O Believers, Cast Your Ballot!

by Shaykh Dr. Mateen Khan (Trenton, New Jersey)

Muslims living in ‘non-Muslim’ lands is a relatively new occurrence. True, Muslim travelers and traders roamed the known (and unknown) world since the beginning of Islam. However, to take up residence and begin families and communities is a recent phenomenon. Today, we find ourselves governed by those whose interests sometimes go directly against ours. These people institute policies—policies which hugely impact Muslim lives both here and abroad.

This is not to say Muslims are entirely powerless. They can make impact on the local and national level by voting. This occurs in two ways. First, large Muslims blocs in states such as Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania can sway already close votes in their favor. Second, and more important, a vocal minority often finds its influence over a silent majority. Make no mistake, pollsters and politicians are well aware of which groups vote and which do not. Their livelihood depends on these facts. American politicians are less about standing up for what is right and more about keeping their jobs. They know, O Muslim, come election time you are likely to stay home. So why spend their time, resources, and influence in your favor? When Muslims start showing up en masse, pollsters and politicians will be the first to notice. Their rhetoric and votes will reflect it as well.

Muslims don’t leave their Islamic values for specific places or times. `Ubudiyyah is a mindset, and mindsets are not left at home or set aside for the weekends. Islam demands the highest values of respect for faith, person, lineage, intelligence, and property. To a Muslim, voting isn’t about choosing who we like most, find most attractive, or most eloquent. It is about voting for those issues that fulfill two objectives:

  1. Encourage good and promote public interests (masalih).
  2. Discourage wrong and remove harms.

The Qur’an repeatedly calls Muslims toward the objectives of enjoining good and forbidding wrong.

كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٠٣﴾ وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ  ﴿١٠٤)  -آل عمران

Thus, Allah makes clear to you His verses so you may be guided. And there should be from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, encouraging what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.

As the living embodiment of the Qur’an and the most perfect example, the Prophet ﷺ echoed this in his own words and actions. He reminded us that divine mercy and attention is linked to our own actions.

(وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَتَأْمُرُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلَتَنْهَوُنَّ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ أَوْ لَيُوشِكَنَّ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَبْعَثَ عَلَيْكُمْ عِقَابًا مِنْهُ ثُمَّ تَدْعُونَهُ فَلاَ يُسْتَجَابُ لَكُمْ (الترمذي

By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! Either you encourage good and forbid evil, or Allah will soon send upon you a punishment from Him, then you will call upon Him, but He will not respond to you.

To a Muslim, this is divine guidance, and to anyone with common sense, this is sage advice. What trips up some Muslims is the conundrum of having to decide between two people—both of whom espouse harmful policies particularly towards Muslims. The fact is, it is extraordinarily unlikely both people are equally harmful to us. One will undoubtedly pose a greater threat to Muslim safety and rights. With the entire divine law before them, Muslim scholars have derived the principle of preventing a harm takes precedence over acquiring a benefit. (درء المفاسد أولى من جلب المصالح) Thus, we are permitted to vote for the candidate of lesser harm to prevent greater harm.

What is, in fact, un-Islamic is to not do our part in stopping harm. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddiq, the foremost Companion of the Prophet ﷺ, explained in a hadith:

يا أيها الناس إنكم لتقرءون هذه الآية‏:‏ ‏{‏يا أيها الذين آمنوا عليكم أنفسكم لا يضركم من ضل إذا اهتديتم‏}‏ ‏‏(‏المائدة ‏:‏ 105‏‏‏)‏ وإني سمعت رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم، يقول‏:‏ “إن الناس إذا رأو الظالم فلم يأخذوا على يديه أوشك أن يعمهم الله بعقاب منه‏”‏ ‏

(رياض الصالحين)

“O people! You recite this Verse: ‘O Believers! Take care of yourselves. If you follow the (right) guidance [and encourage what is right and forbid what is wrong], no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.’ (5:105) I have heard Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying: “When people see an oppressor but do not prevent him [from doing evil], it is likely that Allah will punish them all.”

As Muslims, it is our divinely directed duty to stand in the way of oppression and injustice. As Americans, we took an oath to uphold the law, and within that law, we have the right to raise our voices for what is right. In the American political system, there is no greater way to encourage good than to vote in accordance with Islamic objectives.

It is incorrect to think our vote holds little weight or won’t change anything. Abstaining your vote is not the same as doing nothing. Rather, remaining quiet and motionless in the face of injustice is to support injustice.

In the face of evil, the prophetic command is to act. Silence is a last resort and a sign of weakness in faith.

(مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ، وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ” (مسلم”

Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.

Islamophobia, discrimination, and attacks on our vulnerable individuals and masjids are increasing. Inaction and silence in the face of your brother’s and sister’s humiliation is to cement our own humiliation in front of Allah and all of creation.

عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّهُ قَالَ: مَنْ أُذِلَّ عِنْدَهُ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَمْ يَنْصُرْهُ، وَهُوَ يقَدِرُ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْصُرَهُ أَذَلَّهُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَى رُءُوسِ الْخَلَائِقِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

(مسند احمد)

The Prophet ﷺ said: If a believer is humiliated in front of anyone and he doesn’t help him while being able to do so, Allah will humiliate him on the Day of Judgement in front of all creation.

Islamically, we can approach an election as a shahadah (giving testimony). By casting your vote for an individual, you testify this person is capable of this position. In times of need, such as when Muslims may be harmed or benefited, to withhold your vote is analogous to withholding testimony.

(وَلَا تَكْتُمُوا الشَّهَادَةَ ۚ وَمَن يَكْتُمْهَا فَإِنَّهُ آثِمٌ قَلْبُهُ (البقرة 283

And do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it – his heart is indeed sinful.

Or even more apt for our situation this election cycle are the words of the Prophet:

(مَن كتَم شَهادةً إذا دُعِي إليها كان كمَنْ شهِد بالزُّورِ (المعجم الأوسط

Whoever conceals testimony when he is called to testify is like the one who gave a false testimony.

Giving a false testimony is among the most detestable of actions as it harms society at large. When the ummah, which has been sent to benefit mankind, does not influence policy making towards good, then this leaves only those of ill-intent to influence toward wrong. When unjust rulers and wicked men invariably rain down their evil upon their own people and those outside of their borders, those among us who remained silent or chose inaction will answer for it on the Day of Judgment.

In this election cycle, vote for the greatest good (or against the greater harm). Allah has called on us to be His Supporters. In other words, support Him in the cause of what is right and against what is wrong. What benefit does an omnipotent, omniscient Being gain from our support? Nothing. Rather, it is for our own benefit.

(يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللَّـهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ ﴿٧﴾ (محمد

O Believers, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant your feet firmly.

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