Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray (from Tral, Pulwama) is presently working as Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies at Govt Degree College (Boys) Pulwama. He completed his Bachelors (Social Sciences) from Amar Singh College (2003-5), Masters (Islamic Studies) from University of Kashmir (KU) Srinagar (2006-08), PhD from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Aligarh, India (2009-14), and Post-Doctorate from Iqbal International Institute for Research & Dialogue (IRD), International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), Pakistan (Mar-Aug2014).
Dr Tauseef is a Writer/ Researcher, Reviewer, and Columnist, and has been active in the academia from 2010. He has published in numerous reputed academic journals and magazines (of Islamic Studies and Social/ Political Science), from over a dozen countries around the world, including China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, UK, & USA. He has also contributed many Book Chapters and Encyclopedia Entries; and has participated in many National & International Conferences in many parts of India, Pakistan (twice), and Turkey (thrice).
He has been a Weekly Columnist (in between 2012-2016) with Daily Kashmir Images; Kashmir Reader; & Pakistan Observer; & presently writes mostly for Kashmir Reader, The Muslim World League Journal (Saudi Arabia), & The Muslim World Book Review (UK).
He is on the Editorial Board (& is Member) of various Journals and Magazines, based in Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, and UK. His major areas of expertise and interest are: Islam and Democracy; Modern Islamic Political Thought; Islamic Modernist/ Reformist Thought in Contemporary South Asia; and Modern Trends & English Scholarship in Quranic Studies.
His two forthcoming books (presently in Press), are: ‘Towards Understanding Some Quranic Terms, Concepts, and Themes, & Trailblazers: Sir Sayyid, Iqbal, and Azad.
Dr Tauseef in an exclusive interview with Azad Hussain Aakhoon, a research scholar, talks about his experience, academic achievements and research in the field of ‘Islam and Democracy’.
Tell us about your family backround, your basic schooling and learning tradition.
I was born in November 1984, and raised up in a middle-class family of Hari Pari Gam, Tral, District Pulwama. My early education was at a near-by (Islamic) private school (Najmia Islamia Middle School, Panchpora Marhama, Bijbehara) and then high schooling at Public School English Medium Bijbehara, Anantnag (2000). I did my 11th & 12th (in Medical Stream) from Govt. Hr Sec School, Anantnag and Jawahar Nagar Srinagar, respectively (2001 & 2002). Honestly speaking, I could not do well in sciences (especially Chemistry), so I changed my stream and opted for BA (in Social Scieces: Hisotry, Political Science, & Islamic Studies) at Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and completed my BA in Spring 2006, and in the same year got selected for PG Islamic Studies, at University of Kashmir (KU).
Do familiar our readers about your higher education, contribution and awards.
After my PG from KU, I qualified UGC’s NET/ JRF, for which I appeared for the first and last time in Dec’2007 session, and completed my PG in May 2008. In mid-2008, I applied for PhD program at Department of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)—and from March’2009 started my journey in PhD. My Dissertation/ Thesis was on “Islam and Democracy: A Study of the Views of Contemporary Scholars of India and Pakistan”. I submitted my thesis in 2013, and in January 2014, I was selected as “Iqbal Fellow” (Mar-Aug, 2014) by ‘Iqbal International Institute for Research & Dialogue’ (IRD), International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), Pakistan, where I carried research on “Democracy in Pakistan: Problems and Prospects”: which was a practical aspect of my PhD Dissertation. It was during PhD & PostDoc years (2009-2014) that I wrote and published most of my Research Papers, Reviews, Articles, etc. (or emeged as a a Writer, Researcher, and Columnist). I received JRF & SRF fellowships from UGC (New Delhi); and the Postdoc Fellowship from IRD, IIIUI. It has been my honor to have served as the first, and so far the only, Kashmiri (& ‘Indian Citizen’) to have served as ‘Iqbal Fellow’.
You opted Islamic Studies in Masters and in research Islam and Democracy: A study of views of contemporary scholars of India and Pakistan, as discourse. What was the driving force behind selecting such theme?
I opted for Islamic Studies at PG level because, as I mentioned above, I had studied this subject at BA level already. In my Master’s, I studied a course on ‘Islamic Social Sciences’ & it was here that I came to know about the terms Democracy & Shura—and the debates/ relationship between the two. Then I read a book edited by John L. Esposito “Voices of Resurgent Islam” (1983) wherein I found some discussions on Islam and Democracy in its various chapters. It was here that I got some clues, hints and indcations for exploring this topic. But it was my Teacher, Prof Abdur Rashid Bhat (who is presently HoD of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir) who suggested me this topic for my PhD and it was approved by Board of Studies at AMU. From here started the beginning of my academic career as a writer and researcher in this specialized field—and presently my 60% published work, whether in the form of research papers, or reviews or articles, as well as in the form of presentations in numerous national and international conferences consists of diffeerent aspects of this discourse.
