ARAB SPRING-West Hopes for Western Style Democracy

· Islam

Arab Spring-West Hopes for Western Style Democracy

Islam determines a complete system of existence by submission to Allah, to personal relationships and hygiene, to rituals of worship, acceptance of the Laws of Allah, the obligation to charity, to the promotion of Allah and even to the governance of the people. This is all based on the ideology of the Islam as illustrated by the Quran and the Hadiths with no room for compromise or liberalism. Only when the West realise this will they be able to understand Islam in order to regulate themselves to act or counteract the Islamic concept of political hierarchy.

The West’s unfounded Hopes for the Arab Spring

[“Italicised Bold” are the author’s views.]

The West is placing a lot of hopes that the “Arab Spring” will blossom into a “Western Style Arab (Islamic) Democracy.” But are Western leaders so myopic that they are not able to see the nature of Islam and to realise that this hope is but a pipe dream? The cries of, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Albar!” has always rung out in the post 1400 years and will continue to do so in the future. So what does this mean? It means that Islamic people and Islamic nations will always be ruled by, “THE LAWS OF ALLAH – The Sharia through a Caliphate.” That is what Allah demands and that is what Muslims want, and this is what will result. So what is Islamic Governance, a Caliphate? This will always be their ultimate aim.


The Caliphate is an (Islamic) political system from the ideology of Islam that enshrines: “the rule of law, representative government, accountability by the people through an independent judiciary and the principle of representative consultation.” It is government built upon a concept of citizenship regardless of ethnicity, gender or creed and is totally opposed to the oppression of any religious or ethnic grouping.

(I do not think any Western Democratic government could better those principles.)

The highest executive post is the post of khalifah who appoints ministers without portfolio to assist in ruling, and governors for the various regions.  (Innocent as this may appear, it places tremendous power in the hands of the Khalifah in the form of patronage. This would lead, invariably to an Islamic dictatorship (Khomeini of Iran), or to a tribal chieftain dictatorship (Hussein of Iraq.) The legislative sources are the Quran and sayings of the prophet Muhammad. (The Caliphate is subject to the Laws of Allah determined by the Quran, Sharia Laws, and ShahihMuslimBk20  [4]) While differences of interpretation of these sources can occur, as with any legislative sources, the particular interpretation adopted by the Khalifah must be justified before an independent judiciary, which has the power to remove him from his post should he flagrantly deviate from the boundaries of credible legal interpretation ( ijtihad). The khalifah is appointed by the people, and hereditary rule by supposed divine right is forbidden. Consultation is one of the pillars of ruling and is best served by the establishment of representative councils composed of men and women from all religions and ethnic groupings within the state.

While this system differs from western liberal democracy in a number of ways, there are some surface similarities. It must, however, be realised that though Muslims in Iraq sometimes use the tierm democracy it is the “Islamic concept of the rule of law, the right of the people to appoint to appoint their own leader and open accountable government that they aspire to. (According to Allah’s Laws.)This has hitherto been denied them by the western backed quisling regimes that hitherto have taken away all their political rights and whipped their backs. Egypt, for example, has just gone through elections to its consultative upper house of parliament with 80% of the seats going to the ruling party. The darker side of Egypt’s façade of democracy is commented upon by Mona Makram-Ebeid, a prominent Egyptian politician and human-rights activist “They [the government] always manage to get a hold of Islamist leaders and put them in jail, then release them when the elections are over”. Egypt’s president Mubarak has won a majority in each of the three elections held since his appointment twenty three years ago – what helped him was that nobody dared to stand against him.

The Middle East’s experience of democracy to date is of a deceptive formality of elections, which serve only to rubber stamp dictatorial rule. Failure to realise this will lead to frustration, later, when the Muslims of Iraq appear ungrateful to the west for removing Saddam Hussain and offering in his place western style liberal secular democracy.

(It is essential to recognise the differences of the concept of Western and Islamic interpretations of “RULE OF LAW” and “DEMOCRACY.” Generally they do not have the same meaning although each is correct in their own interpretation.

