Voting for parties in a general election

Voting for the modern political parties which best share our values and best look after our society’s interests is necessary and required from us. Sheikh Wahbah Zuhayli and Sheikh Bin Bayyah both argue that we should seek the greater interests of society and seek to lessen the harm to society’s interests.

Sheikh Wahbah Zuhayli states:

There is nothing in the Shariah to forbid, whether for reasons of necessity, need, or an existent interest, when the intent is noble, for Muslims and non-Muslims to participate together in elections in mixed parties against other mixed parties… This is based upon the hadith “Actions are by intentions and everyone shall get what they intended”[1] and what has been extracted from the principle al-umur bil-Maqasidal-umur bil-maqasid (matters are determined by their objectives).[2]

This… should be done according to when the maslaha (benefit) outweighs the mafsada (harm), and the good better than the evil, as is established in the principles of usul (legal axioms), fath al-dharai (opening the means to benefits) and sadd al-darai (blocking the means to harm).[3]

Sheikh Taha Jabir Alwani in the US concurs in a fatwa as follows:

“…it is the duty of (American) Muslims to participate constructively in the political process, if only to protect their rights, and give support to views and causes they favor. Their participation may also improve the quality of information disseminated about Islam. We call this participation a ‘duty’ because we do not consider it merely a ‘right’ that can be abandoned or a ‘permission’ which can be ignored.”

So it is Islamic to engage in non-sectarian politics, embrace the interests of society as a whole, and cooperate with Muslims and non-Muslims as one society to look after our interests.

An incident reported in the Sunnah is that of Muslims’ migration to Abyssinia, as recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad on the authority of Umm Salamah, Mother of the Believers (may Allah be pleased with her), who was among those who migrated to Abyssinia.

It is reported that Umm Salamah, narrating the incident of their migration, said: “We stayed in his (al-Najashi’s) land, where we were treated with great generosity and hospitality. During my stay there, some people rebelled against him (al-Najashi) and tried to take hold of the reins of power. By Allah, we haven’t felt sadness as we felt at that time, for fear that such rebellious (ones) might succeed in their scheme, and then a man who does not know the truth of our religion (nor does he observe our right as refugees) as al-Najashi did may be the sovereign. An-Najashi set out to meet the enemy, who was on the opposite bank of the Nile. Then the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions said that one of them could cross the river to investigate the enemy intensively. On that, Az-Zubayr ibn Al-`Awwam, who was one of the youngest among us, said, ‘I will.’ Then they gave him a float and he swam to the opposite bank and investigated the enemy’s preparations for the battle. During this, we observed dua (supplication) heavily for al-Najashi to be victorious over his enemy and he succeeded and stability was achieved again in Abyssinia.

This narration demonstrates that the Muslims, all Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), even prayed for the king to remain in power, and supported his efforts. This demonstrates the very deep concern they had for that king, even though he was not Muslim.

Sheikh bin Bayyah states that the Muslims in the West live with religious and cultural pluralism. He explains further that most are citizens who have permanent rights and “religious freedom”, and they must fulfil their obligations in terms of adhering to such a social contract. This includes following such conditions as “obedience to the law of the land” because God has stated “O you who have attained faith! Fulfil your agreements/contracts”.

This also applies to people who reside in a country under a “covenant” or people entering a country under some type of agreement (which a visa or similar would constitute). He states that God has “obliged us with obedience to the law”, and reminds Muslims that they also have to maintain high “moral and ethical standards” wherever they find themselves, whether that is in a country with “Muslim majority or otherwise”.

Sheikh Bin Bayyah also explains that the basis of political participation for Muslims in Europe is from the command of God to “Co-operate with each other in goodness and piety, but not upon sin and transgression” implying there are duties, recommendations and permitted acts that are necessary parts of citizenship and that this should be done by:

“abiding by Islamic etiquette and mores, such as truthfulness, justice, faithfulness, fulfilling one’s trusts, and respecting diversity and different opinions, and discussing matters lightly with those who differ with you and avoiding obstinate behaviour.

This includes taking part in elections and supporting political parties even financially whether the candidate is Muslim or non-Muslim, as long as they are the most suitable and capable of achieving the common good. Notably, the Sheikh says this applies to both Muslim men and women.[4]

God says: ‘God does not forbid you, regarding those who do not fight you on account of (your) faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.’ [60: 8–9]”

Hisham Hellyer quotes Taha Jabir al-Alwani[5] commenting on this Quranic verse:

Ibn ul-Jawziyy said these verses are license for Muslims to build relationships with those who have not declared war on them, for kindness and charity to them even in case they are in relationships with them (i.e. Muslims). Al-Qurtubi commented: ‘This verse is permitted by Allah (Glory to Him, Most High) for Muslims: to be charitable to those who are neither hostile to, nor fight Muslims: His (Most Gracious, Most Merciful) words “From dealing kindly and justly with them” signify that He (Glory to Him, Most High) does not forbid you (Muslims) from dealing kindly and justly with those who do not fight you.’ Ibnu Jarir laid stress on that the verse applies to all non-Muslims of all religions, beliefs and sects. He said ‘Of all views on this point, the most correct is the view of whoever suggests that the meaning (of the verse) is: Allah (Glory to Him, Most High) does not forbid you (Muslims) “from dealing kindly, keep contact with, and being just to them”. Allah (Most Gracious, Most Merciful) generalised by saying, “Those who fight you not for (your) faith, nor drive you out of your homes” to include whomsoever this description applies; He (Glory to Him, Most High) does not specify some of them or exclude others.’[6]


[1] ‘As narrated by Imam Bukhari from Umar’ [This is a footnote in ‘Participation of Muslims in elections’ under the heading ‘Participation of Muslims and non-Muslims against other mixed groups (of Muslims and non-Muslims)’  p. 520 Qidaya al-Fiqh wal-Fikr al-Muasir Damascus -Darel-Fikr publication 2006].

[2] ‘Can be found in al-Majalla ul-ahkam al-adliya (and other scholars such as Imam Suyuti in his Ashba wal-Nazair fil-Fiqh.)’ [This is a footnote in ‘Participation of Muslims in elections’ under the heading ‘Participation of Muslims and non-Muslims against other mixed groups (of Muslims and non-Muslims)’  p. 520 Qidaya al-Fiqh wal-Fikr al-Muasir Damascus -Darel-Fikr publication 2006].

[3]Participation of Muslims in elections’ under the heading ‘Participation of Muslims and non-Muslims against other mixed groups (of Muslims and non-Muslims)’  p. 520 Qidaya al-Fiqh wal-Fikr al-Muasir Damascus -Darel-Fikr publication 2006.

[4] Sana’aat ul-Fatawa wa Fiqh ul-Aqaalliyaat, (Dar ul-Minhaj, 2007).

[5] Taha Jabir Al-alwani, Ph.D. (born in 1935), is President of Cordoba University and holds the Imam Al-Shafi’i Chair in Islamic Legal Theory at the same university. He studied at Al-Azhar university in Egypt and was a lecturer at Imam Muhammad ibn Sa’ood University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for 10 years. Al-alwani concentrates on the fields of Islamic legal theory, jurisprudence (fiqh), and usul al-fiqh.

[6] Fiqh of Minorities, prolegomena – cited p. 92 of Muslims of Europe, H. A. Hellyer.

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