Representative democracy may be the greatest social and political experiment in the history of the world. But it is an ever-evolving experiment. These days there is a tendency to regard American democracy as the model for all the world's democracies, and in some ways this is true. The seeds of democracy may have been sown in ancient Greece, but it is in American soil that they sprouted and flourished. Yet precisely for this reason, only in America is American democracy possible; it cannot be isolated from American traditions and values.

The fact is that the vast majority of the more than one billion Muslims in the world readily accept the fundamental principles of democracy. Thanks to the efforts of Modernists like Muhammad Abdu, most Muslims have appropriated the language of democracy into Islamic terms, recognizing shura as popular representation, ijma as political participation, bay'ah as universal suffrage. Democratic ideals such as constitutionalism, government accountability, pluralism, and human rights are widely accepted throughout the Muslim world. What is not necessarily accepted, however, is the distinctly Western notion that religion and the state should be entirely separate, that secularism must be the foundation of a democratic society.

Islam, as Sayyid Qutb aptly noted, has always been more than religion; it is, in al-Afghani's observation, civilization. It is the dynamic conviction that a person's spiritual and worldly responsibilities are one and the same, that an individual's duty to the community is indistinguishable from his or her duty to God. From the creation of the first Islamic civil order in Medina, Islam has endeavored not merely to prevent vice but to encourage virtue, not merely to satisfy the needs of the people but to satisfy the will of God. And since a state can be considered democratic only insofar as it reflects its society, if the society is founded upon a particular set of values, then must not its government be also?

Compiled From:
"No god but God" - Reza Aslan, pp. 258, 259