The Rule of Law

The arbitrary rule by the whim of self-appointed presidents and kings that has plagued Iraq and the whole Middle East is anathema to the principle of the rule of law within Islam’s political system. The application of the law is in the hands of an independent judiciary that has a special section called the ‘court of unjust acts’ whose task is to investigate impropriety on the part of members of the executive against the people. As for individual wrongdoing – the khalifah is subject to the same laws and penalties as the rest of the people because he is not considered a sovereign over his subjects. The same cannot be said for the Queen of England – she is, constitutionally speaking, the law itself making it a logical impossibility for her to be subject and sovereign at the same time. The publication of former US President Bill Clinton’s autobiography should remind everyone of the events that demonstrate how some men can be above the law in western government – with or without a monarchy. We prefer that all the people, including the khalifah, be subject to the law.

(Although theoretically and ideally, the Khalifah is subject to the same laws as the people, in reality when he holds absolute power with his position, whether he is a religious or secular Khalifah, he becomes immune to any such persecutions. Hence, we see the “Arabic Spring” spreading all over the Middle East today, a rebellion against the failure of the Dictatorial system but not against the Caliphate. But that does not signify a deviation from the “Islamic principles of the Rule of Law  or Islamic Caliphate.”  For the West to hope for such a change, to a western type democracy, would be to have a pipe dream.

Representative Government

The finer application of the concept of representation in government is a matter of considerable debate in western political philosophy. The first political use of the concept is commonly referred back to the seventeenth century as referring to: “one (legal) person acting on behalf of a group of people, as in the first and still the most influential discussion in political theory, chapter 16 of Hobbes’s Leviathan.”The conceptual basis of the khalifah is also considered one of representation, though the logic by which the concept arises is different to the path taken by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’s representative derives authority from an assumed human state of nature to become an absolute sovereign who predates law. The khalifah is considered a representative of the people in the sense of implementing pre-existing societal rules that were addressed to the society as a collective whole, but require embodiment in an authority tasked with implementation of these rules on behalf of the society.

The khalifah is appointed to his position according to the will of the people. The process is called baya in Arabic and can assume many styles including voting by ticking a card, text messaging or email. The consultative assembly (called majlis al-shura in Arabic) is the arm of state that will oversee the process whenever the position of khalifah becomes vacant.

Accountable Open Government

Linked closely to the concept that “the khalifah is a representative of the people in adopting and implementing DIVINE RULES OVER THE SOCIETY IS THE CONCEPT OF ACCOUNTABILITY.” It is a right of the people to question or criticise the decisions of the ruler because he is a servant of the people ruling on their behalf. The widely quoted saying of the second khalifah, Umar ibn al-Khatab, with which he began his rule encapsulates his perception of ruling as securing the rights of all people without distinction: “by Allah, he that is weakest among you shall be in my sight the strongest, until I have vindicated for him his rights; but him that is strongest will I treat as the weakest, until he complies.” The Khilafah system does not permit corporate interests to hijack government at the expense of the interests of the people that it is meant to serve. [1]

(The only aspect that has been buried in all those beautiful descriptive paragraphs is “Implementing The Divine Rules” over society. This Divine Rules refer to “The Laws of Allah, i.e., Sharia Law.” This differentiates Islamic Caliphate rule (including most forms of Islamic rule) from all other forms of rules since the Caliphate is subject totally to the Quran and the Hadiths and has little flexibility and modernity from these Islamic norms based on a 7th century Arab nomadic tribal culture. 


Engr. Sharique Naeem
Lahore, Pakistan

With the Arab spring in full flow, it is becoming clearer that many players are competing for the space (vacuum) created by the overthrow of some (dictatorial) rulers in the Middle East. Whilst the masses braved the brutal crackdown on the streets to end the architecture of client rulers, foreign interference and foreign dependency constructed by the Western colonial powers, the West continues to call the Arab spring as a call for democracy, Western values and more Western involvement. The decades of oppression by the dictatorial rulers has led to some confusion on where Capitalism ends and where Islam begins.

