Islam's view of democracy and dictatorship
Fatwa No: 338995

  • Fatwa Date:14-1-2017 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1438
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Question

What does Islam say about preferring democracy over dictatorship?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

Each of these two systems of governance abound in many evils and demerits; at the same time, they have some positive aspects. The general rule governing such matters is that the lesser harm should be given precedence over the greater harm. This is the general criterion in this regard. It may be different from one country to the other and from one ruler to the other. This is why we cannot fairly state that democracy is better than dictatorship or vice versa as a general rule for all contexts and circumstances.

The Islamic system combines all goodness, so it is the system that should be adopted. Allah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And judge (O Muhammad) between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away – then know that Allah only intends to afflict them with some of their (own) sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient. Then is it the judgment of (the time of) ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgment for a people who are certain (in faith).} [Quran 5:49-50]

In his book about the Islamic criminal law in comparison to man-made laws, Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Qaadir ‘Awdah wrote:

The democratic system is essentially founded on the concepts of mutual consultation and cooperation between the ruler and the ruled; however, misapplication led to the state where the ruled are given control over the ruler and the lack of mutual cooperation between them. Dictatorship, on the other hand, is essentially founded on absolute obedience to the ruler and trust in him; however, misapplication led to the state where the ruler is given absolute control over the ruled and the lack of trust between them. As for the Islamic system, it is founded on mutual consultation and cooperation between the ruler and the ruled in the stage of seeking council in decision making, and on obedience and trust (in the ruler) in the stage of executing decisions, and the rules of the Islamic system do not allow one of the two sides to control the other. Hence, it combines the merits attributed to democracy and to dictatorship while it is void of the demerits of them both...” [At-Tashree‘ Al-Jinaa'i Al-Islaami Muqaaranatan bil-Qanoon Al-Wadh‘i]

For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 85826.

Allah knows best.

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