Is there anything about voting rights and democracy in Islam? Does the Qur’an or the hadith say anything about this in relation to women?
The Qur’an has prescribed the following principle in deciding about issues related to the collective affairs of the Muslims:
Their (Muslim’s) affairs are decided through consultation among them. (Al-Shooraa 42: 38)
One of the most important corollaries of the above directive is that in all such collective issues where there is even a potential of a difference of opinion among the Muslims because of which a unanimous decision cannot be arrived at, the opinion of the majority of the Muslims shall be made the collective law in a Muslim state.
Obviously, the system of government in a particular state clearly pertains to the collective issues of its citizens. Thus, according to the Qur’an , the system of government of an Islamic state and its various affairs should be decided through consultation. This consultation may be direct – where an individual takes part in the consultation directly, as was the case in Athens during the times of Socrates – or indirect – where individuals participate in the consultation through their elected representatives. In this perspective, we can say that the system of government in an Islamic state, according to the Qur’an is basically democratic in its nature.
As far as the issue of “voting rights” is concerned, the Qur’an in the same verse (Al-Shooraa 42: 38) has clearly given the right of participating in the referred consultation to all Muslim citizens. This does not mean that the Qur’an does not give the non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state the right to vote. What it actually implies, in my opinion, is that according to the Qur’an , no Muslim citizen can be deprived of the right to vote and thereby be deprived of participating in the “consultation” regarding the collective issues of the Islamic state.
As far as the non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are concerned, their right to vote shall be determined by the agreement between them and the Islamic state, on the basis of which they were given the status of being citizens of an Islamic state. If this agreement gives the non-Muslim citizens the right to vote, it shall be binding on the state to abide by this agreement.
No distinction has been made in the Qur’an with reference to the participation of men and women in the consultation process.
Some people say that women were not included in the process of “consultation” during the times of the Prophet (pbuh), which implies that Islam does not give women the right to vote. However, it is quite obvious that the Qur’an does not deprive women of voting rights. During the times of the Prophet (pbuh) and those that immediately followed, women generally stayed away from issues related to the state or those related to other collective issues.
Thus, the issue of women’s voting rights never arose in those times. In contrast, today’s women, with their wider exposure have not only become more interested in political and other collective issues but have also become active in these spheres. In these circumstances, there seems to be no basis of saying that Islam does not give voting rights to women.
18th February 1999