Democracy in Islamic Political Thought

[Jamal ad-Din Al-Afghani (1838-97)]

In his search for the causes of decline in the Muslim world, Jamal ad-Din Al-Afghani (1838-97) diagnosed that it was due to the absence of 'adl (justice) and shura (council) and non-adherence by the government to the constitution.[^11]

One of his main demands was that the people should be allowed to assume their political and social rule by participating in governing through shura and elections.[^12] In an article entitled 'The Despotic Government', published in Misr on 14 February 1879, Al-Afghani attributed the decline to despotism which is the reason why thinkers in the Eastern (Muslim) countries could not enlighten the public about the essence and virtues of the 'republican government'. 'For those governed by it', he stresses, 'it is a source of happiness and pride'. He goes further, to insist that ' . those governed by a republican form of government, alone deserve to be called human; for a true human being is only subdued by a true law that is based on the foundations of justice and that is designed to govern man's moves, actions, transactions and relations with others in a manner that elevates him to the pinnacle of true happiness.'[^13] To Al-Afghani, a republican government is a 'restricted government' that is accountable to the public, and that is thus the antithesis of the absolutist one. It is a government that consults the governed, relieves them of the burdens laid upon them by despotic governments and lifts them from the state of decay to the first level of perfection.[^14]