Al-Qaradawi, the March 19th Referendum and the Ethics of Voting

Mar 17

Marc Lynch, a/k/a “Abu Ardvark,” reported today via his twitter feed that al-Qaradawi stated that each Egyptian citizen must choose for himself whether to vote yes or no, implicitly rejecting the position of some who have claimed that it is a religious obligation to vote yes.  I was happy to hear this because it is consistent with Qaradawi’s previous teachings on voting, which he classifies as a special kind of shahada, namely, testimony pertaining to the public interest.  A witness has a legal duty to tell the truth in a court case, not provide testimony that will further his or her own interest.  So too, according to Qaradawi, a Muslim voter, when voting, is being asked for his considered opinion on what constitutes the public good, and the voter is therefore under a religious duty to provide that considered opinion honestly and in good faith.  Because what constitutes the actual public interest is something that can only be known prospectively, a voter’s decision can only be based on judgment, ijtihad, under conditions of uncertainty, and accordingly, all that is required is a good-faith belief on the part of the voter that his decision is the correct one.  Note, however, that what this view of voting prohibits is self-interested voting, i.e., voting based on how it will benefit the voter as an individual rather than as a member of the citizenry.  In this respect, Qaradawi’s model of voting is similar to civic republicanism and rejects voting as a self-interested enterprise whose purpose is to maximize individual welfare.  For those with more of an interest on his theory of the ethics of voting, I believe he has a discussion of this in his book “Fiqh al-Dawla fi al-Shari’a al-Islamiyya,” published by Dar al-Shuruq.

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