The debate as to what should replace fallen tyrants, is now taking place in the Arab world. The western media, has cleverly equated the demand for justice and removal of tyrants, with the notion that only democracy can meet those demands. This however is not true. Firstly, the masses have not stood up for a ’secular democracy’ as envisioned by the west, and secondly that democracy itself has fundamental flaws. (The Arab Spring is clearly a revolution against the excesses of the tyrannical oppressive and unjust dictatorships of those megalomaniacal leaders. The revolt has nothing to do with any aspirations of seeking “western style democracy.”  The Islamic system for Governance, is democratic enough for the Islamic world and does not need the West to show them how to suck eggs. The Caliphate provides for “democratic representative government” with a Caliph answerable to the people, and the Caliphate is governed by “The Rule of Law” – “The Laws of Allah.” Surely nothing could be more democratic than that.

Thus the Muslims are/were not revolting against a change of system, but only to remove the corrupted dictators who have been bought and influenced by the West.)

However, the Islamic system is fundamentally different, because it takes the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet(pbuh) as the basis of governance. It therefore has the capacity to offer true justice to the people, irrespective of their creed, ethnicity or language.

In the Khilafah, the state applies the Islamic constitution, and it will replace the existing plethora of constitutions that keep the Muslim world subjugated and backward. The Khilafah guarantees elections, and regional and ‘nationwide’ assemblies which form the pre-requisite governance institutions, including a judicial authority to check the actions of the executive, and protect the rights of all citizens – men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It is imperative to note that the Islamic state will neither be theocratic nor does it model itself on any other contemporary Muslim state.

The new Islamic constitution will have on A new People’s Assembly (Majlis ul Ummah) will replace the plethora of lower and upper houses and a strenge (strong) head of state (Khalifah) to replace the current unstable and ill-defined roles of Monarch, President or Prime Minister.thened(A strengthened) judiciary, with a new court targeting state injustice (Mahkamat ul-Madhalim), will replace the existing politically manipulated legal system. Both the new judiciary and elected People’s Assembly will provide the requisite institutional checks and balances in the Islamic political system.

Also, both the head of state and the new People’s Assembly will be elected via an open, transparent and fair process. The People’s Assembly comprises representatives from across the Khilafah and will include Muslims and non-Muslims. The council is designed not only to make representations to the state, but also has the power to scrutinize and overturn state policy, analyze the budget and hold leaders to account. In this way accountability is focused. Whereas in Democracy, shared ruling results in shared accountability, that results in diluting any efforts towards accountability.

Moreover, all judges in the new ‘Court of Injustices’ and other courts will be independent from the executive and consultative assembly. No individual – not the Khaleefah, armed forces and their chiefs, the elite, or industrial barons – is above the law. The rule of law will be implemented without fear or favor. All policies of the state can be challenged in court. Where the court is actively investigating a complaint against the head of state, the head of state has no right to remove any judge involved in the case. Any verdict by a Judge is final irrespective of the wishes of the ruler.

The appointment of a Chief Justice and Qadi in the Court of Madhalim (injustices) creates a dedicated office of the judiciary charged with checking the state’s compliance with the law. The Madhalim court does not rely on a plaintiff raising a specific complaint against the state and is charged with ongoing monitoring of all organs of state. The ‘Madhalim’ has the power to remove the head of state if he breaches his terms of contract. Contrary to this in the present democratic system, the court’s jurisdictions are restricted. For example in Pakistan the court cannot order to stop drone attacks,  XE operatives, NATO supply lines etc. Similarly in Bangladesh the court is unable to stop the increasing influence of imperialist America or India,  because many of such actions have legal protection from the legislature or establishment.

Islam obliges the people to criticize, account and denounce, if necessary, any action of the ruler, his advisors or any policy carried out by the state that disagrees with Islam or oppresses the people. This is done by individuals, scholars, the media and political groups and parties.

In Khilafah, the independent judiciary and People’s Assemblies institutionalize the culture of accountability and scrutiny that is a collective obligation in Islam. On the other hand in a Democracy, accountability is considered as a mere right, and not an obligation.

