Democracy in Islamic Political Thought

[Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905)]

Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) believed that Islam's relationship with the modern age was the most crucial issue that Islamic communities needed to deal with. In an attempt to reconcile Islamic ideas with Western ones, he suggested that maslaha (interest) in Islamic thought corresponded to manfa'a (utility) in Western thought. Similarly, he equated shura with democracy and ijma' with consensus. Addressing the question of authority, Abduh denied the existence of a theocracy in Islam and insisted that the authority of the hakim (governor) or that of the qadi (judge) or that of the mufti was civil. He strongly believed that Ijtihad should be revived because ' . emerging priorities and problems, which are new to the Islamic thought, need to be addressed'.[^15] He was a proponent of the parliamentary system and defended pluralism, refuting claims that it would undermine the unity of the ummahh. He argued that European nations were not divided by it. 'The reason', he concludes, 'is that their objective is the same. What varies is the method they pursue toward accomplishing it'.[^16]