Radio Islam recently conducted a panel discussion on the upcoming election. Guests included Shaykh Ihsaan Taliep, Moulana Rafiq Mohammed, Moulana Yusuf Patel, Mufti Zubair Bhayat and Moulana Yusuf Gafoor. The discussion focused on the role of Muslims in the election campaign and how to make a choice in the upcoming elections.
Shaykh Ihsaan Taliep gave an overview of who the United Ulema Council of South Africa (UUCSA) and the purpose of their meeting in Durban. Muslim South African are very blessed to have the council, which has been in place for 25 years. Most of the country's Islamic bodies are united under the umbrella of UUCSA. It allows us to engage and address issues at the local level and national level. Shaykh highlighted that it was imperative that we maintain unity among Muslims as we are instructed to do so by Allah.
Moulana Rafiq spoke on the topic of democracy. The question he answered to: Is democracy in its current form in line with Islam? To which he responded that the word democracy meant to rule and people, which means the rule of the people. In Islam, we look at divine guidance and law. Hence, there are some differences and some similarities between the two. We need to look at both. There are five objectives of deen, life, deen, reason, honour and wealth. Some have suggested a sixth as protection of justice. If democracy, to us, means, justice, freedom to practise our faith, protection of life and property, free to express one's views, fair dealing, and participation of citizens regarding rulers, then it is very similar to Islam. The Madinah Charter is similar to the idea of a constitution. Muslims need to understand the importance of democracy in our country and the need to participate in the election process.
Moulana Yusuf Patel was asked if he remembered the eagerness of the people at the first democratic elections and if people were becoming disillusioned about the future of our country to a point where they no longer participate in civic engagement. To which he responded that the country faces major social and political challenges, including unemployment, economic growth and poor service delivery. Everyday South Africans encounter the negative effects of crime, load-shedding and dealing with incompetent civil servants. This is all caused by state capture, which undermines investor confidence and in turn, negatively impacts our economy. Despite the fact of disillusionment, elections allow the opportunity to make our feelings known, making your vote your contribution to better living standards.
Mufti Zubair Bhayat was asked to give examples of Ulema and their political activism and how we should follow their example. To which he responded, Ulema have historically played a very great role in politics. Imaan Abu Hanifa, who was a great politician and supported the causes of justice in his time. As we through the annals of history we find many Ulema who have had a positive impact on their nations and communities. They established the laws of Allah (SWT) and brought about positive changes. We too can follow in their footsteps and conduct the kind of work they did, to benefit our communities and our country at large.
Moulana Yusuf Ghafoor was asked, why should people vote. To which he responded, people must understand the Nabi (SAW) lead Islam from Makkah to Medina with just four followers, but over time Islam spread and gained the confidence of the people. We need to understand that our country has a lot of potential. Not having the "appropriate candidates" should not be our excuse to avoid participating in the elections, instead, we should value our opportunity to vote and exercise it. As Muslims citizens, we should look for good leadership. We should definitely make a mark on the ballot.
Shaykh Ihsaan was asked to elaborate on the role South African Muslims have played in the fight against apartheid. To which he responded, by the grace of Allah (SWT), the Muslim communities have always had some profound personalities who took on leadership roles. This is very outstanding and this is the type of Muslim leadership we get to leverage today. This year we commemorated 50 years since Imam Abdullah Haroon’s martyrdom in the Apartheid prison. He is a good example of someone who has done well for his country and the Muslim community. The representation of the Muslim community is beyond the numbers in our society. The contributions made with regard to the fight against apartheid were substantial and we should never forget to acknowledge it.
Moulana Rafiq Mohammed was asked why it is important for Muslims to be part of the political context. To which he responded that politics impacts directly on every person in society, making our involvement all the more pertinent. Our participation will ensure that we have a voice in government that will allow us to make decisions that are beneficial to the Muslims and other faith groups as well. Not getting involved means we marginalise ourselves in the future even bringing about religious repression. It is important for Muslims in all parts of the world to involve themselves in political matters, otherwise, there will be a vacuum left for incompetent people.
Moulana Yusuf Patel gave a response to the question, does voting for a particular party means that you endorse all of their priorities. To which he responded, the process of voting in non-Muslim communities is not based on religious matters, neither is winning or losing. Participating in the election process and voting does not mean that one is accepting all of the ideas put forth by the political parties but rather that you are participating to safeguard all the interests of Muslims and the country.
Moulana Rafiq Mohammed was asked will my vote count, given that I am coming from a minority group. Muslims constitute less than 2% of the country’s population. He stressed that every vote counts even if we are a minority.
Moulana Yusuf Gafoor was asked to give advice to Muslims regarding the upcoming elections. To which he responded, we should partner with people who will be able to deliver. Once people recognise the just and capable leaders, they will follow them. This partnership will help them make a difference.
Shaykh Ihsaan was asked, what some of the considerations were that one should think about before making one's mark. His advice was that, before voting, one must ensure that one maintains a positive mindset and has hope in the power of Allah (SWT). We should always remember the fight our heroes fought for our freedom and right to democracy. South African Muslims are the envy of other Muslims across the globe as we blessed with and enjoy many more freedoms extended to us by our country.
Mufti Zubair was asked if we should allow the issue of Palestine to feature in the issue of our voting in our country, and if so, to what extent. Mufti responded saying that we have to stand up for justice and that which is right. Those who side and support the oppressed elsewhere will demonstrate the same with their own. This does impact on the value system of the party thereby affecting our choice in choosing the party and/or candidate we vote for.
Moulana Rafiq added that the issue of Palestine was a major consideration in deciding on a party choice as it is a favoured region due to the third Haram of Islam being there.
The panel was asked to explain how majority rule based on one man and one vote can be reconciled by our Aqeeda that Allah (SWT) is the supreme giver. The law of Allah (SWT) is divine and a guidance. Human history and citizens have had the experience and need to push back against tyranny and oppression. Muslims have moved from so-called Muslim countries to Non-Muslim countries because they felt there was more justice there. Therefore, we need to look at how we are governed. Accountability to society is part of Islamic principles. In a democracy, we are able to check on our government and set things right. We need to remember the broad guidelines found in the Quraan that need to follow.
Our youth today are in a sense of disregard towards their future. What is our response to this decline in their interest? was the question posed to Moulana Yusuf and he responded saying that our responsibility is enjoining good and forbidding evil. If we continue on that path, others may follow through. By voting, we are getting involved, and making some attempt to stop evil. We area minority we can expect everyone to read the shahada, but when it comes to political matters we should partner with them to get things right and protect our rights as Muslims.
Our constitution has granted us freedom of religion and we need to appreciate it. Many Muslims in other places of the world to not enjoy this type of freedom. We should make Dua that Allah (SWT) grants us a good future.
The panel concluded with a dua for our country and its people.
May Allah (SWT) guide us all.