Are Muslims duty bound to participate in elections?

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Are Muslims duty bound to participate in elections?by Muhammad Yunus and Mike Ghouse

Bad things happen because good people do nothing about it. Indeed, this old adage makes more sense today than ever before.

Today, our nation is facing a tough choice in the presidential elections. Neither the incumbent President, nor the challenger is a perfect fit for the needs of the nation at this juncture of high unemployment, and hopelessness that has gripped America.

Our criterion for electing our president should have been “who can move the country forward”, rather than redacted choice of finding who can do the least damage.

Romney has made blatant switches in his positions, and left us wondering who he would be, if he were to be elected. Will his base continue to support him even though they feel betrayed, is he for stricter regulations of the banking industry, or is he a quarter guy who will sacrifice long term gains for this quarter? What about women’s right to choose in case of abortion? Is Obama’s debate performance an indication of what is yet to come?

In a conference call recently with Christian conservatives, Gov. Rick Perry dismissed the separation of church and state as an idea advanced to drive “people of faith from the public arena.” The governor went on to say Satan is using it to keep Christians from actively engaging in public policy.

In my weekly take at Dallas Morning News, I wrote, “The separation of church and state has been a catalyst in guaranteeing freedom to every religious group. Indeed, it is an incentive to participate in the political process to ensure that one’s rights are protected, and prevent domination by any group from dictating its terms to others.”

Muslims have their share of ultra conservatives who think like Governor Perry, and it keeps them from engaging in the electoral process which is catered around the American constitution that does not expressly acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and is a product of man’s intellectual enterprise. But this disregards the following key aspects of the Qur’anic message. 

The role of the Muslims as witnesses to all humanity, the way, Muhammad, their Prophet was a witness to his audience (2:143); and 2, the Qur’anic exhortation to the diverse faith communities, including the Muslims, to get to know each other and vie with each other in good deeds and lawful pursuits (49:13).

Here are some rare but preposterous statements one hears now and then.

“Muslims should not participate in elections; it is Haraam (unlawful).”

“If the president you elected goes to war and kills Muslims, what will you tell Allah?”
“ We cannot put an infidel in governance”

Nonsense is the right sentiment, but uttering the word will not change the mind set of a few on the edge.

What does God want? He is the creator and simply wants his creation to live in harmony with themselves and with what surrounds them; people and the environment. He has not deprived his love to his “banday” (created) and has sent guidance to every tribe, every community and every nation, and declares the best one among you are the ones who make an effort to know each other to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.

Prophet Muhammad initiated and signed a treaty of peace and joint defence with the major tribes and families of Medina, including MuslimsJews,Christians and pagans” [2]. This Prophetic example gives American Muslims a religious basis for participating in a secular democratic process. Besides, active involvement with electoral process gives them an excellent opportunity of getting to know, and competing with each other in a lawful arena of immense significance. Furthermore, the Qur’an admits of mutual consultation on community matters without having to endorse what is fundamentally wrong (42:37/38) and asks the believers to collaborate even with erstwhile enemies in “good things (birre) and in establishing what is morally upright (taqwa)” (5:2). On the strength of these clear Qur’anic enunciations and principles, the American Muslims must participate in the forthcoming Presidential election as part of their religious obligation.

The Arabic Qur’an in its immensely rich and intertwined vocabulary encapsulates a set of universal juristic notions, notably, logical analysis (fiqha) by engaging reason (aql), cogitation and reflection (fikr); independent intellectual inquiry (ijtihad), analogical deduction (qiyasconsensus of the scholar/ community (jama‘ah), custom and practice of the community (‘urf), community good (islah), the jurists’ best judgment (istihsan).

Practically all these notions are consistent with and even identical to those employed by the American jurists and doctors of law in jurisprudence and constitutional process, except for terminological differences. Hence, regardless of whether the American doctors of law believe in the Qur’an or not, the laws they developed are rooted in the Qur’anic universal notions as has veritably been the case with the classical Sharia law of Islam. Besides, the American Constitution with its supreme emphasis on equity, justice, liberty, empowerment of women and a host of social and egalitarian provisions is far more compatible with the Qur’anic paradigms than the Classical Sharia law of Islam.
Thus the American Muslims should actively and religiously participate in their national electoral process as a mandatory religious obligation, to enjoin what is good and forbid evil. Elections are not about winning or losing, it is about supporting the most right choice or the least worst choice. Lack of participation could amount at encouraging that which is evil.

It is our duty to continuously share the knowledge of Quraan and wisdom of the Prophet with the Muslim Neocons, hoping they would replace the myths with the values of the religion they claim to follow.

When the first four rightly guided Caliphs (heads of state) were chosen (accepted) by the people to run their civic affairs (governance), they represented every one regardless of receiving support from their constituents or not. The choices were not good or bad, but who can lead the community in the best possible manner given the death of the Prophet and each subsequent Caliph. The American Muslims must apply the same principle and chose a candidate they think is most suited to the social and economic issues facing the nation.

Additional Note by Mike Ghouse:
Please vote, regardless of whom you vote, you must be congratulated for exercising your right. Let’s respect our decisions motivated by our beliefs. On my Part, I Mike Ghouse have voted for Obama and some of my friends have voted for Romney. 

If you are still undecided, please take a look at a few pieces in support of Obama, I have written 60 pieces about him, and 40 about Romney. You know Romney was my choice, until he started flip flopping and I lost him. Not sure what he stands for.
Huffington post; Choice between Chaotic Romney and Stable Obama

40 Pieces on Mitt Romney

This article is co-authored by Mike Ghouse, a speaker thinker and a writer committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on the issues of the day, and Muhammad Yunus whose exegetical work on Quran has been endorsed by Al-Azhar University. He writes on the universal values enshrined in Quran.

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