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Postmodern Shirk: The ‘Conservative Muslims’ Insistence on Supporting the Modern Nation-State Through Voting and Public Service – Part I: Voting

Postmodern Shirk: The ‘Conservative Muslims’ Insistence on Supporting the Modern Nation-State Through Voting and Public Service – Part I: Voting

 

By Can Osman

 

 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الحمد لله رب العالمين الذي أنزل القرآن وهدى الإنسان، الذي غفر له من بعد كل نسيانه، وهداه في حال كل أخطائه،

والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله النبي الكريم محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين، الذي بشر لكل مؤمن بالدين وأنذر به الكافرين، تبيانا لكل شيء عام ونوعي، لهدانا على الطريق الذي نستخلف له، حتى يوم الدين

 

 

 

 

Introduction

In the 21st century with the Muslim world’s move towards the creation of national ideologies under the enterprise of the modern nation-state, we have concurrently observed the exodus of Muslims into the west where, by the time they all came (and have yet to come), have been subsumed into the ideology of postmodernism.[1] The clearest manifestation of where the ‘postmodern’ has infiltrated and engrossed the ideology of practicing – what we call in common parlance ‘conservative’ (as opposed to liberal and/or modern) – Muslims is in the field of public participation, which may either come in the form of ‘voting’ in various governmental elections, serving in formal government roles, and other forms of public service, including supporting of the economic backbone of these governments, of which they are also a product of: the capitalist economy through what we call ‘work’. In this brief risālah, what we may call the equivalent of a short academic article on a highly-important subject, I intend to make my debut into the Muslim Debate Initiative under the subject that haunts the Muslim psyche – that is, the part of the Qur’an-and-Sunnah-following Muslim that would gag in the sight of himself voting were he to understand the weight in which and audacity with which he is setting up an affront to Allah: or major Shirk, the worst kind.

This first part of the essay on voting, which itself is a series on Muslims’ contribution to non-Muslim governments around the world, is itself is a part of a series which I have labelled under the title of ‘Postmodern Shirk,’ which is not necessarily a critique of postmodernism itself, but of areas in which postmodern thinking has led directly to question the very basis of the meaning of life as we know it, or what Ibn Rushd calls the fundamental principles “necessary for man’s existence … not in so far as he is a man, but in so far as he has knowledge”.[2] The specific argument which I will make in this article (and in reality needs a series of books to deconstruct) is that voting is major ‘shirk’, which is defined according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah as will be discussed below. In terms of evidence, I will only use the Qur’an and the Sunnah and necessary sources of interpretation (linguistic, contextual, etc.), which I hope to supplement with a list and commentary of scholars who discuss these verses and evidences and prove them with further absolute necessity. The final thing to note is that I will not make a call or claim towards there being consensus on this matter-but rather, that this is a matter which requires the utmost level of adherence precisely due to the evidences which are presented: as al-Ghazālī relates te quote of ‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib: “Do not seek for the truth by means of men; find first the truth and then you will recognize those who follow it.”[3] If it is objected – as has been against me in person – that there must be some sort of fundamental agreement amongst the ‘scholars’ for an evidence to be true, he should know that this is not only ridiculous with no evidence for it, but rather that there is consensus on the fact that the Qur’an and the Sunnah themselves are necessary evidence (and in fact, that Ijmā‘ is accepted as evidence because the Qur’an and Sunnah prove it alone). If anybody has any sort of objection to this article, let him confront it through the Qur’an and Sunnah or objection based on the methodology of making rulings, and not on the authority of what X or Y says without this textual evidence or interprative objections that contradict my claim – and risk his Imān in the process.

 

Voting, what?

Voting is defined, in general, as being the casting of a ballot or some form of verbal or another form of affirmation signifying (according to the laws of communication in that society) the support of that individual and/or others for any particular matter under consideration by a collective of people. This includes all forms of voting, including cases wherein not all within the collective may vote, the vote may not count or may be counted in any given way, and for any purpose or type of matter being dealt with at any level of organization (from authorization of war in the US Congress to ‘what to eat for lunch today’). For the purposes of this article, I define voting more specifically to encapsulate a legal meaning applied in what we call ‘liberal democracies’, or, voting (as defined above) for the purpose of deciding an individual who will be (a) bound by the constitution of that country as interpreted by the courts, and (b) responsible for the creation and repealing of any form of legislation to be applied on behalf of any individual(s) for any matters and (c) on the level of government, including manners of criminal and civil law, economic and foreign policy. It is assumed that the vote will be counted and that it will have a role (however small) in determining the outcome provided the vote is cast according to the procedures highlighted by the institution managing those procedures. Having defined voting for my own purposes and prevented (hopefully) any loopholes calling for accusations based on generalizations concerning my definition of ‘voting’, I will proceed to demonstrate by legal necessity its being an affront to God, or major shirk.

 

Shirk, what?