Unlike in dictatorships and democracies, the Khilafah state believes torture, spying and arbitrary arrest as carried out by the Muslim world’s intelligence and security apparatus under the supervision of the US is forbidden under Islamic law. Such activities therefore are absolutely illegal (haram), have no place at all in any civilized society and would be prosecuted under the Shariah.
The Khalifah will introduce radical Islamic policies that tear down any provisions that enforce the Police State. Citizens of the Khilafah, Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the right to take any member of the enforcement agencies, regardless of rank, to court and/or register a complaint to an independent judiciary (Mahkamut ul-Madhalim) without any implications for his/her wellbeing.

Whilst the West has a short history of developing checks and balances fundamental problems exist in every secular democracy, advanced, emerging, large, small, western or eastern. They all show the same thing: they serve the elite and not the public; their politicians are largely corrupt; wealth remains confined to a tiny minority; and long term challenges are consistently ducked – this is the reality of democracy. To copy and paste this system in the Islamic lands will just turn the uprisings from dictatorships to examples of democratic failures. Pakistan is one such example, where both democracy and dictatorship have been tested again and again, and have continued to fail. In Bangladesh too, the people have witnessed the failure of democracy. It’s independence from India, and then from Pakistan, has not brought any meaningful change, because the flawed capitalist system continues to date. The only natural and viable option left for the Muslim world, is to opt for Caliphate which will deliver the much needed justice to the masses. [2]

(The author, Sharique Naeem, of the above article has gone to great lengths to show that  the Caliphate is not the  Islamic Totalitarian Governance visualised by most Westerners but is in fact a Transparent and working Islamic Democracy, not requiring any input from the decadent West.)



A famous German legal philosopher Gustav Radbruch (d.1949) pointed out that the law has 3 mutually contradicting elements, Gleichheit (justice), Zweckmäßigkeit (purposiveness or effectiveness) and Rechtssicherheit (legal certainty), but the most fundamental is the legal certainty. The legal certainty means stability and predictability. The law should be unchanging and continuous to some ranges of time as well as understandable and well known to people.


As for the stability, the Islamic law system started to be formed around in 8-9 century and had been established around the 12-13 century and has little change since then. It remains unchanging and valid, thus it is still taught from the elementary school to the graduate school of the university in the Muslim world.


Citing Justice without Frontiers, by Weeramantry, C, (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1997, p.132), the supremacy of law was developed by Islamic jurists before the twelfth century, so that no official, even Khalifah, could claim to be above the law.


Comparing to Islamic law, only Common Law of England has some limited stability, but “the rule of law” had been established only in the late 17th century due to the efforts of Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke (d.1634) and the like, and it had never ceased to be transformed until courts of law and equity were combined in 1873 and 1875 and the current features of the common law had been completed.


Even this English Common Law is said to be influenced by Islamic Law through Norman conquest of England by the Normans, who conquered and inherited the Islamic legal administration of the Emirate of Sicily since the publication of legal scholar John Makdisi’s “The Islamic Origins of the Common Law” in the North Carolina Law Review, (Makdisi, John A., 1999, North Carolina Law Review 77 (5): 1635–1739.)


Criticizing John Austin’s (d.1859), a famous British legal positivist jurist, theory that law is the command of the sovereign backed by the threat of punishment, H. L. A. Hart (d.1992), one of the most influential legal philosophers of the 20th century, pointed out in his famous The Concept of Law that the ad hoc orders of the rulers cannot be called law. Such things like 12,000 yen flat-rate benefits enacted in 2008 under Aso Cabinet in Japan, 200 million dollar of bailout for AIG(American International Group), and imposing 90% tax on bonus for its executives, both of which were legislated under Obama government in 2009, do not deserve the name of law. Even if they were legislated by parliaments or Congress under the name of law, they are in reality nothing other than arbitrary ad hoc commandments of “men”. Nowadays there is no country where the true “rule of law” exists, even though there might be a Rechtsstaat which rules “by law”.


