Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada – O Muslim! Cast your Vote! Its a Trust!
We are British Muslims. Great Britain is our home and that of our coming generations. Our bond with Great Britain is exactly the same as that of any non-Muslim citizen. Here we enjoy the freedom to worship, and there are no obstacles before us in performing our prayers and building our mosques. The opportunity to benefit from the provisions and facilities offered to us by the government of this country, such an opportunity can never be imagined in the countries from where the first generation came from. For example, if our home is burgled at 2 am during the night, or our home catches fire, or we become seriously unwell, then merely by dialling 999, in a matter of minutes, the police, fire brigade, ambulance and doctor will be present at our doorstep. Important to note that they never question what religion we follow, rather they come to our assistance considering us to be fellow British citizens.
Today this government is seeking our opinion and our recommendation by means of the general election and the casting of votes, so that those who talk of our rights can reach Parliament through our votes. Hence this vote, to us, is a trust in order to safeguard our country and our coming generations, and forwarding this vote to those deserving of it is an obligation upon us. For the beloved Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said: “When counsel (opinion, vote) is sought from a person, he holds that counsel in trust.” [Ibn Majah, Hadith 3745] In other words, this vote is a trust with him, and no one should betray the fulfilment of this trust. The decree of the Qur’an is also clear on this: “Verily Allah commands you to return the trusts to their rightful owners.” [Qur’an 4:58]
Every commandment of Islam and everything in the possession of a Muslim is entrusted to him by Allah (Most High). Whether this commandment relates to the property belonging to oneself or to someone else, or to a worldly matter or an act of religious worship, or to a position of authority or powers associated with it; in short, every breath of our life, every phrase of our tongue, every deed of our hand; these are all given to us as a trust. Trusts can only be fulfilled in their rightful manner when they are returned in accordance with their basic etiquettes and necessary obligations. In returning these trusts, no excess or negligence, and no unfairness and injustice should play a part. In this regard, the rich and the poor, the governor and the governed, all stand equally responsible.
In any case, Great Britain is now our home. Our benefit lies in its progression, and our detriment lies in its regression. Therefore, we are required to play our role in its development, just as any Muslim would play his role in any Muslim country. In relation to this, consider the example of a Prophet mentioned in the Qur’an. Prophet Yusuf (Joseph [as]) was sold in Egypt as a slave at the age of eighteen years, and as a result of a false allegation, he was imprisoned. After spending twelve years in prison, the king of Egypt had a dream, the interpretation of which he could not fathom. Prophet Yusuf [as] provided the correct interpretation of the dream that his kingdom will face a severe drought, which will continue and last for seven years. Thus the king was in need of a trustworthy and honest treasurer who could store the corn and grain away in a careful manner for seven years so that during the days of drought, it could come to positive use. The king replied: “If I gather all the people of Egypt, they will still not be able to fulfil this trust.” Egypt at that time was a non-Muslim country, and its king was also a non-Muslim. In spite of that, the Prophet of Allah, Prophet Yusuf [as] said: “Appoint me (the treasurer) over the treasures of the land (of Egypt). Surely I am a good protector, (and I am) well aware.” [Qur’an 12:55] Worthy of attention here is that the Egyptian king did not ask him for any help, rather Prophet Yusuf [as] himself offered to help. Whereas the government here, today, is requesting us to give our opinion through the election process.
Therefore, every Muslim should cast his or her vote for the candidate preferable to him or her, in tomorrow’s General Election 2015 here in Great Britain. Moreover, if any Muslim, by becoming a Member of Parliament, then achieves the post of a Minister, then this would be an excellent example of the practice (sunnah) of Prophet Yusuf [as] in this modern age.
Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada
6 May 2015
Maulana Muhammad Saleem Dhorat – Three Electoral Commitments Every Muslim Should Make
Qari Muhammad Asim – To Vote or Not to Vote – That Is The Question
Research by various think-tanks and community umbrella bodies has shown that Britain’s minority religions have the potential to exert a huge influence on the 2015 election result. In 159 of the 632 seats, the number of Muslims is greater than the margin of victory in 2010; this is true among almost half the 193 marginal seats.
In other words, British Muslims could have the decisive vote in a quarter of constituencies and can potentially make a difference in terms of which political parties comes to power.
It is debatable how much influence Muslims can have at the 2015 general election. Whilst Muslims may be able to make such political impact, there is a tiny minority of Muslims who hold the view that political participation outside an ‘Islamic system’ is forbidden (haram) or is Shirk. They have been going around placing posters, from London to Cardiff, arguing that “Voting is Shirk” or “Voting is worse than Terrorism”.
Muslims, since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), have been politically active whilst living in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Therefore, the above notions claiming that voting is not permissible do not seem to be well founded given the global context in which we live in; these notions are a clear departure from centuries of well-established religious thought.
Such notions arise on two assumptions that:
- Muslim minority existence in non-Muslim majority communities is a temporary circumstance;
- an ideal form of Islamic government (khilafa) will arise at some point in the future.