Shirk is defined as what is classified amongst those versed within the knowledge of the subject as “major shirk”, specifically “shirk in lordship”, which is defined by Ibn Taymiyyah as the following:[4] “The second kind of shirk is shirk in rubūbīyyah. God is the Owner and the Ruler, it is He Who gives and takes, causes suffering and gives happiness, elevates and degrades, honors and humiliates. Therefore, whoever associates anyone with Him in any of these things commits his shirk in rubūbīyyah.” In highlighting the types of shirk, what is included is setting an affront unto God, is setting an affront to God through His attribute of legislation or a rejection that he is to be obeyed in all matters. Pretending this does not exist while believing it can also be classified as kufr, but is also shirk (the generally accepted position of the scholars is a refusal to differentiate between the two). This includes the acts of:

  • Believing or expressing affirmation (i.e., without belief) that one other than God has the right of legislation: this is true by necessity of what is presented immediately below.
  • The act of preventing the establishment of the law of Allah on earth in any way, shape or form, including by hiding it, distorting it, or physically being a cause to implementing existence. Ibn Taymiyyah conveys the consensus of scholars on the act of kufr and being a kāfir for one who is the cause of the establishment of non-divine law: “Whenever a person makes halal what is haram by consensus or makes haram what is halal by consensus or replaces the sharī‘ah that is agreed upon by consensus, then he is a kāfir by the agreement of the scholars of fiqh. And with the likes of this Allah has revealed: ‘those who do not legislate by what Allah has revealed, they are the disbelievers,’ i.e., that which contradicts what Allah has ruled.”[5] Note, this is a reference to merely the act and not belief that something haram is halal or halal is haram. This is made clear in the Tafsīr of famous Qur’an commentator al-Tabarī:“Allah the Almighty says, whoever conceals the hukm of Allah, which He revealed in His Book and made it a law between the slaves – so he hides it and rules with other than it like the Hukm of the Jews concerning the married fornicators with whipping of the guilty and blackening their faces and concealing the hukm of stoning and like their judging upon some of their murdered with full blood-money and some with half of their blood-money. And concerning the noble people, they would have qisās but the commoner would only get the blood money. But Allah made all of them equal in the tawrāt: … such are the kāfirūn. They are the ones who concealed the truth, which was upon them to uncover and make clear. And they hid it from the people and they showed something different to the people and they judged according to that (changed hukm) because of a bribe they took from them.”[6]

The explanation behind this principle is very simple. Kufr is disbelief, or belief alongside rejection of anything in the Qur’an and Sunnah; for example, the five prayers, five pillars, hudūd (set punishment), existence and life of the prophet and his companions, Allah and His attributes, etc. The reason this is considered both kufr and shirk is because it is a rejection (i.e., kufr) of the law of God:

“Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah ] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers” (Sūrah Mā’idah, verse 44).

Al-Tabarī notes that this is a general rule which clarifies that any form of action which prevents the law of God from being carried out necessitates this person’s having committed a rejection of Allah’s message, which is kufr, since it is a form of rejecting His message, which includes orders on how to govern worldly matters. This is just as true for so-called ‘religious’ matters as ‘worldly’ matters, since Allah considers a rejection of any type of message disbelieve in Him.

 

That Allah Orders the Establishment of a Worldly System of Governance

This encapsulates an enormous field of knowledge and literature that could not possibly be discussed in any reasonable word count. As such, I will refer to the evidences in the Qur’an and Sunnah, which I will supplement with sayings of the scholars in another article. By establishing this principle, it is then possible to claim that rejecting this mandated system of governance, which includes government at its highest level down to minor disputes between two private individuals.

Evidence 1: Allah has the right to define justice and the law for humanity.

Hundreds, if not thousands of verses of the Qur’an affirm Allah’s authority, right, and all-prevailing justice over all of humanity, jinnkind, and even animal-kind (affirmed in the Sunnah). Consider the following statements which the scholars of tafsīr have affirmed their general meaning (although revealed within a context):

 

“Or have they other deities who have ordained for them a religion to which Allah has not consented? But if not for the decisive word, it would have been concluded between them. And indeed, the wrongdoers will have a painful punishment” (Sūrah al-Sūrā, verse 21).

“They are not but [mere] names you have named them – you and your forefathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow not except assumption and what [their] souls desire, and there has already come to them from their Lord guidance. Or is there for man whatever he wishes? Rather, to Allah belongs the Hereafter and the first [life]…although they have no knowledge regarding that. They only follow their conjecture3 and conjecture can never take the place of the Truth” (Sūrah al-Najm, verses 23-28).

“You worship not besides Him except [mere] names you have named them, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. Legislation is not but for Allah . He has commanded that you worship not except Him. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know” (Sūrah Yūsuf, verse 40).

“Say, “Allah is most knowing of how long they remained. He has [knowledge of] the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth. How Seeing is He and how Hearing! They have not besides Him any protector, and He shares not His legislation with anyone”” (Sūrah Kahf, verse 26).

Evidence 2: The Prophet has authority to establish divine law and command Muslims to obey it – at the cost of their Imān.

Allah commands obedience of the Shari’ah and reference and adherence to the prophet of Allah in the Qur’an many times; for affirming the transfer of political authority vis-à-vis the implementation of Divine Law (the shar’), ibn Taymiyyah quotes the following verses:[7]

“Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to Taghut, while they were commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray. And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” you see the hypocrites turning away from you in aversion. So how [will it be] when disaster strikes them because of what their hands have put forth and then they come to you swearing by Allah, “We intended nothing but good conduct and accommodation.” Those are the ones of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts, so turn away from them but admonish them and speak to them a far-reaching word. And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah . And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission” (Sūrah Nisā’, verses 59-65).

