Translated from the website of Dr. Salah al-Sawy, the secretary-general of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), 28 March 2011:
Between the Shura and Democracy
Q: What is the difference between the Shura and democracy, and which is preferred? Are there any books which could benefit me on this topic? May Allah reward you well.
A: In the name of Allah, the most merciful and gracious.
Praise be to Allah, and peace be upon him the Messenger of Allah, and upon his family, companions, and those that follow him. The Shura comes from the rulings of the shari'a, and an entire surah of the Qur'an was sent down with this name. The difference between it and democracy is that the Shura does not exist (under Islam) except in the areas of permissible actions or legislative amnesty. For things which have been stipulated in the texts of Islam, the Ummah possesses no power except to acknowledge and obey, following the saying of the Most High: "It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path"
[Qur'an 33:36]. For example, it is not for the Shura to consider, "Should the noon prayer contain four or five bows?" Or, "Should we fast during the month of Ramadan, or should we replace it with the month of Shawwal?" Or, "Should we forbid wine or allow it?" Or, "Should we forbid adultery, or permit it if it's done by consensual agreement of those who have reached the legal age, and it's not done on the married couple's bed?"
Al-Bukhari said in his Sahih: "The Imams after the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) would consult the trustworthy scholars in things which were permissible, to take the best option. But if the Qur'an or the Sunnah was clear on the matter, they wouldn't transgress against it, following the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The reciters of the Qur'an would consult, whether old or young, and they were careful to adhere to the book of Almighty Allah."
But democracy gives free reign to the authority of the Ummah, and puts no ceiling on it. The law is the expression of its will, and if the law says it, the conscience must be silent! A constitutionalist even said: "We have departed from the divine right to rule for kings, and replaced it with the divine right to rule for parliaments!" The shari'a, on the other hand, differentiates between the source of the legal system and the source of the political authority. The source of the legal system is the shari'a, while the source of the political authority is the Ummah. Meanwhile democracy makes the Ummah the source of both. On my website there is a book named "Political Pluralism." If you review it, it will you benefit you in regards to this topic, Allah-willing. Allah Almighty is all-powerful, all-knowing.
Posted By Translating Jihad to Translating Jihad at 3/30/2011 07:42:00 AM