عبدالکريم سروش

1st and 2nd of Dec. 2004

Abstract of Dr. Soroush's Speech in the' Islam and Democracy' conference in Mashhad

' Islam and Democracy' conference in Mashhad


We better make at the outset a preliminary distinction between Political (otherwise called Minimal, Procedural or Formal) democracy and the Liberal democracy. Whereas the former is less problematic in terms of compatibility with Islam the latter creates all sorts of problems and questions.

By political democracy I mean separation of powers, an independent and powerful judiciary, an accountable ruler elected by people and of course a consultative assembly for legislation. These are fairly clear and well known.

As to the separation of powers I do not think that any serious scholar in the world of Islam would find any 'unislamic' element in it. I am not saying that it can be derived from the Quran and sunna, all I am saying is that it is compatible with the corpus of Islamic teachings.

The independent Judiciary is what Muslims have been always proud of and have taken its materialization as their religious duty.

Checking, conrolling and supervising the ruler is embedded in the wide concept of Amr bel Maaroof and Nahy anel Monkar. In our time this can be secured by means of free press and media.

Legislation is the big issue here. Muslims need a theory of Presentation and a theory of Binding consultation. None of these two have been worked out fully. The theory of agency (Vekala) in the classical Fiqh is by no means enough. We need a meta theory here and that is not to be looked for in the body of Fiqh, rather we have to revise our theories about man, law, revelation and even God. Let us not forget that Islam is nothing but a series of interpretations of Islam, therefore we need a total reinterpretation rather than a local minor redress.

Liberal democracy has got a different story. Its extravagant support of 'human rights' including the right to same sex marriage etc is so repulsive to a Muslim mind that may compromise the whole issue of democracy in this part of the world.







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