Evidence 3: The Prophet Signalled Towards the Existence of a Divinely-Mandated Government.

This is what is called khilāfah ‘alā minhāj al-nubuwwah, ‘Caliphate on the method of prophecy’, which is a concept universally accepted by the people of Ahl al-Sunnah, including those outside: the Shiites, Mu’tazilites, and even some Kharajites. The messenger of Allah, upon him be peace, said:

“Prophethood will remain amongst you as long as Allah wills that it remain and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then there will be the Khilafah upon the way of Prophethood and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then there will be a harsh rule and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. And then there will be a coercive rule and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then there will be the Khilafah upon the way of the Prophethood and [the Prophet ﷺ] kept silent” (Musnad Ahmad, hadīth number 18596).

Evidence 4: The Prophet ordered, as a general principle, the following of this divinely-mandated government in all matters, including government and laws.

This has already been proved above, but it is worth bringing explicit evidence from the Sunnah, directly mandating the requirement of the entire Ummah, whom the Prophet, upon him be peace, was addressing, to establish a caliphate based on the model mentioned above:

“One day after the morning Salat, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) exhorted us to the extent that the eyes wept and the hearts shuddered with fear. A man said: ‘Indeed this is a farewell exhortation. [So what] do you order us O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘I order you to have Taqwa of Allah, and to listen and obey, even in the case of an Ethiopian slave. Indeed, whomever among you lives, he will see much difference. Beware of the newly invented matters, for indeed they are astray. Whoever among you sees that, then he must stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafa’, cling to it with the molars” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2676, al-Tirmidhī said: this is hasan sahīh).

Evidence 5: Muslims are required to establish worldly law in all of the affairs they may possibly do.

This is established universally in the Qur’an and Sunnah and the caliphs who followed and applied the Divine Law. This is sufficient evidence to know that it is necessary to apply the laws of the Qur’an and Sunnah in our daily affairs that way they were commanded and practiced by the prophet. One example would suffice. The Qur’an delineates a hadd punishment of the punishment of sexual intercourse when an individual is unmarried (provided the evidence is brought):

“The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment” (Sūrah Nūr, verse 2).

The Sunnah delineates a further punishment for such a person:

“Narrated Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) ordering that an unmarried person guilty of illegal sexual intercourse be flogged one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year. `Umar bin Al-Khattab also exiled such a person, and this tradition is still valid” (Sahīh al-Bukhari, hadīth 6831, as well as by Muslim, Ibn Mājah, and al-Nasā’ī, the meaning of which is conveyed through various authentic chains of transmission).

This is a general order that is required to be upheld by those in positions of political authority, which must be a government that follows the Sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs, including but not limited to the punishment of adultery for unmarried men and women.

Evidence 6: Muslims are required to support this through enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil as defined by Allah, and whoever does not has disobeyed Allah and His messenger:

Allah says, “And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment” (Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān, verses 104-5).

“On the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith”” (Muslim vol. 1, hadīth 84; al-Nasā’ī, hadīth 5008; Abū Dawūd, hadīth 4340; and Ibn Mājah, book 5, hadīth 1334).

Allah mentions the exception to this rule being the one who is incapable (istitā‘ah) of this action, which may refer to physical or other types of inaction. The interpretation which matches the other verses of Qur’an and hadīth is that ‘ability’ here is defined not by physical capacity but ability to face the pressure and potential consequences of society or the law in undertaking that action; which may result in the physical harming of himself and/or others, i.e., out of necessity.[8]

 

The One Who Votes Has Committed Shirk

The reality is that this is a very simple case of what some call “qiyās mu’aththar,” or applying a ruling to a series of cases that fall under a more general or equally comprehensive prohibition in a text. For instance, Allah’s order “do not approach zinā,” includes all types of approaching zinā, including online, in-person, physical, verbal, and so on, as they all fall under the general prohibition of that injunction. Voting as defined above is a case of what is a general prohibition on “ruling by other than that which Allah has legislated:” this includes all forms of legislation, whether related to worship (e.g., praying a different number of times a day) or legal (e.g., prison sentences murder and treason), as the early generations of scholars have agreed. Some differed and mentioned that there are different levels by which one has disobeyed Allah depending on the extent and veracity of the rejection, as narrated by Ibn Kathīr:

“‘Ali bin Abi Talhah also stated that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah’s statement, ﴿وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْكَـفِرُونَ﴾  (And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers,) ‘Whoever rejects what Allah has revealed, will have committed Kufr, and whoever accepts what Allah has revealed, but did not rule by it, is a Zalim (unjust) and a Fasiq (rebellious) and a sinner.’ Ibn Jarir recorded this statement. ‘Abdur-Razzaq said, ‘Ma`mar narrated to us that Tawus said that Ibn ‘Abbas was asked about Allah’s statement, ﴿وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم﴾ (And whosoever does not judge…) He said, ‘It is an act of Kufr.’ … Waki` said that Sa`id Al-Makki said that Tawus said that, ﴿وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْكَـفِرُونَ﴾ (And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers,) “This is not the Kufr that annuls one’s religion.’”[9]