Here it is worth mentioning that in Islam even the taxation is under “the rule of law”, not “the rule of man”, contrary to the West in which the taxation is under “the rule of man” justified by the slogan “No taxation without representation”, hence “the representatives” can impose taxes as they like under the name of “people”. On the other hand, Islam does not approve of any tax except what is legislated by Shari‘ah, Islamic Law, i.e., Zakah for Muslims, Jizyah for Non-Muslims, and Kharaj for the utility of the lands conquered. Any other taxes imposed by human beings are strictly prohibited. A great Hanbalite jurist Ibn Taimiyyah(d.1328) says; ‘Levying taxes are what is not permitted by the agreement of legal schools’.(Ibn Taimiyyah, Majmu‘ah al-Fatawa, al-Mansurah, 2001, vol.28, p.155) Another great jurist of the Hanafi legal school, al-Jassas (d.981) is so severe that he says that every Muslim should fight against those who levy taxes(Al-Jasas, Akam al-Qur‘an, 1986, Beirut, vol.1, p.472), and he should even kill them if they are armed.


Consequently, no tariff is allowed in Dar al-Islam, in which the rule of law is prevalent, because Dar al-Islam is a unified law-governed space, thus it is not permitted to make borders in it to prevent the free movement of people, commodities, and money or capitals by imposing man-made tariffs or any other kind of taxes or fees.


Contrary to “democracy”, in Islam the economy including taxation and currency is under the rule of law, not the rule of man, so abrogation of borders and tariffs inside Dar al-Islam and monetary system of Gold Dinar and Silver Dirham, as clause 130 of Al-Majallah, a civil code of the Ottoman Khilafah, prescribes that “the Nuqud (species) are gold and silver”, is an important and integral part of Khilafah or the Rule of Law. Thus the “the Islamic Golden Age” was created by the Muslims’ vigorous monetary economy with the expanding levels of circulation of a stable high-value currency (the Dinar) and the integration of monetary areas that were previously independent.


As for the legal certainty as the predictability, Muslims are familiar with Islamic law, both substantial rules, Ahkam Taklifiyyah, and legal concepts, Ahkam Wad’iyyah, because the learning of Islamic law is obligatory on every Muslim. So it is not unusual that ordinary Muslim children learn classical texts books of Islamic law even in elementary school or junior high school.


Comparing to Islam, in Japan, for example, the jurisprudence is not included in curriculum of compulsory education, i.e., elementary school and junior high school at all. Only small parts of the constitution is taught in junior high school as a part of the subject “The Contemporary Society”, and even the penalty of murder of penal law is not taught. There is no rule of law in Japan, where the basics of the law and jurisprudence are not taught to its citizens but they are ordered to be a lay judge to judge others.


Khilafah is the very Rule of Law, the most stable and certain divine law in the world, which liberates all the human beings from the rule of men and guarantees the security of life, property, and honor for all the inhabitants, and this law-governed space is called Dar al-Islam or “House of Islam”, in which Khalifah the head of the Ummah, rules according to Islamic law and plural religious communities coexist enjoying religious self-government. The fact that Khalifah should be single symbolizes the unity of “Dar al-Islam” to guarantee the freedom of movement of human beings, commodities, money or capitals, and information. So the abolishment of borders which hinder the movement of the people is the indispensable essential part of Islamic order. And the outside of this law-governed space, Dar al-Islam, is called Dar al-Harb, literally “House of War”, or “Lawless Land”.


The pivot of Khilafah is the law, Shari‘ah, not the person of Khalifah himself. We find the clearest expression of it in the works of Ibn Taimiyyah. In his book on Islamic politics, al-Siyasah al-Shar‘iyyah, he not only ignored the role of Khalifah but never mentioned about the Khilafah at all. And in his treatise on the revolt, he affirmed that the true revolt which should be subdued as the apostasy is the violation of Law, Khuruj ‘an Shari‘ah, not the revolt against the ruler, Khalifah. (Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu‘ah al-Fatawa, vol.28, pp.468-469, pp.502-504, pp.520-521)


But the Western scholarship obsessed with the Aristotelian tradition of typology of ruler can neither understand the real nature of Khilafah nor assess its significance correctly; hence they tend to regard it as the monarchy or dictatorship focusing only on the number of the ruler, if it is one, monarchy, if minority, aristocracy, and if majority, democracy.


Without exception in human history, the head of state must be one and alone by whatever name the regime is called, democracy, monarchy, republic, or Papacy, in terms of official institution and constitution, and sociologically speaking, no head of state can rule by him(or her)self alone without anyone elses support at all. The Khilafah is, of course, not an exception to this either. [3]




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