Is a theocratic government mandatory in Islam


Muqtedar Khan

To person

Ph.D., born 1966; Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Fellow at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. University of Delaware, 347 Smith Hall, Newark, DL 19716.
Email: [email protected]

Muslims must reflect on their roots and learn to understand them anew in the light of contemporary reality and complexity.


In the course of globalization, democracy has established itself in large parts of the world and has come into vogue as the most legitimate of all forms of government. The Arab world, however, continues to show an enormous democratic deficit. This is at best mitigated by efforts to stabilize and democratize in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Iran, which, however, are still in their infancy. Most commentators in the western world - especially in the United States - are inclined to dismiss Iran as a totalitarian, clergy-led system of rule, ignoring the fact that the Iranian regime has proven to be quite stable despite numerous undesirable developments and restrictions (in fact it is more democratic than most regimes in the region and certainly more democratic than pro-Western, pro-American Iran under the Shah's government). Nevertheless, the lack of democracy in most of the Arab world is blatantly obvious, and the question of the compatibility of Islam with democracy has become an issue of global concern with the rise of political Islam and Islamic politics in the region. [1]

Some commentators in the West and the Muslim world are equally interested in denying the compatibility of Islam and democracy. Some Western researchers take the view that Islam cannot be reconciled with modernity, and in particular with democracy, and insist that Muslims either have to turn away from Islam or reform it in order to be able to count themselves in the "modern world". [2] Some Muslim scholars and militant Islamists reject democracy with the argument that it contradicts the commandments of God or the Islamic Sharia. Just like Western dominance, they also strictly reject democracy and mistakenly see it as a specifically Western product. [3] Fortunately, these arguments have been disproved across the board in both theory and practice. The compatibility of Islam and democracy is no longer questioned. Muslim scholars have conclusively proven that Islam and democratic processes can coexist: with reference to the democracy that exists in some Muslim countries as well as to Muslims who live in the West and in countries like India where democracy is firmly rooted she drew attention to the fact that Islam and Muslims can also flourish in democratic societies. [4]

The fact that Islam and democracy are compatible is no longer an argumentative challenge - this debate is over, although its conclusions are not yet universally recognized. For Muslim scholars, the challenge lies rather in going one step further and showing ideas of an Islamic democracy as well as its constituent principles and characteristics. In this post I will try to approach democracy from the Islamic context and to show the general principles of an Islamic democracy.

In the debate about the compatibility of Islam and democracy, the concept of democracy was often taken for granted and viewed as a firm and undisputed idea. One approaches Islam from "outside" and questions whether it can be compatible with democratic principles. In this text I will explain from an internal Islamic point of view what I think the Islamic structure of a system of government should be like - the readers will be able to recognize that this is fundamentally democratic in nature.