The question of whether it is kufr that annuls one’s religion is a matter of debate, although the opinion of Abdullah al-Ghunaymān at the University of Madinah has summarized the most simple and explicit position: “What has been related by Ibn Abbas is not absolute as has been stated, concerning the verse where Allah the almighty said: “it is they who are the disbelievers”. It is not possible that Allah the Almighty would ascribe disbelief to a person and mean other than disbelief … It is not possible for one to call the changing of the sharī‘ah of Islam a law, or choose a law over a shar’ [revealed law], ‘disbelief without disbelief,’ impossible, because this is the disbelief which Allah has ascribed to these people by stating “they are the disbelievers”.”[10]

In any case, the evidences above make it crystal clear that any form of applying non-divine law in any matter is absolutely prohibited on the grounds that it is a rejection of the application of that which Allah has commanded its application. This is the same matter with Surah Nisā’, verse 59-65, which orders the entire community of Muslims to obey the prophet in all matters of his command. The Prophet, along with Allah in the Qur’an (e.g., in ordering enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil), in turn, following this chain of authority from Allah down to the people, has ordered for the existence of a group of people who command the good and prohibit the evil, and to follow the political system established by the four caliphs which followed the prophet by thirty years after his death (Abū Dawūd, hadīth 4647, graded Hasan-Sahīh by al-Albānī).  To be a person with agency in this world and contribute to the legislation of laws which Allah has prohibited from being established.

Now, let us consider voting. One evidence made in favour of voting, comically, is that it is not really helping in the establishment of the laws of whom they have voted for. There are two ways which prove this issue, each of which are not dependent upon each-other for validity. The first evidence is the general saying of Allah, “and do not participate in sin and aggression” (Sūrah Mā’idah, verse 2), and “fear Allah as much as you can” (Sūrah al-Taghābun, verse 16), which the exegetists have interpreted to imply a general statement prohibiting any type of aiding of any form of sin. The argument goes: voting is a form of aid, aiding in aggression is a sin, therefore, voting is aiding in aggression. The first premise is clear: by voting, you are being the cause of election of an individual person who will aggress against Allah. Being the ‘cause of election’ is done by counting the ballots, which include yours, which are taken as the sole cause – according to the process defined by that voting system – for the election of that individual. This is especially a concern when the Muslim community, as a group, is the cause for the election of that person.

The second argument refers more to the legal aspect of the action of voting itself, as opposed to the effects it has: voting is an act of approval of the individual who in turn will make those non-divine laws. In Islamic law, there is a law known as wakālah, which recognizes the concept of ‘approval’ in the form of ‘consent’ as a legal construct. The clearest instance of this legal system is in the case of consent for an economic transaction: the signaling of approval of a transaction as defined by the culture and tradition of that group which signals towards the approval of that contract: signing a paper, giving verbal consent, checking a box on a website, and the like. One form of this giving consent is that of transferring authority from one’s self to another individual; this is a transfer of authority from one person to another to undertake a given trust: an amount of wealth (amānah), or a service (e.g., slaughtering an animal for him). Allah recognizes and formalizes the law of wakālah as a case of transferring authority towards others (supplemented by the commentary of Ibn Kathir:

“﴿وَمَن يَشْفَعْ شَفَـعَةً سَيِّئَةً يَكُنْ لَّهُ كِفْلٌ مَّنْهَا﴾ (And whosoever intercedes for an evil cause, will have a share in its burden.) meaning, he will carry a burden due to what resulted from his intercession and intention. For instance, it is recorded in the Sahīh that the Prophet said, «اشْفَعُوا تُؤْجَرُوا، وَيَقْضِي اللهُ عَلى لِسَانِ نَبِيِّهِ مَا شَاء» (Intercede and you will gain a reward of it. Yet, Allah shall decide whatever He wills by the words of His Prophet.) Mujahid bin Jabr said, “This Ayah was revealed about the intercession of people on behalf of each other.’”[11]

This is further recognized by the order of the prophet to make sure only to appoint political leaders that rule according to his law – the corollary is that the one who caused his appointment while he had knowledge of his disobedience towards Allah is responsible for his actions; Al-Nawawi’s commentary is attached:

“It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (May be upon him) said: Beware. every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shal be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A slave is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust …

[Commentary] His saying, peace and blesisngs be upon him: “every one of you is a shepherd and everyone is answerable with regard to his flock”, the scholars say: a shepard is one who is a protector, entrusted, and responsible for something and that which is under his sight [i.e., watch], and in it[‘s meaning] is that everyone whom he is responsible over something is required to treat it with justice, and keep it upright both in religious and worldly matters” (Muslim, Sahīh Muslim book 33, hadīth 24 with Nawawi’s commentary from al-Minhāj).[12]

What this again proves is that people are responsible for anything discharged under their capability – or authorization – and includes the selection of a political leader which it given in the hands of every qualified citizen in the given state. All people are responsible for the actions of those whom they have authorized. Now, this does not mean that cases where the authorizer did his best to preserve a given trust but still failed in his job the person will be held responsible – we are only responsible for what we can do, and that is a product of the knowledge we have of a given situation. In the case of voting, we know from both experience of legislation and the interpretation of law concerning the duties of the legislator (congressman, member of parliament, etc.) that anyone elected will highly likely engage in the legislation of kufr law (not to mention, is bound by the constitution to do so), for which we are responsible before we cast our ballots. To make the matter clearer, it might be difficult to understand why voting – which only has a small amount of contribution and noting for large elections – is still prohibited. The answer is very simple: Allah holds the mukallaf (responsible individual) accountable for both the action and the effects of his action. If the action of participating in aggression is done, the act in of itself is an act of permitting the authority of legislation to an individual.