The search for a perfect Islamic state needs a bit of realism concerning the current global political climate and the need to engage with politics in a pragmatic way.
This is a not a theological article and therefore we will not analyse, on theological basis, the arguments propounded by those who are anti-voting. Our objective is to highlight that such arguments are artificial in the current context and will lead to Muslims being further alienated in the society and considered as the ‘fifth’ column.
Political Participation & Muslims
A tiny minority of Muslims that are opposed to political voting argue that voting and being part of the political process in non-Muslim countries is haram, they even go as far as saying it is kufr. Effectively, they are seeking Muslims to withdraw from political participation.
Voting is only one form of active political engagement; in general it is important for Muslims to be involved in politics at all levels: to seek justice and the common good, whether through grassroots campaigns, voting or standing as a candidate for local or general elections. In the Islamic perspective, political engagement is a way of seeking the common good. In a non-Muslim majority country, some scholars have argued that a state which provides religious freedom, security and even facilitates religious practise achieves the broader purpose of the Shari’ah.
While voting is not a legal obligation, it should be strongly encouraged due to the consequences of withdrawal. Far from advocating withdrawal from society, mainstream current Islamic scholarship regards political engagement as a moral obligation.
Voting is not Forbidden (impermissible)
The process of voting in Britain is neither based on religious ideologies and elections are not won and lost on the basis of religion. Accordingly, a candidate that stands up in an election does not promise to implement the laws of any religion. A candidate / political party, promises to improve the services and facilities for the public. These services may also be connected to a particular religion, such as promising promotion of Islamic finance throughout the country or relaxing the parking rules near a mosque on Fridays or schools children being allowed a holiday on Eid.
When one votes for a party – whether a Muslim or not, it does not necessarily mean that one agrees completely with a particular political party’s beliefs and ideologies, rather the intention is that the candidate (or party) will be of help (or of more help than the other candidates) to the whole community. Accordingly, to vote a particular candidate or party in non-Muslim countries will be permissible and not considered a sin, impermissible or Kufr. The scholars from the four schools of legal thought – Zamakhshari (Hanafi), Qurtubi (Maliki), Mawardi (Shafii) and Ibn Taymia (Hanbali)- have all discussed this and stated its permissibility.
Abstention is Indirect Voting
Some people argue that there is no point in voting because we are not going to get anything out of it. This is not an argument particular to Muslims as even many British people think the same way. We need a thorough analytical study that can confirm that all parties are nothing but different faces of one coin. Without such analytical study, it is difficult to say that all parties are exactly the same in internal and external policy. Abstention from voting is essentially indirect voting. It will not realistically lead to change and any sane person would say that abstaining from selecting an option would potentially leave room for the least preferred option to win. There are numerous verses of the Qur’ān and Prophetic actions which demonstrate that to enjoining good and forbidding evil/ hateful/ wicked is an intrinsic part of the faith [Qur’an: 3:110]. Based upon this, it is moral obligation that every Muslim changes the evil in his or her life. Undoubtedly, if we have the ability to potentially delay and disrupt the plans at the local level of those who are Islamophobes, then this is the communal obligations upon the Muslims.
Political engagement, in Britain as elsewhere, is largely a question of holding power to account. Democratic systems are one of the best frameworks within which we can fulfil the Islamic imperative of holding power to account in the British context.
If one or a few of our attempts to change a particular policy has not succeeded, it does not mean that we should withdraw from the political system. Unless we are part of the system, we will be voiceless and unable to exert any influence over any policy.
Abstention from voting is actually indirect voting. It is wrong to assume that abstention provides some sort of escape! No matter what British Muslim do – or don’t do – they have a role to play in the outcome of the elections. Therefore, it is our responsibility to fully consider our options and make an informed decision about the political parties and local candidates.
There are currently hundreds of Muslim councilors in Britain and many Muslims in the Parliament. Further, dozens of Muslims are standing for election on 7 May 2015. This clearly reflects that Muslims do not believe that voting is not permissible. Moreover, one of the reasons for Arab Spring was that people wanted to vote and choose their own governments. Voting, in many cases, merely means choosing or selecting. Participation in a system, which is not based on Islamic principles, does not necessarily mean participation in kufr itself. It depends on the nature of such participation. The reality our world is such that more Muslims live in the West than in the Middle East and therefore seeking withdrawal of Muslims from the political process will only be of detriment to Muslims than any other community. Islamic principles do not endorse such ill-judged behavior.
We may conclude that it is absolutely wrong to accuse people of committing an act of kufr if they vote. We should be extremely careful in accusing individuals of kufr. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The one who accuses his brother of kufr then surely one of them is [Kafir] as has been claimed.” [Bukhari]. Such accusations, at best, reflect naivety and at worst, ignorance.
At a juncture in history when there are of plenty of forces that are attempting to silence British Muslims, British Muslims should exercise their right of vote and be accounted for so that they can also be part of the process to hold their elected members to account in due course.