What’s the difference between an Islamic State and Secular Democracy?

BN-BD228_noonan_G_20140116164712In an Islamic state, the leader (Caliph) is appointed by the Muslim Ummah through a process of consultation (shura), whether it is direct plebiscite of the people or election by a council of representatives (e.g. heads of tribes, influentials or elected regional representatives etc).  However, this is where the similarity between the Islamic system and modern Secular “Democracy” ends/

In an Islamic State, the basis of all law is the Quran and Sunnah, and no leader can reject or fail to establish it as law, or make it the determiner of affairs of state (i.e. what the state should do) and the determiner of the method of implementing those affairs (e.g. fulfilling the obligation of Zakah, by collecting the Zakah from people and distributing it). However, when it comes to how to discharge those affairs, the leader is obliged by the Quran, to run the affairs of the people using ‘Shura’ (consultation) (e.g. asking people what would be the most convenient way to collect the Zakah from them).

The Caliph is elected based upon confidence to lead, not on his policies, because he is obliged to derive laws based upon the Quran and Sunnah – and has no option to not implement the clear laws contained therein, even if not convenient for government, which provides full protections for people’s rights at all times.

In a modern (Western) secular Democracy, the leaders are not obliged to consult the people in running the affairs (nor fulfil their election promises). They derive laws from what is convenient, and may (and do) take away people’s rights using that justification (e.g. ‘its for security…’ or ‘the majority want it against you and the minority’ or ‘this minority’s beliefs are “dangerous” [in our opinion], and in the name of national security/freedom, they must be dealt with by control/expulsion measures’).

In Islam, the leader remains in power until he becomes unjust or incompetent.

In a modern (Western) secular Democracy, the leader remains in power despite being unjust or incompetent, and may get elected again if he can lie to the people to persuade them he is the lesser of two evils.

In an Islamic State, the leader’s position is secure, and can’t be bullied, controlled or bossed around by corporations, lobby groups and rich businessmen – and so remains independent to pursue his conscience.

In a modern (Western) secular Democracy, the leader is dependent on money from corporations, lobby groups and rich businessmen, to fund his re-election campaigns, and fund his party.

Islam protects your rights, even when its not convenient.
modern (Western) secular Democracy gives you your rights, until its not convenient.

In an Islamic State, anyone can take the ruler to court for injustice. If the injustice is due to the deliberate and wilful act of the Caliph, he can potentially be removed from his position by the Constitutional Court, or high Judge, the Shaikh ul Islam due to failing to be a competent or just leader (a Sharia condition of the Caliph position). [Although Muslim history has been at times far from perfect, a number of incompetent Ottoman Caliphs were removed from their position by the decree of the Ottoman Shaikh ul Islam]. If the Caliph implements any unIslamic law, he is automatically removed from his position without needing Court approval (this is the only circumstance in Islamic law for armed rebellion against a Caliph).

In a Secular Democracy, impeachment requires a number of votes by a parliament or congress to pass, usually 2/3 majority. This means that if a President commits injustice (say, against a minority), but has popular support, impeachment becomes virtually impossible – regardless of the merits of the case.

Islam demands rulers seek your opinion, and not make false promises and lies to get your vote every four years.

In a modern (Western) secular Democracy, the leaders seek your vote, not your opinion.

In 1786 the French Ambassador in Istanbul, Count de Choiseul-Gouffier, wrote a letter back to King Louis XVI expressing frustration at waiting upon decisions from the Ottoman Caliphs, because he didn’t dictate decisions like European Kings did:

“Here things are not as in France where the king is sole master and does as he pleases. Here the sultan has to consult. He has to consult with the former holders of high offices, with the leaders of various groups and so on. And this is a slow process.”

and finally,

An Islamic State is based upon sovereignty to the Creator, who doesn’t change his mind, it not prone to prejudice, bigotry or ignorance.

A modern (Western) secular Democracy, is based upon sovereignty of the Individual, who does change their mind, is prone to prejudice, bigotry and ignorance.