The reason this is considered the case is because voting is an affirmation of a particular candidate’s support to legislate. Voting is the entering, or rather, performing of a legal contract whereby the authority for legislation on the behalf of that person is made to legislate laws according to the constitutional provisions granted by the government: the types of laws, the procedure by which the laws are made, and the application of those laws by interpretation of the courts. Don’t think that Allah turns away from your since because they are not ‘Islamic’ contracts made by Imams and the like – a contract is a contract if Allah recognizes it as such. Allah chose to recognize the marriage contracts of the kuffar before they became Muslim after they entered Islam – well, some but not others, like excluding that of a Muslim and a polytheist. Likewise, Allah recognizes the contracts of affirmation and rejection, consent and lack thereof, the transfer of authority and the lack thereof.

Voting is not considered a transfer of authority to legislate because of John Locke’s, the common people’s, or even the voter’s own perception of representation. Voting is a transfer of authority because it is an authorization, and positive affirmation of a particular candidate’s ascension to the position of making law. To strive to achieve the ascension of a particular individual to commit shirk is an act of shirk itself. The question of whether it is participating or aiding or affirming the capacity of someone to commit shirk is not a question of whether that individual believes in it – it is a function of whether Allah considers it to be an act of affirmation, which is a rejection of his order to not participate in sin and aggression in of itself, regardless of whether or not that individual is elected. The matter is actually very simple: Members of Parliament view themselves as – and indeed, are – legislators, who represent a given proportion of the population, and that the laws they pass reflect the will of the people they represent – it is the law of the people. Of course, for the person who did not signal any approval of this suggestion, but is still living in the riding of the legislator, cannot be held accountable Islamically because Allah knows that individual did not approve that claim. On the other hand, for the one who signaled approval in any way – let alone was a cause for the candidate’s coming to power – Allah will hold accountable for his affirmation of the acts which follow the job description of the one whom he supported to ascend to power. In other words, he gave permission to that person to assume the position of law-making – this wikālah was not made by the voter, it was made by the representative (i.e., in any liberal democracy that believes in representation), to which the voter agreed to vis-à-vis the written gesture of affirmation, what is recognized by that system as a formal declaration of support for that individual’s reaching that position.

Note that this is all besides the fact that voting – from the perspective of the effects of the act –  is actually physically being the cause the election of a particular candidate, regardless of how little that contribution was.

From the perspective of the result of the action – not matter of small the amount of support, the action is still considered prohibited. Consider the case of a factory worker in an alcohol factory – it may have twenty thousand workers, yet no jurist would permit Muslims to engage in the collection of haram income because it is small. This is based on the principle well-known to any student of knowledge: “ba‘dh al-harām harām” – a little bit of haram, is still nonetheless, haram. This principle also includes the question of whether we must vote because if we do not, someone is still going to make the laws. Related to this topic is the question of electing a member of parliament who claims to want to implement the sharī‘ah. This will have to be saved for another time.

I should note that those who want to reduce the argument that voting is shirk now have to prove both that (a) voting does not result in people’s elections (to which I respond – then why vote in the first place); and (b) voting is not an act of affirmation, not to mention one of direct cause-and-effect support.

 

Arguments Against the Clear, Confirmed, and Logically Consistent Truth

Argument 1: Maslahah

The first argument brought as an affront to every single bid’ah, from the start of shirk with the early prophets of the mankind (e.g., nūh) to the 21st century, is one made on the basis of maslahah, or the ‘common good’, which is a concept in the sharī‘ah which was once applied to areas in which the Prophet, upon him be peace, ordered people in power to make certain decisions with the common good in mind – e.g., having effective battlefield tactics in war. The argument goes that in areas where the Qur’an or Sunnah does not mention a ruling, we can apply the general ‘what brings the most people the most happiness’ (utilitarianism) model since there is not ruling. Voting does not have a ruling, and therefore maslahah must be the criteria applied.

The reality of the matter, however, is very simply that the issue of voting is – i.e., objectively – an act of major kufr at most, and an act of divine disobedience at least, which is then turned into kufr when those doing it insist upon its permissibility after being presented with the truth from the Qur’an and Sunnah. In other words, maslahah cannot be called above textual evidence; this is agreed upon by all of the scholars who believe in maslahah in the absence of no texts, because their default position is that if there is a text that proves something, we cannot change it in order to follow what we believe at that moment to be the absolute truth. For what it’s worth, the reason maslahah is not permitted over the use of textual evidence is because the greatest good is the following of Allah’s order and disobeying it is an act of defiance and disobedience. If maslahah were permitted over anything, anybody could justify anything blatantly prohibited in the Qur’an and Sunnah: interest, alcohol (this one is famous amongst heretic philosophers), and even matters of worship like zakāh and its enforcement (e.g., ‘don’t force people to pay zakāh to avoid fitnah!). This is an entirely different subject which deserves an article itself.

