Friday, December 2, 2011

Democracy in the modern Muslim world

Democracy, then, is the most important aspect of Islam regarded as a political ideal. It must however be confessed that the Muslims, with their ideal of individual freedom, could do nothing for the political improvement of Asia. Their democracy lasted only thirty years and disappeared with their political expansion. Though the principle of election was not quite original in Asia (since the ancient Parthian Government was based on the same principle), yet somehow or other it was not suited to the nations of Asia in the early days of Islam. It was, however, reserved for a Western nation politically to vitalise the countries of Asia. Democracy has been the great mission of England in modern times and English statesmen have boldly carried this principle to countries which have been, for centuries, groaning under the most atrocious forms of despotism.

(Excerpt from 'Islam As A Moral and Political Ideal', paper read by Iqbal at the anniversary celebrations of Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam in 1909. First published in The Observer, Lahore, April 1909; included in Writings, Speeches and Statements of Iqbal compiled by Latif Ahmad Sherwani and published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan)

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