Monday, June 17, 2024

Election race in the Gambia: Islamic views on electing leaders and the onus of leaders

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On Saturday, May 20th, the Gambia will go to the polls to elect, and decide whether to maintain the incumbent mayors, in BCC (Banjul City Council) and KMC (Kanifing Municipality Council) and Chairpersons in BAC (Brikama Area Council), Mansakonko and Basse or elect new representatives altogether.

Although many candidates are contesting in this forthcoming local government election. However, some candidates appear to be enjoying unique darling popularity from citizens due to their reputations, whilst others are pigeonholed for lack of credibility and competency to serve as representatives.

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The passage to this election has been interesting for all the political parties, to say the least. From heated and unruly debates, attacks on policies and even personal matters scrutinized with the lens of criticism just to scrutinize the competency of each political party and party flag bearer all amidst a global economic recession and political crisis; it is clear that citizens demand not more and not less from all the political parties and their flag bearers.

But the least of all those citizens expect from all the political parties or party of their choice is to have the most robust party manifesto and blueprint to address the following burning issues that all Gambians have been facing; employment for the youth and social services, innovation, recycling projects, health, security, above all the desperate voices of the electorates in their respective constituencies to be heard and addressed.

Yet, some citizens have decided to stay home on the D-day of the election based on their beliefs that their votes will not make any changes in the system or the politicians. As the proverb goes, “Empty barrels make the most noise.” Meaning that politicians make plenty and only empty promises, which they do not fulfil at the end of the day.

However, as far as an Islamic perspective is concerned, leadership is a sacred trust, which must be upheld with complete trustworthiness, integrity and honesty. In chapter 4 of the Holy Qur’an, God the Almighty says:

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‘Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing’. (Chapter 4, verse 59)

In another place in the Holy Qur’an God, the Almighty says:

‘O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do.’ (Chapter 5, verse 9)

From these verses of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty tells us that the responsibility of running the affairs of the state should be entrusted to such people who are entitled to it. It means that leadership belongs to those who take the development of the state to be their sole priority, and who rule with honesty and integrity.

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In addition, the Holy Qur’an commands us to not put candidates into public offices based on our tribal, regional, or family affiliations, which is hegemonic in some third-world countries, and for too long, this has been the main reason for standstill development in these parts of the world. People should be entrusted public offices after thorough and fair scrutiny of their party blueprint, manifesto, profile and reputation of the candidate.

His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), the fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, further beautifully explains this point:

“Nowadays members of the public vote for the party they support. They do not look at the person representing the party, whether they are deserving of the role or not. Neither is the voter acting with justice, nor is the person being given authority as a result of the votes acting justly” (An enlightening audience: Jamia UK graduates in the blessed company of Huzoor, Asif M. Basit,, 2nd November 2020″)

No leader has ever gratified this trust better than the Holy Prophet (saw). Even his bitter enemies who were day-to-day thirsty for his blood were compelled to attest to his high morals and integrity as a leader. Right before his claim to prophethood, the Holy Prophet (saw) was known as sadiq, the truthful, and amin, the trustworthy. His leadership inspired unwavering trust and his followers never questioned his intentions.

The Holy Prophet (saw) mentioned his model of leadership in his own words when he said,

“Your high morals will manifest themselves when you consider yourselves to be the servants of the nation and when you serve the general public with all your capabilities.” (Kanzul ‘Ammal, Vol 6,p. 710, Hadith 17517, published Beirut, 1885)

In connection to this, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) asks this humble question,

‘Where do we see such standards among leaders and those occupying official posts today? (Friday Sermon delivered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) on March 2, 2018)

The Holy Prophet (saw) declared leadership as a sacred trust and he says that,

“The leader of the nation is their servant.” (Kanzul ‘Ammal, Vol 6, p.304, Hadith 17513, published Beirut, 2004)

He (saw) never felt superiority nor did he ever feel preference over himself towards the people. It is recorded in a narration that, once when a companion noticed that one of the shoelaces of the Holy Prophet (saw) was broken, he took the shoe to mend it, however the Holy Prophet (saw) would take it back and he (saw) said,

‘This is preferential treatment, and I do not like any preference to be given to me.’ (Ibid)

Moreover, these high moral standards of leadership are opposed to what we see in most politicians today. They live a life of luxury whilst the people they claim to be serving wallow in poverty with their families and are not provided with even the most basic proper social amenities.

During all his life as a prophet of God and a head of state, his entire life was an epitome of service to the people that he ruled. It is through these services that he connected with the people and whenever any of his companions called him, he would reply.

‘I am at your service’ (Al-Wafa’bi Ahwalil Mustafa by Allama ibn Jauzi, p.421)

In the modern world, the most effective way of enacting or amending changes in governments is to participate in the democratic process of electing leaders in every election, at every level. Through this manner, true and meaningful change can be made. His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) drew the attention of every citizen to exercise this right. He stated,

‘The real way to affecting change requires a more astute way to pressure the authorities. For example, every member should be mobilized to use their civic and democratic rights, rather than staying at home on election day. They, in turn, should encourage other citizens that if they want to affect change then they should take part in the democratic process, at all levels, as this is the means to bring change and vote in people who will further their rights and causes.’ (Letter from Huzoor (aba) to Ameer USA, June 2020)

Citizens can only exercise the right to hold the elected official accountable when the masses actively vote and take part in a democracy. The fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) spoke about the need for every Ahmadi to participate in elections. He stated:

‘Again, a trust must be discharged in good faith. Therefore, every voter must participate fully in exercising his vote during the elections unless he is unable to do so. Otherwise, he will have failed in the discharge of his own trust.’

The responsibility to make a free and fair election is indispensable in order to main peace and order in the Gambia, which is part of a democratic requirement and Islam in fact supports this principle. Now, the power to make useful and wise change lies in the hands of every electorate.

Whatever decision every electorate is making, the effect of it will not be only visible on their lives but even on the lives of their future generations. Your vote is your power, in your hands, so make a choice wisely. Democracy means every citizenry to exercise his or her constitutional right to vote peacefully, without creating any violence. I hope and pray for a peaceful and meaningful election in Mother Gambia. Ameen!

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