Finally you got selected as Assistant professor in higher education, how did you see this journey from being a researcher to the Assistant professor.
Pursuing higher studies (post-PG to PhD or more) has a main aim for us all: either to be a faculty member at University or College level (or least to serve as lecturer). But at University level, our subject has a limited scope/ oppurtunities (for it is taught at a few universities only throughout the country), so the only option was to be an AP at College Level. Above all, it is by Allah’s Will and as per His Plan that I am an AP. This whole journey, in simple words, was full of ‘vicissitudes’; and was no less than ‘adventurous’—that is how can I describe this journrey briefly here.
You hold doctorate on the theme “Islam and Democracy”, how would you justify the theme emerging and relevant?
Having a brief/ passing look on the works discussing this the theme “Islam and Democracy”, one comes to know that it is a recent phenomenon. Though one can find its traces back in the debates revolving around ‘Islam & Modernity’. But it was discussed more vigorously only from 1980s/90s, got more fervour in post-9/11 era (when Islam was discussed & interpreted more as a ‘violent’ religion with a least cocern for equality, justice, pluralism, democratic vlaues, etc.), and more recently due to 2010-11 Arab uprisings, commoly known as ‘Arab Spring’ (which were mostly seen as bringing democrtaic storm in the Middle East). So in that way it is a recent debate and thus (is still) relevant and significant. Also, much of the scholarship on this theme/ issue comes from the West, and with a focus either on ‘Middle East’ or on some selected Muslim countries, like Malaysia, Indonesia (Southeast Asia), Bangladesh, Pakistan (SouthAsia), Turkey, etc.
In my thesis, I focused mostly on the modern thinkers of India and Pakistan from Abul Kalam Azad, Allama (Muhammad) Iqbal, to present day intellectuals like Prof. Khurshid Ahmad and Asghar Ali Engineer. This is the topic about which neither any collective work was produced nor was there any effort to highlight the contribution of these thinkers to this debate on theoretical grounds. So keeping in view such dimensions, and many other such inter-related aspects, it is fair to say/ claim that “Islam and Democracy” discourse is relevant.
This theme has been discussed by various scholars from diverse perspectives, however the theme is yet to embracing, why?
Yes, True. I fully agree with your question. There are indeed different perspectives/ reactions, both to ‘democracy (& its place) in Islam’ and ‘democratization process in the Muslim world’. At one level, this discourse is braadly debated by two major poles: Compatibility and Incompatibility. At other level, which is more commonly accepted/ highlighted, there are presently three (3) major broad positions on this discourse:
(i) ‘Ultraconservatives’ and ‘Extremists’ argue that Islam has its own mechanisms and institutions, which do not include democracy.
(ii) ‘Secularists’ believe that democracy can fully be realized only if Muslim societies restrict and confine religion to private life.
(iii) ‘Reformists/ Modernists’ (including some ‘moderate Islamists’ as well) affirm that Islam is fully capable of accommodating and supporting democracy.
This third group is the most active and has a majority supporters among Muslims, globally. Engaging in a process of reform, this (third group) argues the compatibility of Islam and democracy by using the traditional Islamic concepts like Shura (mutual consultation) between ruler and ruled, Ijma (community consensus), and Ijtihad (personal reasoning or the use of human reason to reinterpnret Islamic principles and values and to meet the new needs of society) and Maslaha (public interest/ welfare), and other such ideas and ideals—having roots in the primary sources of Islam. But what is true is that all these three groups are, in their own ways, contributing and discussing this disocurse. Also, as most of Arab countries remain undemoctaric, and as there has emrged yet the ‘practical’ form of ‘Islamic democracy’ theory, so that is why one finds the theme still “yet to embracing”.
Tell us about the best literary works written on the Islam and Democracy.
