I completed reading a book that I believe must have been originally published a while ago, but has been revised and edited by the brothers at Awakening Publications in 2000. It is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s book, “Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase.”  It is a mature and far sighted look into the various fields and issues with which Muslims and the Islamic Movement must grapple with in the present and the future. 

The books approach is highlighted by Sheikh Qaradawi’s characteristic openness, methodology of tayseer (ease) while being firmly grounded in a concrete Islamic foundation.   The book certainly is not without its flaws and I find myself questioning some of the formulas and language employed but it is an up to date look at the ideology of the Islamic worker as well as a guide to the general lay of the land.

In keeping with the topic of democracy and Islam I thought it would be helpful to relay a passage on the topic written in the section “The Movement and Political Freedom and Democracy.”

It is the duty of the Movement in the coming phase to stand firm against totalitarian and dictatorial rule, political despotism and usurption of peoples right. The Movement should always stand by political freedom, as represented by true, not false, democracy. It should clearly declare its refusal of tyrants and steer clear of all dictators, even if some tyrants appear to have good intentions…A closer look at the history of the Muslim Ummah and the Islamic Movement in modern times should show clearly that the Islamic Ideology, the Islamic Movement and the Islamic Awakening have never flourished or borne fruit unless in an atmosphere of democracy and freedom, and have withered and become barren only at the times of oppression and tyranny that tore over the will of the people which clung to Islam…However, some Islamists still have their reservations on democracy and are even wary of the word ‘democracy’ itself. What I wish to stress here is that Islam is not democracy and democracy is not Islam. I would rather that Islam is not attributed to any principle or system (emphasis added). Islam is unique in its means, ends and methodologies, and I do not wish that Western democracy be carried over to us with its bad ideologies and values without us adding to it from our values and ideologies in order to integrate it into our comprehensive system.

However, the tools and guaranties created by democracy are as close as can ever be to the realisation of the political principles brought to this world by Islam to put a leash on the ambitions and whims of rulers. These principles are: shura, nasihah, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, disobeying illegal orders, resisting unbelief and changing wrong by force when possible. It is only in democracy and political freedom that the power of parliament is evident and that people’s deputies can withdraw confidence from any government that breaches the constitution. It is also only in such an enviornment that the strength of free press, free parliament, opposition and the masses is most felt.

The fears of some people here that democracy makes the people a source of power and even legislation (although legislation is Allah’s alone) should not be heeded, because we are supposed to be speaking of a population that is Muslim in its majority and has accepted Allah as its Lord, Muhammad as its Prophet and Islam as its Deen. Such a people would not be expected to pass a legislation that contradicts Islam and the incontestable principles and conclusive rules of Islam.

In any case, these fears can be overcome by one article stipulating that any legislation contradicting the incontestable provisions of Islam shall be null and void because Islam is the religion of the State and the source of legitimacy of all its institutions and therefore may not be contradicted…It should be known that the acceptance of the principle that legislation of rule belongs to Allah does not take away from the Ummah its right to seek for itself the codes necessary to regulate its ever changing life and worldly affairs.

What we seek is that legislations and codes be withing the limits of the flawless texts and the overall objectives of the Sharia and the Islamic message. The binding texts are very few, while the area of permissiblity or legislative-free space is quite wide and the texts themselves are so flexible and capacious as to accomodate more than one understanding and accept more than one interpretation. This lead to the existence of several schools and philosophies within the expansive framework of Islam.(p.186-89)