As the elections get closer, the ever decreasing naysayers start to bring out their messages of abstention and exclusion. There was a time, maybe a decade or two ago, when there used to be debate on political participation by Muslims living in the West.
These days the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars have not only said that political participation is allowed but that it is to be encouraged. Amongst these majority voices are the largest body of Muslim scholars, the Fiqh Council of Jidda headed by the Mufti of Saudi Arabia along with scholars such as Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Shaykh Bin Bayyah , Dr Wahba Zuhaili, Dr Taha Jabir al-’Awani, Shaykh Abdul Karim Zaydan, Dr. Munir Farid Wasil, former Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Nizam Yaqubi, Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad from the Islamic Sharia Council, Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam from Darul Iftaa in Leicester, Mufti Zubair Butt from the Al Qalam Institute, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqiti, Shaykh Salman Al Awdah, Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid and Maulana Khalilul Rahman Sajjad Nomani Nadwi. The list goes on, but I think you get the point.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked about the ruling on elections, and he replied: “I think that elections are obligatory; we should appoint the one who we think is good, because if the good people abstain, who will take their place? Evil people will take their place, or neutral people in whom there is neither good nor evil, but they follow everyone who makes noise. So we have no choice but to choose those who we think are fit.”
So when we receive emails or leaflets’ informing us that voting in elections is haraam (forbidden) we should simply smile, thank them and then quickly move on. There is no debate to be had; all persons or groups that have the quality of reason are all but in agreement with the majority position. Those who are now left in the margins have no real case, for them it is blind following and parroting of a stubborn old view which divorces itself from all context and reason and the importance of Maslaha (public interest) and Ijtihad – these are not people whom we should debate with or even entertain the idea of debating.
This is not to say that these marginal and minority people and groups do not have the right to say what they want or distribute leaflets and brochures. Not at all, all I ask is that they do this with adab (manners) and akhlaq and drop their takfiri attitude and finger pointing. That is unacceptable and should not be tolerated for a moment.
Hizbut Tahrir (HT) have recently published a leaflet claiming this marginal position, but as far as I see and according to their leader – our difference is political and one of ‘approach’ and not theological. Secondly, HT have cited the recent media attacks on IFE as a reason for not engaging and rather continuing their promotion of a more exclusionary path.
I completely disagree with that approach. Yes, Andrew Gilligan – who failed to condemn the use of the racist term ‘Paki’– did attack IFE, but he is an insignificant person, a loner who lives because of others and not for himself. However others, including some Muslims, that attacked IFE and other mainstream Muslim organisations and personalities did so to drive us out of engagement. They fear that Muslims are finally creating a level playing field and ganining influence, and yes also political power.
Muslims have come a long way and the journey is going in the right direction – let us not be like the media we so often complain about – and give the marginal minority any more space other than the margins they occupy. As Malcolm X said, “You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.”