The Obsession of Muslim Nations with American Democracy

By: Adeel Shah,


American founding fathersThe American Constitution is undoubtedly one of the greatest legal documents written in human history. It has helped to create the most powerful nation in the world, and one of the most resilient societies history has known. Therefore it is no great mystery why nations all around the world clamor to adopt the Constitution for themselves.  Muslim communities, many of which are rich in natural and human resources, have been suffering from confusion of governing ideas and ground realities. They have struggled with elitism, tyranny, and dictatorships for several decades, leading to explosive internal strife in the recent past (and present). They have attempted to install the American version of Democracy and failed consistently due to one simple reason; it does not agree with the Islamic mindset.

America is a fascinating promise of peace and prosperity for nations struggling for basic human rights. America is a nation that has stood as a beacon of freedom, and that light has been powered by its Constitution.  However, many citizens of Muslim Nations cannot agree with a hastily adopted Constitution due to their beliefs and practices.

The Constitution of the United States of America is built on a few basic principles:

  • ·         Sovereignty of the people
  • ·         Rule of the majority

These have been the founding principles of America; however they do not coincide with the development of Muslim Nations. In contrary to the ideologies that the Constitution of the United States is built on Muslims believe:

•                    Sovereignty belongs to Almighty Allah (the Creator)

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•                    Rule of “Haq” (divine codes) which come directly from the Quran or are derived from Quranic principles

Each of these principles draws a fundamental difference between the two governing structures that can only be overcome by disregarding the faith of the Muslim Ummah (community) in those nations. While it is entirely possible for a Muslim Nation to have an elected leader who should serve the people of his/her nation, the teachings of the Quran and its principles would come before the desires of the majority. Regardless of the percentage of the voting population that may favor a change, there are some commandments in the Quran that can never be altered, an idea which is much unlike the American Constitution.

The Constitution gives the government the ability to amend any law with the approval of 2/3’s of both houses, driving the “majority rules” concept. However, Islam was not the creation of a group of founders and it did not have the support of any majority in its beginnings. Instead, Islam was introduced by a single man and was spread to an overwhelming majority through the application of Haq. Therefore, by principle, the American government could decide to change the Constitution to say that all men are not actually created equal; however this could not be done in an Islamic state because the equity of all men/women is a Quranic principle. The American Constitution places its emphasis on numbers, whereas an Islamic Nation would place its emphasis on Haq.

Muslim nations should take into consideration their faith, history, and roots as they move forward and develop a plan to progress through this process of disambiguation. In the past three hundred years Muslim nations have gone through traumatic episodes of colonization and decolonization, and now they being compelled to apply “American Democracy” without first having met the prerequisites and undergoing the necessary (and voluntary) social transformations that the United States went through when developing its own government. Such an exercise is fruitless, a lesson most recently visible in Egypt where the fast track to democracy lead to the violent collapse of the struggling nation.

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The Quran and American Constitution do have several similarities, and many of these similarities have been embedded into the culture of different groups around the world. Despite these similarities, a Muslim state, or any state for that matter, should take its time to develop a government that suits its citizens.  An Islamic nation could perhaps apply the “Haqooq-ul-Ibad” (rights owed to the people) aspect of the Quran to develop an operational/constitutional while leaving the function of “Haqooq-ul-Allah” (rights of Allah, ie fasting, charity, etc.) between Allah and the people. Such a compromise between the practice of religion and freedom of religion would help to strike a balance in nations that have been ruled for decades by the heavy hands of extremist dictators.

Developing a prosperous and peaceful nation requires securing the collective energy of the people of that nation, assembling all segments of society and bringing everyone to the same page. When a nation is not given the opportunity to do this, it remains in a vicious cycle of unrest. We must allow societies to grow into themselves in a manner that best suits them, and stop losing resources and destroying communities in the name of a democracy they have not chosen.