Who would you like to rule you?

Categories: Democracy, Political System, Reflections

9 replies

  1. Brother Abdullah,
    The issue isn’t about the proper system to govern; that is, the cardinal difference is the rationale that justifies the legitimacy for any way of governance. Hence, what I would direct the argument for is to insist on, first, conceptualizing the meaning of what we’re discussing before we move to compare which system is better. It’s been a while now since I started to study in the west, and waht I’ve noticed is that we (Muslims) are brought to their domain of understanding to issues. As a result, all what Muslims end up to do is to defend their values and way of life, rather than questioning the appropriatness of the so called western values. Personally, I would consider this an intellectual vicious cycle in which neither the Islamic perspective is explained, nor the defense of Islamic values (e.g. Islamic governance) is properly explained. Especially when keeping in mind that many of those who engage in the discourse aren’t equipped very well in terms of their Islamic knowledge, the consequnces are bad, to say the least.


  2. I think the basic difference between Islamic governance and Secular democracy begins with the presumptions about the concept of Equality. In Islam—all principles begin from Tawheed—which presumes that God, who is Unique, Uncreated….is most Superior and all creation is equally inferior to God….which means all humanity is of equivalent value to each other…none superior or inferior to another. This means that the Islamic concept of Equality is NOT based on a hierarchy in which one group is more entitled or privileged than the other.
    Secular democracy is based on a hierarchical world view. It comes from a feudal mindset/perspective that was based on the idea that some people are more entitled or privileged. In reforming this idea—the basic premise was not abolished—rather the definition of entitlement/privileged was simply extended to encompass more people. So…the in the U.S. declaration of Independence and preamble to the constitution—the terms “we the people” and “all men”—refer to white landowners. This heirarchical mindset was on display during the colonial period with doctrines such as Manifest Destiny (U.S.) White mans burden (U.K.) and Civilizational mission (France)…etc…..It is still on display today in systemic injustices and inequalities in Secular democracies…such as Mass incarceration of African Americans in the U.S., Profiling and Jailing of disproportionate numbers of First Nations peoples in Canada, Xenophobia, Islamophobia and pejudices directed at various minorities in Europe. These injustices and inequalities are lawful, systemic, and embraced by society and governments…

    Secular Democracies are NOT based on the principle of Tawheed that all humanity is of equivalent value regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex…etc….In practice…it is based on the hierarchical worldview that some are more privileged and entitled than others…..So today the west wages wars for its security and safety on the principle that they are more entitled to safety and security than the others on whom they wage war. So safety, security and freedom are stolen from others on earth to priveldge the entitled, privileged few…..


  3. Assalamu alaykum brother Abdullah

    I agreed with most of what you wrote, except the part were you said “…In Democracy, the leader remains in power despite being unjust or incompetent”. I don’t know about unjust behaviour, but surely the party members can and would replace their leader if he/she became incompetent.


  4. Id love a social system which gives us as humans the platform for success from what I’ve read I really would love to see the practice of a consistent Islamic state not the manifestation that others try to bring to our conscious


  5. The argument here is vague because what constitutes Islamic State when you say “Islamic State” is unclear?, is it a democratic form of governance or is it monarchy type? All you have presented is comparison of a leader in an Islamic State vs a leader in a usual Democracy.

    Having just a leader doesn’t say the form of governance, after all there should be a system how the country runs. So please tell me what are your ideas on this regard.


  6. Brother, I agree with you on many things, including the necessity of the reestablishment of the caliphate, however, I think you should take a page from communists. Read about the Soviet political and especially economic system, there’s a lot that the new caliphate could learn from them. The world has changed since 10 AH, the religion mustn’t, but the political/economic system doesn’t need to be identical to that of 10 AH in 1440 AH.



  1. What’s the difference between an Islamic State and Democracy? | Siyasah Press
  2. What’s the difference between an Islamic State and Secular Democracy? | Jaalhaque

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