A list of such works, which I have either read or are known to me, and discussing this theme both in theoretical and empirical levels, are here: Ghassan Salame (Ed.), Democracy Without Democrats (1994); John L. Esposito and John O. Voll, Islam and Democracy (1996); Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, and Daniel Brumberg (Eds.), Islam and Democracy in the Middle East (2003); Mishal Fahm Al-Sulami. The West and Islam: Western Liberal Democracy versus the System of Shura (2003); Larbi Sadeki, The Search for Arab Democracy (2004); Khaled Abou El Fadl, Islam and the Challenge of Democracy (2004); M. A. Muqtedar Khan (Ed.) Islamic Democratic Discourse: Theory, Debates and Philosophical Perspectives (2006); Sayed Khatabb and Gary D. Bouma. Democracy in Islam (2007); Zoya Hasan (Ed.), Democracy in Muslim Societies: The Asian Experience (2007); Asef Bayat, Islam and Democracy: What is the real Question? (2007); Shiping Hua (ed.), Islam and Democratization in Asia (2009); Nader Hashemi, Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies (2009), John L. Esposito, John O. Voll and Tamara Sonn, Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring (2016). And the list goes on. These books discuss broadly the theme of ‘Islam, Democracy, Muslim World, Democratization’—both at theoretical as well as empirical levels.
From the Muslim perspective within the global context, how can this discourse be balanced and utilized in a best way?
Most of the present day intellectuals of varied orientations (ideological orientation and intellectual bents: from Islamists to Secularists) believe that democracy is, among the existing political systems, the best form of govt., though it has own flaws, faults, and failures. Many of the Muslim countries have adopted democratic system of govt. (of various types, as there is neither any universally accepted ‘definition’ of democracy nor any ‘uniform’ form/ model of it) along with ‘Islamic principles’: be it Pakistan or Bangladesh, Turkey or Tunisia, Malaysia or Indonesia, etc. So, keeping in view both these aspects—the theoretical discussions on Islam-democracy compatibility as well as the democratic systems adopted by some Musim countries—I justify, rationalize, and substatiate the proposed question.
Is there any scope for furthur research on the discourse as lot of things have been written on it?
Yes there is (much) scope of further research on this topic especially highlighting the contribution of present day scholars vis-à-vis the contemporary trends faced by Muslims globally. And keeping in view the global debate and focus on concepts/ values like liberation, equality, freedom, pluralism, democratic values, etc this discousre has significance. Also, this disocurse, at large, is discussed more on theoretical grounds and there is scope for finding out an amicable way for its practicality—or in other words, it is now time to turn this political theory of ‘Islamic dmeocracy’ into a poltical program; ideals into reality. Additionally, taking into consideration the pre and post ‘Arab Spring’ era (& especially its results), the debate has now received more attention of academicians, scholars and intellectuals, political analysts and activists, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Thus, new dimensions and aspects need to be explored—in the debates and discussions revolving around the Islam-democracy relationship, whether in the MENA, South Asia, or Southeast Asia.
Recognizing the discourse, what is the practical efficacy of such concept in the modern Muslim world?
It is a known fact—and most of the Muslism scholars and polical thikers-activists also believe/ accept it (e.g., be it Rachid Ghanouchi of Tunisia or Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Egypt/ Qatar, etc.)—that among the existing political systems, democracy is the best form of govt. (though not without flaws or defects). Many of the Muslim countries, like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Tunisia, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. have adopted democratic system of govt. along with ‘Islamic principles’. Also, it is well known that the Islam (and its Sacred Text or Prophetic Traditions: Qur’an & Ahadith)—does not prescribe any specific form of govt. but only provide priciples/ guidelines to its followers for establishing a political system. It is an agreed fact. The major concepts/ elements, which are deemed critical to the Islamic identity of any form of government include, for example, Khilafah, Shura, Ijma, Ijtihad, uli’l–amr, Bayah, etc. And most of these concepts are (re)interpreted, in the modern times, as synoymous, in spirit, with democratic procedures, especially bayah and Shura, which are seen as synonymous with Ballots (Elections) and Democracy, respectively.
What is the future prospects of discourse on Islam and Democracy?
The above answers to the questions (Q’s 5-10) give a clear glimpse of the nature, scope, and its future prospects. However, as practically an ‘Islamic democracy’ has yet to emerge and is still a ‘challenge’ faced especially by ‘Muslim political scientists’, therefore, there is scope for this discourse. Also, as the focus of Islam-Democrcay discourse has been mostly on MENA, which is still ‘undemocratic’, but has gone through a great ‘transformation’ from the ‘Arab Spring’, so there is much scope on this front as well, for exploring the (future) prospects of this discourse.
I would like to add here that it will be my pleasure to help, assist, and guide any researcher who will be interesting in exploring any aspect of Islam-democracy discourse.
Dr Tauseef, Thank You for your valuable time!