Argument 2: Darūrah

This is an entirely different matter than maslahah, and a different principle often used in conjunction with maslahah in the art of making halal haram and vice-versa. The argument goes: “choosing the lesser of two evils is necessary – nay, obligatory – in cases where there is a material threat looming upon the Muslim community of any individual within it”. This is a principle derived from a number of verses of Qur’an and ahādīth which generally come to the meaning that in cases of severe danger, one is permitted to break obedience to Allah outwardly in order to preserve it. Allah says, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above-mentioned meats), then surely, Allaah is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Sūrah Mā’idah, verse 3). This means that in any case in which one’s possibility of physical sustenance is called into question, one may give up the practice of a certain number of obligations and engage in a certain number of sins.

However, there are a number of conditions that the Qur’an and Sunnah signal towards vis-à-vis conditions that must necessarily be met to declare a situation of emergency, or ‘darurah’. Note that darurah’is not the default position: all things are haram, before darurah’, and even after the condition exists, those actions are still haram-Allah has forgiven those sins out of his mercy for us to preserve our lives.

The first of these conditions is that there exist a severe threat to one’s health and safety – there is no evidence to suggest that anything other than life-or-death, or near life-or-death situations can be considered as darurah’. For instance, in the case of making ablution or ritual bathing (ghusl) through dust instead of water, the Prophet permitted the action in response to the fact that a person had died taking his bath with water:

“Jabir said: We set out on a journey. One of our people was hurt by a stone, that injured his head. He then had a sexual dream. He asked his fellow travelers: Do you find a concession for me to perform tayammum? They said: We do not find any concession for you while you can use water. He took a bath and died. When we came to the Prophet (ﷺ), the incident was reported to him. He said: They killed him, may Allah kill them! Could they not ask when they did not know? The cure for ignorance is inquiry. It was enough for him to perform tayammum and to pour some drops of water or bind a bandage over the wound (the narrator Musa was doubtful); then he should have wiped over it and washed the rest of his body” (Abu Dāwūd, hadīth 336).

Note that the behavior of the companions was that of strictly adhering to the ritual requirement even in a case of potential threat to human life shows the veracity by which they adhered to obedience even with the threat of severe life.

In the case of voting, the argument of darurah’clearly does not apply. This is not to say that life and death are not matters which concern a nation-state – they are – but that voting, or the selection of a given candidate for office, does not change the vast majority of these decisions being made. For instance, the decision to give someone the death penalty cannot be given except by a judge – voting for President does not change the rulings of these judges. There is neither any formal (i.e., based on the laws of that country) or informal (e.g., observational) evidence to suggest it does. The small level of cases where the legislative and executive (and elected) branched may make life-and-death decisions are either in extreme cases of legislation sanctioning mass-murder or genocide (e.g., against Jews during World War Two and Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees from Germany) – which do not apply in our immediate situation – or in one-by-one cases of deciding life-or-death (e.g., to kill someone in a drone strike), which are decisions that we cannot control through voting, but that we do not even have knowledge of its extent.

The second condition is that the act necessarily results in the alleviation of the condition of extreme danger.[13] This is a principle that is derived from the fact that it is permissible to disregard an obligation in a case of extreme danger: i.e., if the act of disregarding extreme danger does not result in the removal of the condition of extreme danger, the act remains haram. This is a logical necessity of the action: you are not allowed to eat haram meat if you are not starving; likewise, if the haram meat will not alleviate your extreme hunger, it remains haram to consume. The Prophet said: “there is no harm or harming others” (the 32nd hadīth of al-Nawawī’s Arba‘īn) – this implies that the removal of things which harm from society or in an individual situation is necessary – although it deals with matters before they have happened instead of after, the message is the same.[14] Further, this condition comes from the definition of darurah itself: an act under darurah is only darurah if there is a threat and the threat can possibly be removed (you are not allowed to drink alcohol if someone is trying to rob your money – you can drink alcohol if you are choking with nothing else, or fight the robber, only because these actions “yuzāl al-dharar” or alleviate the necessity).

The second condition relates to my statements above: there is no evidence or affirmation whatsoever, in the 21st century western nation-states, to suggest that voting in any way whatsoever changes the situation of people living within or outside the country (e.g., in economic policy to war). This is based firstly on the fact that neither foreign nor domestic policy has empirically been proven to have changed with the vote of the common population.[15]

This is further weakened by the fact that we often do not vote for the president directly. In order for this criterion to remain true – i.e., to permit voting – there must be (a) a direct connection of voting and that person being elected; there are incredibly few, if any, instances of cases where Muslims in the west are statistically capable of altering election results. Further, once elected, there must (b) be a correlation to that person elected to the laws that are being passed: if all Muslims come together and manage to elect one MP, there is again incredibly an small chance that this will effect legislation. Note that this is accepting their false claim to a situation of darurah: legislating by anything other than what Allah has revealed in of itself is a major sin, shirk, as has been proven. This is exponentially weakened and utterly eliminated when we consider what the calls to voting ask for: “don’t vote for X or Y party, just make sure you go out to vote!” On Joe Bradford’s Facebook page, I remember seeing his video calling out Muslims to vote; making sure we all ‘got out’ and exercised our legal right to make the world a better place. How lovely! Little does he know that this seals the deal on any possible argument being made in the name of darurah.

The third condition is that there not be any alternative options. The words “under extreme hunger” or the implication of darurah when one fears for one’s life only applies when other possibilities are not available. For instance, someone starving on an island is not allowed to eat pig meat if it is possible for him to find other sources of food; one may not curse Allah and the prophet if he is under compulsion if it is possible for him to reasonable escape. This again is a property, or necessary descendant condition (lāzim of the lawāzim, or ‘property’ in philosophy) of the legal condition of darurah.

