Islam and Democracy

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Throughout the twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, a leading question arose regarding Islam and its traditions. This question asked whether Islam can be compatible with democracy. Seemed as a simple question, such an inquiry requires an in-depth look at the matter at hand. When one asks whether Islam is compatible with democracy, one needs to analyze the definition of democracy. According to Webster’s Dictionary, democracy is “a form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or their elected agents under a free electoral system.” Such is the definition that mainly pertains to western democracy and western thought. What many tend to forget is that democracy should not be seen as an agent of Western thought, rather it should be seen as an ideal garnered through local traditions and cultures. In saying so, the Islamic tradition contains a number of key concepts that are presented by Muslims as the key to Islamic democracy. From the onset of Islam, it is apparent that Islam is compatible with democracy. One only needs to look at the golden era, where the first-ever electoral system was created to nominate a Caliph. Also, Islam was one of the first religions to bring about the idea of Shura. According to Islam in Transition, Shura “means a serious and effective participation in making a decision.” (Esposito 288) Such an ideal definitely helps answer the question at hand. It is clearly obvious that Islam’s compatibility with democracy is quite the possibility.

Now that we have acknowledged the statement that Islam is compatible with democracy, more factual evidence will be presented to back such a claiming. When examining the Quran, one can find that the holy book “urges that groups be found to enjoin the doing of what is right and to forbid the doing of what is wrong.” (Esposito 292) When mentioning of groups in the Quran, it is indicating the Arabic word “ummah.” Such a word entails the meaning...
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