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The Right of Franchise in an Islamic State
Political Issues
Moiz Amjad
(Tr. by:Sadia Saleem)


According to the Holy Quran, the basic principle of running an Islamic State is mutual consultation. Allah says:

"Their affairs of state are run by their mutual consultation." (42:38)

In accordance with this principle:

1. Whether its a municipal issue or a national or provincial affair, whether its a social matter or the rules of legislation, appointment or dismissal from office, all state affairs should be settled through consultation.

2. If concensus is not possible in certain matters then the opinion of the majority should be taken as final.

3. No person or group should enjoy such powers as to overwrite the decision made by general concensus or majority vote and enforce its own opinion.

According to this principle of the Quran, the process adopted by the Prophet (sws) to elicit the opinion of the common man in collective decisions is based on the following two tenets:

a) The general public should be able to give their recommendation on matters of the state through their representatives.

b) Among the different groups present in the society, the one which has been able to acquire the confidence of the majority of the people should be given the right to rule the country.

In the light of these two principles, holding elections at the state level to find the ruling of the people is lawful. Keeping within the circle of the principles and rulings of the Quran and Sunnah, a question arises in the making of the system of the Islamic state viz, who among the public should be granted the right to give his or her opinion? Should everyone be included without discrimination or should some specific group be given the right to elect its representatives to run the state. We shall attempt to answer this question in the light of the Quran and Sunnah.

An Islamic State is one in which it has been accepted that the ultimate authority lies in the Holy Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (sws). Enforcement of Tauheed, uprooting of Shirk, establishing of prayers, payment of Zakat, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is wrong should be given primary importance in such a state. An Islamic State, it is clear, is based on a specific ideology having certain laws and objectives. Therefore, it seems logical that the opinion of only those people should be considered who not only agree with the objectives of the Islamic State, but themselves hold the same views. In other words, only Muslim citizens should be considered qualified enough to give their opinion in matters of the state. Contrary to this, if all the citizens, irrespective of their religion be given this right, it would be like asking the passengers going to Peshawar to find the solution of the problems faced by the passengers going to Karachi, or asking the bus passengers the solution to the problems of air travel. It is self evident that this is an illogical way.

Therefore, this is the reason that where the Holy Quran has stressed on consultation in settling the affairs of the state, it has also made it very clear that this consultation should be only elicited from the Muslims. The Quran says:

 "Their affairs of state are run through their mutual consultation." (42:38)

It is quite clear from this verse that the right of voting is limited to the Muslims. Non-Muslims, it is evident, do not have this right. An Islamic State, however, has the authority to grant them this right or to elicit their opinion in some affair or to entrust them with some responsibility.

Once it has been settled that the right of franchise in an Islamic State is given to Muslims only, the point which needs clarification is that who is a Muslim and who is not?

After the conquest of Mecca when the Islamic State grew out of Medina and spread all over the Arabian peninsula, the need arose of defining a Muslim and Kafir. The Almighty set forth three conditions for a person to be called a Muslim and made it clear that whoever fulfilled these three conditions would be given all the rights of citizenship in an Islamic State. The Quran says:

 "If they repent [from all un-Islamic beliefs and deeds] and establish regular prayers and pay zakat then they are your brethren in religion." (9:11)

The three terms spelled out in this verse are:

1. People should stop any rebellion against the Islamic system, restrain from kufr and shirk, accept faith and acknowledge the superiority of the Islamic law.

2. They should establish regular prayers as prescribed by the Prophet (sws).

3. They should give Zakat due on them to the government.

It is quite clear from the last words in the verse: "they are your brethren in religion" that people who fulfil the above terms will be given equal status with the rest of the Muslims in an Islamic Collective system. The system of the state will be established and run according to their opinion. This right has been granted to them by their Lord and no leader or political organization can deprive them of this right.

(Adapted from Moiz Amjad's Commentary on Ghamidi's "Manshoor")

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