This is the strongest evidence against the claims of the pro-shirk camp. There is absolutely, categorically, no possible way to claim that there is no alternative for Muslims living in the west – as a group – to do anything other than vote. Being forced to do haram in a land is not an excuse to do haram: Allah mandate’s Muslims’ fleeing from any land to flee with their faith, and guarantees culpability to those even who are forced to not practice their religion (or disobey Allah, e.g., in voting): “Indeed, those whom the angels take [in death] while wronging themselves – [the angels] will say, “In what [condition] were you?” They will say, “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will say, “Was not the earth of Allah spacious [enough] for you to emigrate therein?” For those, their refuge is Hell – and evil it is as a destination” (Sūrah Nisā’, verse 97). Flee with your faith – rather, we are fleeing to the opposite, and that too, while we are banned from fleeing to their countries. Suffice it to say, there is no better argument than to pose Allah’s ayah against those who call towards fleeing to sin and aggression, away from obedience to Allah. All this law of darurah proves is that it would be obligatory, in a state of darurah, to flee as a group from that given state, and help all those who can’t save their imān by doing the same thing.

The fourth condition is that undertaking this act does not infringe upon the rights of others. This is a very important condition: it is universally accepted by the scholars that being under necessity does not permit for certain people’s rights to be sacrificed over others; darurah is in reference to the self. The main evidence that delineates this is the fact that Allah removed the sin from transgression in the case of darurah for the individual person (“or if he is under extreme hunger”, “if one of you fears”).[16]

If one were now to make the argument, that voting for a particular candidate would save lives, for example, by preventing war or attacks against Muslims around the world, we respond on top of all of the arguments presented above, that any harm done by those heads of state or legislative bodies against any other group of people as a result of your ballot in any attempt to prevent others, means you share the culpability of their actions.

In conclusion, for the issue of darurah, I have established that only under the following conditions voting would be permissible. Note that all of these conditions would have to be affirmed either by necessity or by experience (i.e., empirical knowledge) of the cause and effect of the following:

  • The condition that it is not possible for Muslims in that given state to leave the nation-state in which they are living; and if this is met;
  • Voting – or the change of the legislative and executive elected bodies of a government – would have to deal with matters of life and death. If this is fulfilled, then;
  • Voting would have to directly affect the outcome of foreign and domestic policy: there must be evidence or guarantee that the change in candidates would affect the outcome of a given policy; and if this is met;
  • Voting of Muslims in that country would have to have enough potential power to significantly change the outcome of the vote such that it would result in either a change of an executive power (e.g., President), or of the legislative assembly enough to ensure a change of the ruling party.

Finally, I should note that all of this discussion is taking place within the realm of a faulty claim concerning the issue of darurah, which is the claim that problems arising from long-term systematic problems can be classified as ‘immediate danger’ as stipulated by darurah law. The exceptional instance of a darūrī situation has been meant for cases of immediate bodily danger and coercion – having one’s self or others immediately physically threatened, under the threat of starvation, or a medical instance of life-or-death. The extension of darurah cases that extend far in space and time made to justify sin and aggression has not been made or even considered in the past – the idea of setting up and contributing to an entire society that oppresses and represses Muslims and Islam around the world was so far-fetched beyond the imagination of the 10th century Muslim scholar that it was not even discussed. In any case, the simple fact of the matter is that the darūrī excuse does not apply in cases of justifying long-term sin and aggression to combat long-term oppressive situations. For instance, nobody would disagree that setting up an interest bank in order to donate profits to charity is absolutely haram – even in cases where lives are being saved as a result. Nobody would allow his wife to sleep with a general at war with the Muslims in order to distract him and gain advantage – even if it saves the lives of millions of Muslim soldiers. The question then becomes – how do we distinguish between immediate and extended threat? – the difference between haram and halal, of imān and shirk? The answer is in fact very simple: all haram things remain haram except in cases made an exception in the Qur’an or Sunnah. As such, meat remains haram until Allah explains that haram meat becomes forgiven to eat in the case of immediate hunger. Likewise, tayammum for ghusl becomes haram until the Prophet excepts the case of one whose life is threatened. Supporting and aiding a government in their legislation of non-shari’ah law – shirk – is not one of the exceptions in which necessity is permitted to take place over the potential life-and-death faced by Muslims. We know this is true by the fact that the case of necessity and its various instances is an exception to the rule. This is a long subject and needs much more discussion to delineate the exact line between immediate and non-immediate threats.

Let us pretend this line did not exist, nor did any of the objections which I have raised to nullify the arguments against calling for darurah and a nullification of all the rules of shari’ah. Where would the command to preserve the lives of the Muslims go? To supporting the state, like the US, that, regardless of political affiliation has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Muslims through wars and meddling in Muslim countries’ international affairs? Is that the most direct and easy way of preventing the deaths of Muslims? Or, would it be to do what darurah law commands us to do: stop it, with our hands, immediately, using all potential methods available, until the situation of darurah is removed?[17] As the keen reader will note, the pro-darurah camp has justified immigrating to countries like Yemen and Afghanistan to physically fight against the oppressors,[18] before they have justified the act of voting.

