Is voting Shirk?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

Answer: Voting is not Shirk unless you believe anyone either than Allah (Most High) has the right to dictate law. When Muslims vote in Kufr systems, they do not believe that people have the same authority as Allah (Most High). Rather they vote for the best or least harmful option available.

وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

And those who do not rule by that which Allah has revealed, they are the disbelievers. (Surah al-Maidah, 44).

The verse above makes it clear that ruling by other than that which Allah (Most High) has revealed is Kufr (unbelief). This has led many Muslims to ask the question, is voting Shirk? Because they are usually voting for a politician or party that will not rule by the law of Allah (Most High).

Even in the rare cases where they can vote for a party that intends to apply the law of Allah (Most High), they will still operate under a non-Islamic system to achieve their goals. So, is voting Shirk, even if you are voting or such a party?

When the law of Allah (Most High) is an option, then no Muslim is permitted to select other than it. However, when that is not an option Muslims should select that which is best for them in terms of religion. There are many examples of this found in the Quran and Sunnah. Namely, situations in which the legal and political systems were not Islamic, yet people of great piety engaged with them.

The blessed Prophet Yusuf
قَالَ اجْعَلْنِي عَلَى خَزَائِنِ الْأَرْضِ إِنِّي حَفِيظٌ عَلِيمٌ

He said, ‘Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I am a knowledgeable guardian.’ (Surah Yusuf, 55).

The great Prophet of Allah (Most High) Yusuf (peace be upon him) not only engaged in politics that was run by Kufar but even requested a position in the system. In the verse above we find Sayidina Yusuf (peace be upon him) requesting authority over agricultural produce. Which would be akin to an agricultural minister in our time.

Therefore, the example of Sayidina Yusuf (peace be upon him) can be used to answer the question, is voting Shirk? The answer is no. If political engagement with a Kufr system were Shirk (polytheism), then a Prophet would never have done it.

وفيه دليل على جواز طلب التولية وإظهار أنه مستعد لها والتولي من يد الكافر إذا علم أنه لا سبيل إلى إقامة الحق وسياسة الخلق إلا بالاستظهار به. (تفسير البيضاوي)

It contains evidence that it is permissible to ask for guardianship and show that one is equipped for it. And to take a position of authority from a disbeliever (Kafir) if he knows that there is no way to establish the truth and govern people correctly except by seeking it in that manner. (Imam Nasir al-Deen al-Baydawi, 685H).

In the Nass (text) above, Imam al-Baydawi explains that the king was a Kafir. Yet Sayidina Yusuf (peace be upon him) sought a political position from him. He further explains that this was done since there was no other means to establish truth and justice.

Imam al-Baydawi is an authoritative, classical scholar of Tafseer (Quranic exegesis). His explanation is not influenced by modernists or liberals. Rather he is presenting a traditional explanation of the actions of the blessed Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him).

The Najashi
عَنْ جَابِرٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ، قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حِينَ مَاتَ النَّجَاشِيُّ: مَاتَ اليَوْمَ رَجُلٌ صَالِحٌ، فَقُومُوا فَصَلُّوا عَلَى أَخِيكُمْ أَصْحَمَةَ

Jabir (May Allah Most High be pleased with him) narrated that when al-Najashi died the Prophet ﷺ said: A righteous man died today, so arise and pray for your brother Ashamah (al-Najashi). (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3877).


لِأَنَّهُمْ كُفَّارٌ إِلَّا النَّجَاشِيِّ وَكَانَ يَسْتَخْفِي بِإِسْلَامِهِ عَنْ قومه. (المنهاج شرح صحيح مسلم بن الحجاج)

They (the Abyssinians) were disbelievers, except al-Najashi. He used to hide his Islam from his people. (Imam al-Nawawi 676H, Sharh Sahih Muslim).


النجاشي رجل مسلم قد آمن برسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وصدقه على نبوته إلا أنه كان يكتم إيمانه. (معالم السنن)

Al-Najashi was a Muslim man. Indeed, he believed in the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and affirmed his prophethood. But he used to conceal his faith. (Imam al-Khattabi 388H, Ma’alim al-Sunnan).

The Najashi was the king of Abyssinia. He became Muslim but was compelled the hide his Islam. Yet, he continued in his position as king. Meaning he was the political authority in the kingdom. Evidently the political system in place was not Islamic. Since, his changing the political system to Islam would have contradicted his effort to conceal his Islam. Despite this, the blessed Prophet ﷺ praised him.

