muslim candidates or a non-Muslim candidate who can support Muslims’ issues.
6> The Fatwa issued by Dr. Nasr Farid Wasil
The Mufti of Egypt
Dr. Nasr Farid permits the involvement in election even for women. He said that the Egyptian council for fataw holds the opinion that it is permissible for women to participate in an election and be a candidate for the parliament as well. This right is given to Muslim women since they participated in the convenient of `Aqaba; Islam therefore, does not overlook the woman’s role in life nor prevent her from playing an effective role in all spheres of life. A society is based on male and female; Allah Almighty says, “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware” (Al-Hujurat: 13)
7> A fatwa Issued by Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajid
He said that there may be a shar`i interest in voting and participating in the elections so as to lessen harm and prevent evil. For example, if there are two non-Muslims candidates but one of them does not hate Islam so much, thus, we should vote for this one to help him overcome the other who absolutely hate Islam and Muslims; we should choose the lesser of two evils. The final and main motive should be the interest of Muslims since the Early Muslims of the Prophet’s time were happy with the victory of Roman over Persian People, and with the victory of Ethiopian king.
The fulcrum of this issue is the Public Interest; thus, the learned scholars of Muslim community should be consulted.
8> A Fatwa Issued by Dr. Abdul Karim Zidan
He said: Participating in the elections is permissible in non-Muslim Majority countries so long as there is an interest for the Muslims of this country. He quoted the following evidence:
1. The Prophet, peace be upon him, accepted the principle of protection of the Non-Muslims so as to save the Muslims from their hurt.
2. On the base of making analogy it is permitted to vote for non-Muslim to remove harm as well as to utter a word of shirk to save the self.
Restrictions for participating in US elections
1. The benefit should be more expected than a harm so as to follow the Shar`i ruling saying “Harm should not be removed by procedure of an equal harm nor more harmful”
2. The elected candidate should be highly recommended and selected by the leaders of Muslim Minority on the base of Shura among them.
3. The elected persons should be known be loyal and not to hate Islam nor Muslims.
4. The aim behind participating in elections should be achieving a public interest and not a personal benefit.
Finally, I hope I offered my best and get the happy medium in covering the issue. I implore Allah accept this work, forgive my sins, and grant me doubled reward.
I would like you to take following points from this presentation
o Religious rulings should be left for qualified, learned, and experienced scholars.
o In their desire to achieve correct religious rulings (fatwas) Muslims must present and look at the variables from the correct positions.
o Muslims have only looked at political activity in the United states from a very limited perspective, that being from the position of Halal or Haram.
o Muslims must strive to find the correct means and limitations with regards to political activity in the United States.
o Inactivity in the political field will cause Muslims to face immense problems in the future, and keep them from utilizing their rights as citizens
o The Islamic principles of Jurisprudence support and offer a great wealth of support for working in a non-Muslim political environment. Some of these principles are:
1. Whatever Leads to Mandatory Is Mandatory as well.
2. Works Are Measured by Goals Behind Them
3. To Prevent a Harm with a Lesser One.
Ø Muslims scholars from such countries as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and the Untied States have issued fatwas supporting political activism in non-Muslim lands.
Ø Muslims working in non-Muslim lands must observe important principles before doing so.
1. Qualifications: Religiously and intellectually
2. That benefits will be greater than the harms