 

Conclusion: The Five-Layered Cake

The response to all these objections builds what we may call a ‘five-layered argument’ based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, and also on the terms of those who have opposed the Qur’an and Sunnah, which goes as follows:

The Qur’an and Sunnah classify as kufr the establishment of kufr law, voting is a form of this, and therefore it is kufr (1); we are not allowed to accept maslahah (calling for voting ot otherwise) over textual evidence (2); even if we accept it over textual evidence, the maslahah of not voting outweighs that of voting (3); we cannot accept darūrah unless all three conditions are met – and none are (4); even if all the conditions were met, encouraging voting in the manner done by Muslims in liberal democracies would not be considered legitimate (5).

Based the explicit texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and refutation of what the callers to voting have argued to interpret them differently, and the establishment of the opposite principle even while accepting their terms of engagement, I advise all objective readers who came with a correct intention and an open heart (of obedience to Allah and His messenger) to accept the truth, stay away from that which will damage your imān, and engage in productive activities which benefit the ummah, and bring it closer to complete rule under the law of Allah. Stay tuned for more information on the ahkām al-siyāsah – the law of governance – and refutation of the false aqīdah (belief) of today’s innovators amongst the liberals and post-modernists.

 

Notes

[1] Postmodernism is not, contrary to the popular belief, a belief or belief set in certain universal principles. It’s rather a rejection of them which originated from the critique of modernity which took hold in the western world. It includes a backlash to ideas of progress, Eurocentrism, embellished historical narratives, and revolved into an entire set of thinking including a rejection of the concept of reality altogether; an imposition of everything to be a matter of reality constructed through discourse and not real because of its inherent quality as such.

[2] Muhammad Ibn Rushd, Tahāfut al-Tahāfut (New Banner Institute, n.d.), 419. Retrieved from http://www.newbanner.com/Philosophy/IbnRushd/Tahafut_al-Tahafut_en.pdf.

[3] Abū Hāmid āl-Ghazālī (trans. Richard J. McCarthy), Deliverance from Error (American University of Beirut, 1980), 12. “This is the practice of those dim-witted men who know the truth by men, and not men by the truth. The intelligent man, on the contrary, follows the advice of the Master of the Intelligent, ‘Alī — God be pleased with him! — where he says: “Do not know the truth by men, but rather, know the truth and you will know its adherents.” The intelligent man, therefore, first knows the truth, then he considers what is actually said by someone. If it is true, he accepts it, whether the speaker be wrong or right in other matters.”

[4] Ansari, M. A. (2000). Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam: Selected Writings of Shaykh al-Islam Taqi ad-Din Ibn Taymiyyah on Islamic Faith, Life, and Society (Riyadh: Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud Islamic University, 2000), 204.

[5] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmū‘ al-Fatāwā (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1997), vol. 3, p. 267.

[6] Muhammad Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, Tafsīr al-Tabarī, commentary on verse 44 of Surah Mā’idah.

[7] Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Hisbah fi al-Islām (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1997), Introduction.

[8] Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī, Sharh al-Nawawī ‘alā Muslim (Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyyah, 2000). “As for his saying, upon him be blessings and peace, “he should change it,” it is an order of obligation by consensus of the Ummah, and follows the order of enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil … [quoting Qādī Iyādh:] ‘and if he is more certain than not that changing it with his hand would be a reason for evil than itself, such as the killing of himself or another, he may resort to changing it with his speech’”.

[9] Ismā‘īl Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr (English abridgement), verse 44 of Sūrah Mā’idah.

[10] Abdullah al-Ghunaymān, “Ma ‘nā “kufr dūna kufr” fadīlat al-shaykh ‘abdullah al-ghunaymān,” (original Arabic) Youtube Video. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmEjloMbzjI.

[11] Ismā‘īl Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr (English abridgement), verse 85 of Sūrah Nisā’.

[12] Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī, Sharh al-Nawawī ‘alā Muslim (Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyyah, 2000), 1829.

[13] Mansour Z. Al-Mutairi, Necessity in Islamic Law (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1997), 17-18.  Al-Mutairi discusses all the definitions of a darūrī excuse, all of which include within it the need for certainty that the situation will be alleviated with that action.

[14] Al-Mutairi, Necessity in Islamic Law, 50.

[15] See for example: M. Gilens and B. I., “Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens” Perspectives on Politics, vol. 12, no. 3 (2014): 564-581.

[16] Al-Mutairi, Necessity in Islamic Law, 34. This is established by ‘Alī Haydar, Durar al-Hukkām: Sharh Majallat al-Ahkām (Beirut: Dār ‘Ālam al-Kutub, 2003), vol. 1, 37-38.

[17] This is the necessary root one in a situation of darurah must take, as the principles surrounding the issue signal toward. See: Al-Mutairi, Necessity in Islamic Law, 59-61.

[18] This is not a call or support for fighting against Muslims without the existence of a legitimate Islamic state – this is prohibited for a number of reasons that could not possibly be discussed here.

2 replies »

  1. How come that Al Azhar never came with a public statement saying the thing you said? Al Azhar never condemed voting even in Egypt. This is frankly a fringe opinion. It is true that voting in some instances is illegetimate but even in America no one can make laws by voting if it contradicts the constitution. You are taking very limited areas where voting is forbidden and making and then saying all voting is forbidden.

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