The actions of al-Najashi serve as a clear example of political engagement in a non-Islamic system. Thus, his actions should be considered when answering the question, is voting Shirk? If it were Shirk to engage with a non-Islamic political system then the Prophet ﷺ would not have praised al-Najashi. Rather the Prophet would have warned people against his actions.

The blessed Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

The prevalent argument against voting is that by engaging in a Kufr political system you are accepting it. Therefore, you are accepting that other than Allah (Most High) has a right to establish law. This position seems to oppose the actions of Sayidina Yusuf and al-Najashi, as seen above.

We also find that this argument opposes the direct actions of our blessed Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Prophet actively sought out political protection from tribal leaders and encouraged the Sahabah to do the same. This type of protection was not revealed by Allah (Most High) rather it was a tribal convention. Yet the Prophet ﷺ engaged with it.


To claim that voting is Shirk has colossal repercussions. Since Shirk is the worst of crimes in Islam. It goes way beyond something being Haram. Therefore, if a person’s answer to the question, is voting Shirk, is yes. And the reason for it is engaging with a law other than the law of Allah (Most High), then how can it be permitted to reside in such a land? Because residing there will require you to engage with the Kufr system and abide by the laws.

If it is Shirk to engage with a system that is Kufr then is it Shirk to call the police if you are in danger or oppressed? Is it Shirk to take someone to court if they wrong you? Can you defend yourself in court if you are wrongfully accused. Since, in all cases you are engaging in a Kufr system. If that is Shirk then very strict rulings will be applied to it.

If voting is Shirk because the system is not Islamic and hence not ruling by the laws of Allah (Most High), then would it be prohibited for Muslims to vote for leaders like Erdogan in Turkey? If the Muslims were to refrain from voting and allow the secularist to come to power, would that be the more correct thing to do religiously.

If it is Shirk to engage with such political systems, then would it be prohibited to sign a petition calling for a law against insulting our beloved Prophet ﷺ? Or burning the Holy Quran? Since, that petition will go to the political authority.

It is evident that a person who believes that voting and political involvement with such systems is Shirk, cannot live in a country that does not rule by Islamic law. Be that a Muslim majority country or otherwise. So people who hold such a view should raise these concerns too, for the sake of consistency.

Reducing harm

In our legal tradition we do find rulings (Masail) that support the concept of engaging with something that is fundamentally contrary to Islam. However, it must be done in an effort to minimise harm and oppression.

وَقَدَّمْنَا عَنْ الْبَزْدَوِيِّ أَنَّ الْقَائِمَ بِتَوْزِيعِ هَذِهِ النَّوَائِبِ السُّلْطَانِيَّةِ وَالْجِبَايَاتِ بِالْعَدْلِ بَيْنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مَأْجُورٌ وَإِنْ كَانَ أَصْلُهُ ظُلْمًا. (فتح القدير)

We narrated from al-Bazdawi that the one who distributes these taxes and rates fairly among the Muslims will be rewarded. Despite them being fundamentally oppressive. (Imam Ibn Humam 861H, Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidayah).


وَيُؤَجِّرُ مَنْ قَامَ بِتَوْزِيعِهَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَإِنْ كَانَ الْأَخْذُ بَاطِلًا
لِأَنَّ لَوْ تَرَكَ تَوْزِيعَهَا إلَى الظَّالِمِ رُبَّمَا يَحْمِلُ بَعْضُهُمْ مَا لَا يُطِيقُ فَيَصِيرُ ظُلْمًا عَلَى ظُلْمٍ فَفِي قِيَامِ الْعَارِفِ بِتَوْزِيعِهَا بِالْعَدْلِ تَقْلِيلٌ لِلظُّلْمِ فَلِذَا يُؤَجَّرُ. (رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

Imam al-Haskafi: Whoever distributes them fairly will be rewarded. Even though taking them is falsehood.

Imam Ibn Abdeen: This is because if he leaves its distribution to the unjust, then some may carry what they cannot bear. Thus it becomes oppression upon oppression. Whereas a decerning person distributing it justly will reduce oppression. So he will be rewarded. (Radd al-Muhtar).

In the Nusoos (texts) above, we find major Imams of the Hanafi Madhab permitting one to work as a tax collector, if it can reduce the prevailing harm and oppression. Collecting taxes that have not been permitted in Shariah is a grave crime in Islam. Despite that fact, one can work in such a system if harm is minimised. A similar legal case can be made for voting in a non-Islamic system.


The Muslim believes that no one has the right to establish law other than Allah (Most High). However, that does not mean that a Muslim cannot work within a system that does not uphold this reality. If one is working to try to establish justice and piety to the best of their ability, then this is praiseworthy. But if one is involved in such a system with no religious objective then that is unacceptable.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (30.04.24)