Question # 179: Is voting allowed in Islam for Muslims living in non-Muslim countries?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: It is permissible for a Muslim who enjoys the rights of citizenship in a non-Muslim country to take part in elections and the like because it is more likely that his participation will bring benefits such as presenting a true picture of Islam, defending Muslim issues in that country, supporting the rights of religious and other minorities, strengthening their role in circles of influence, and cooperating with reasonable, fair-minded people on a basis of truth and justice. Indeed, abstention from voting is essentially indirect voting as in abstaining to vote, one has implicitly accepted the principle of voting. Moreover, abstention from voting sometimes causes more harm than voting itself. 

Long Answer: According to Dr. Jamal Badawi, a leading North American Islamic scholar, professor and author, the issue of participation in the political process [i.e., election] is contingent on at least the following three different situations:

  • One is to participate in a Muslim country which is ruling according to the law of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and applying it in full, in all matters, from criminal law to economic justice, in terms of Shura, consultation on the political level. In such a setting, participation is a duty on every Muslim.
  • Second situation would be a Muslim country that does not rule according to the Islamic law, to the rule of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and in some cases may be even a secular country that is forcing secularism on its Muslim population.
  • Lastly, the context of Muslims in North America or in a country that is not Muslim and obviously, does not apply the law of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).

(Paraphrased from an interview to RadioIslam.com, //www.soundvision.com/article/an-interview-with-dr-jamal-badawi-on-muslims-and-politics-in-the-west)

Hence, the issue of voting is subject to ijtihaad. And we must weigh up the interests and benefits that we hope the Muslims may attain from this participation and the harm that may result from it.

The Islamic Fiqh Council in its nineteenth session, which was held in the headquarters of the Muslim World League in Makkah al-Mukarramah between 22 and 27 Shawwal 1428 AH (3 to 8 November 2007 CE) has examined the issue of “Participation of Muslims in elections with non-Muslims in non-Muslim countries.” This is one of the topics on which discussion was deferred in the sixteenth conference which was held between 21 and 26 Shawwal 1422 AH in order that it may be examined more thoroughly.

After listening to the research that was presented and the discussions concerning it, the Council has determined the following:

  1. Muslim participation in elections with non-Muslims in a non-Muslim country is one of the shar’i political matters in which the ruling is determined in the light of weighing up the pros and cons, and fatwas concerning it differ according to time, place and circumstances.
  2. It is permissible for a Muslim who enjoys the rights of citizenship in a non-Muslim country to take part in elections and the like because it is more likely that his participation will bring benefits such as presenting a true picture of Islam, defending Muslim issues in that country, supporting the rights of religious and other minorities, strengthening their role in circles of influence, and cooperating with reasonable, fair-minded people on a basis of truth and justice. That should be in accordance with the following guidelines:
  • The Muslim participants should intend thereby to serve the interests of the Muslims and ward off evil and harm from them.
  • The Muslim participants should think it most likely that their participation will have positive effects that will benefit the Muslims in that country, such as supporting their position, conveying their requests to the decision makers and those who are in charge of the country, and protecting their religious and worldly interests.
  • The Muslim’s participation in these elections should not lead to him neglecting his religious duties.

(Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid) 

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about the ruling on elections, and he replied: I think that elections are obligatory; we should appoint the one who we think is good, because if the good people abstain, who will take their place? Evil people will take their place, or neutral people in whom there is neither good nor evil, but they follow everyone who makes noise. So we have no choice but to choose those who we think are fit… So nominate the one who you think is good, and put your trust in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). (Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh)

[To elaborate,] choosing an option [i.e., a political party] means that one endorses it only if there are better options offered. But if the other choice is worse, then one is actually endorsing the difference between this option and the one that is less harmful. Take for example, eating un-slaughtered meat for a starving person, he is allowed (or even obliged) to do so, yet does that mean that he is endorsing eating un-slaughtered meat? Of course not; he is endorsing the difference between these options which, in this case, is saving his life. Saving his life by eating un-slaughtered meat is better than starving to death – …this is an agreed upon principle… [Hence, it is our duty to] do our best to choose the one that is less evil and better for humanity. Indeed, abstention from voting is essentially indirect voting as in abstaining to vote, one has implicitly accepted the principle of voting. [Abstention from voting sometimes causes more harm than voting itself.] (Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad; islam21c.com)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam