Question 592: Islam and Democracy: 1. Is democracy in consonance or against Islam? And if it is, can Shariah be adjusted in democracy?
2. Is Khialafat (which is demand of a lot of muslims esp in Pakistan we here conventions regarding that) Is it possible in the present world? Seeing that Jamal ud din Afghani and Iqbal talked about one political center for Islam. Is it viable?
Answer 592: First of all, Caliphate or successorship is divinely appointed by Allah’s (SWT) order and the Infallibles (pbuth). So, if you meant having such Caliphate that was appointed at the advent of Islam and the times of the Fourteen Infallibles (pbuth) it would be impossible to have it in the present world. Because, the Twelve Infallibles (pbuth) have already appointed as Caliphate and the last Imam (as) is in occultation now. But, if you meant having an Islamic government in occultation era it would be possible to be functioned with the selection and advocating of the people.
In regards to democracy, we can say that people can determine their own destiny and enjoy their individual and social rights under the Islamic system, according to Islam.
Islam does not accept some features of western democracy where the majority vote contradicts human dignity; however, there are more complete and beautiful facets of democracy present in the Islamic version. In reality, there are no contradictions between religion and democracy and Islam has the most developed form of democracy that exists.
Islam and Democracy: Democracy is a method of organizing society and respecting the majority vote while maintaining individual and civil rights.
Although the majority is not necessarily always right, the majority can be determining and can accomplish its goals by accepting or not accepting them. From Islam’s point of view a system cannot exist unless the people and the majority accept it.
Islam believes that people have the right to determine their future and enjoy their individual and social rights in an Islamic system.
Of course Islam does not accept democracy in the way the western world does. In Islam if the vote of the majority contradicts basic human dignity, it is considered illegitimate. However Islam accepts democracy in a much more complete and beautiful sense of the word. In Islam, religion and democracy are neither fully contradictory nor fully in agreement. The system which Islam accepts as legitimate is a type of religious democracy.
The system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a clear example of such a system which coordinates between religion and democracy. Imam Khomeini, as a qualified religious authority and jurisprudent, founded the Islamic Republic of Iran and proved that not only aren’t Islam and democracy not contradictory, but that they are in fact able to work in tandem. Based on the peoples’ vote, Islam has the most democratic way of organizing the society.
We have some verses in the Holy Quran which show that the Prophet (s) consulted with people, allowed them to take part in political and social matters, used their suggestions, and gave them freedom of thought and speech. 
Furthermore in traditions, the history and the life of Infallible Imams (a) all clearly shows this.
Caliphate: According to Shia: Caliphate or successorship to the Holy Prophet (s) is divinely appointed and that at God’s order the Prophet, many a time, introduced Ali (a.s.) as his successor.
The successors of the Prophet (s) are twelve immaculate Imams or “twelve caliphs” as reported in Shiite and Sunni sources. The first of them is Ali bin Abi Talib and the last of them is Hazrat Hujjat bin Al-Hasan Al-Askari (Imam Mahdi) – may Allah hasten his reappearance.
Following the demise of the Holy Prophet (s), a situation came into being as a result of which the Commander of Faithful, Ali (a.s.) who had been appointed by the Prophet (s) as his successor was deprived of his right to the caliphate. Thus, he was made to keep aloof in his house. Indeed, for the good of Islam and Muslims, Ali (a.s.), despite being dissatisfied with the performance of the caliphate, never refrained from giving his advice to the caliphs.
The relationship between government and people in Islam: According to Islam and Quranic verses, people are one of the central factors of a government. The Holy Quran says: “لقد ارسلنا رسلنا بالبینات و انزلنا معهم الکتاب و المیزان لیقوم الناس بالقسط…” meaning that: “Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice;” According to this verse, Islam, that has guidelines and instructions for the maintaining of justice in society, values such a thing when it is carried out by normal people, not officials and authorities.
We can summarize the relationship between people and the government within the following fields:
1- Choosing the Islamic government by the people:
In the Islamic government, people have chosen an Islamic political structure out of their knowledge, love and free will and long the execution of divine law, and obviously, an Islamic government will not be able to function without the selection and advocating of the people. It is on this basis that even though Imam Ali was granted Wilayah (Authority) by Allah and was divinely selected to lead the people, he did not carry out this responsibility until they came to him and swore allegiance, because the grounds were not yet ready for him to practice his authority and Wilayah.
But when the grounds existed he did not neglect his responsibility, as the Imam himself says : “لولا حضور الحاضر و قیام الحجة بوجود الناصر و ما اخذ الله علی العلماء ان لایقاروا علی کظة ظالم و لا سغب مظلوم لألقیت حبلها علی غاربها و لسقیت اخرها بکأس اوّلها و لألفیتم دنیاکم هذه ازهد عندی من عفطة عنز…” which means: “If people had not come to me, and supporters had not exhausted the argument, and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed, I would have cast the rope of Caliphate on its own shoulders, and would have given the last one the same treatment as to the first one. Then you would have seen that in my view this world of yours is no better than the sneezing of a goat!”
These statements of the Imam show that even though establishing a government for the execution of justice and getting back the rights of the oppressed from oppressors is a duty that Allah has assigned to the imam, but because carrying out this duty is not possible without the support, allegiance and advocating of the people, until people do not take the required steps in regard to establishing a government, the infallible imam is not responsible to force people to obey him, instead he must guide people and advise them so that they do what is necessary out of free will.
. In another word legitimacy is not determined by the majority vote whereby acceptance is.
. As an explanation we draw your attention to the following example: imagine several jurisprudents are qualified to take over the Islamic government but by the majority vote and public opinion only one jurisprudent is selected for this mission.
 Refer to:
A – Hadavi Tehrani, Mehdi, Leadership and Religion, P.117 – 138.
B – Subject: The relationship of people and government in Islam, question: 269
. Refer to subject: Human being and dignity, question 48
. I.e. democracy in a society in which there is a Muslim majority is discussed within the religious and legal principles. They have accepted Islam freely and voluntarily and they have agreed that Islam’s laws and legislative system and moral and religious values should be enforced in society.
. Ale-Imran:159, “So under God’s blessings you have become merciful and kind to them. If you were harsh on them they would keep a distance from you. So forgive them and consult with them in your affairs…”
. Ghashieh:21 and22; Zumar:17 and 18.
 Nahj Al Balagheh, p. 207
 . Adopted from answer 292 (Index: Islam and Democracy).
 . Adopted from answer 1289 (Index: Shia and Successorship to the Prophet (s)).
 Hadid: 25
 Nahjul-Balagha, sermon 3, Translation, Muhammad Dashti.
 . Adopted from answer 269 (Index: The relationship between government and people in Islam).