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Islam and Libertarianism are a Good Fit


by Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.

Libertarian Candidate for US Senate, Maryland

When the Maryland libertarian party asked me to be its candidate for the United States Senate in the 2012 election, I asked them are you sure you want a Muslim to represent you? Their response was that they were glad to have a Muslim articulating their positions because for too long the neoconservatives have falsely projected a conflict in civilization values between America’s commitment to liberty and the teachings of Islam. Since I have devoted much of my life to fighting stereotypes about libertarians (that they are somehow libertines) and about Islam (that it is some medieval form of fascism), I realized that undertaking this educational campaign was my duty as a Muslim.

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I have been pleased both by the warm support I have received from members of the Muslim community and from the open-mindedness with which I have been received by most non-Muslims. I am writing this blog for in order to clarify some specifics about the harmony between libertarian politics and Islam, especially in the matter of foreign policy.

Of course, Islam is about much more than politics. It is a complete way of life. However, ethics is the basis upon which politics is built. The most fundamental ethical principle with political implications in the Qurʾān is the mandate, “Let there be no coercion in religion” (2:225). This oft-quoted dictum is sometimes oversimplified as meaning only that no one should be forced to convert to Islam. That is certainly one corollary of the basic principle. However, when one realizes that the word here translated as religion (dîn) actually refers to the Islamic way of life, one understands that it has much broader implications, forbidding aggression in any aspect of Muslim life.

In this respect, the Qurʾānic verse is an endorsement of the fundamental principle of libertarianism, the Nonaggression Principle. This principle is articulated in the Maryland Libertarian Party Constitution (of which I am co-author): “No person or group has the right to initiate force or fraud against any other person or group to seek to attain their values.” This common sense principle is accepted by everyone in their daily lives, except for murderers, thieves, and con artists. The problem is that too many people are willing to make an exception to this rule when it comes to the state. The divine law, or (for some) natural law, applies to the state, not just individuals. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I know of but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.” In other words a war of aggression is murder (on a massive scale, no less) even though it is conducted by a state; unjust taxes are theft even though collected by the state; and the Federal Reserve Board is engaged in fraud when it prints currency backed by no commodity of value, even though it was chartered by the state to perpetrate the counterfeiting.

The implications of this principle on government policy tend to be what Americans generally consider to be “conservative” when applied to issues of economics and liberal when applied to issues of social policy. What I mean is that libertarians favor both economic freedom and civil liberties. In this respect we are associated more with the rhetoric of Republicans and the rhetoric of Democrats although, alḥamdulillāh, not with the actual actions of either.

Free markets are part and parcel of Islamic law, and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) condemned market intervention like price controls, protesting that he could not set one price when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had set another. Islamic law justifies intervention only to prevent the initiation of force (e.g. theft), fraud (e.g. deceptive weights or measures), and unfair advantage (e.g. riba). Although the Islamic way of life is, in many respects, socially conservative, that conservatism is not forcibly imposed on others. For example, the prohibition on wine is not imposed on Christians (who use it in their religious ceremonies) or on Jews.

In the area of foreign-policy Libertarians are distinct from the words and actions of both Republicans and Democrats. It is only the Libertarians who completely oppose any undeclared wars whatsoever. It is only the Libertarians who are demanding the repeal of the Patriot Act and the repeal of the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act. It is only the Libertarians who call for the end of all foreign aid, including aid to Israel. The libertarian foreign-policy is one of strict non-interventionism. This should not be confused with isolationism. Libertarians do not want to cut themselves off from the world, but rather desire peaceful and friendly relations with all. We are for free trade with everyone. We don’t just want other countries to buy our grain, we want Americans to be able to buy textiles from Bangladesh, pistachios from Iran, as well as oil from the Middle East.

Libertarians completely reject the imperialist aspirations of the neo-conservatives. The Nonaggression Principle rejects such concepts as “pre-emptive” and “preventive” war. If we are attacked we will fight back, but only against the aggressors, not against innocent civilians. In this respect, libertarian philosophy adheres to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) injunction to fight “those who fight against you, but do not aggress, for God loves not the aggressors” (2:190) because “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged…” (22:39).

In the upcoming elections Muslims in the state of Maryland will have the opportunity to vote for a full slate of Libertarian candidates for federal office with former Governor Gary Johnson running for US President at the top of the ticket and, yours truly, Dean Ahmad running for US Senate.

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  1. bart

    November 5, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Muslims are making a huge mistake by embracing this right-wing ideology.

  2. ken

    November 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Thanks for the article. Islamic libertarians around the world are driving the movement for democracy.

    For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ ….

  3. Abu Maryam

    November 5, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    libertarianism will result in the shariah not being applied, or atleast large aspects of it, such as the hududu for homosexuality, public drunkenness, etc as all these can be seen as interfering with the non aggression principles

    • deanahmad

      November 13, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      What you call shariah is actually fiqh. In some cases fiqh has departed from the shariah. In any case, libertarianism respects the right of contract, and there is no objection to Muslims being bound to Muslim law. There is an objection to on-Muslims being bound to Muslim law, but that objection is in the Qur’an. “Lakum dinakum, wa liyya din.”: Din, I remind you, means “way of life.”

  4. MWW_m

    November 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Not convinced. At all. I’d be more likely to vote Republican than Libertarian.

  5. Pingback: The Da’awa Never Stops…. — Winds Of Jihad By SheikYerMami

  6. Sameer

    November 6, 2012 at 4:46 AM

    Just curious as to whether you even knew about or bothered to make a protest to the national leadership of your party on this:

    Should Muslims also join the Tea Party as well? Rather odd considering this is what one of their self-proclaimed organizers said:

    • deanahmad

      November 13, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Rand Paul is not now and never has been a member of the Libertarian Party. Why should the Libertarian Party be blamed for his mistakes? As for the Teaparty, it is not even a political party let alone the Libertarian Party.

  7. Nahraf

    November 6, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    So, I just got back from voting. I was a socialist-type in college, then studied Economics and turned far right-libertarian, then moderated and turned into a moderate Libertarian.

    And even though I do believe this to be the case, I would never say “Islam has essentially libertarian”. Why? Because I’m not a scholar in this area.

    For the record, not that it makes any difference, I voted Libertarian for the Presidency, Democratic for the Senate/Reps, and Republican on the Amendment changes + Bonds.

  8. Anonymous Economist

    November 6, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    ridiculous – libertarians want a completely free, capitalistic economy which means that corporations are free to discriminate as they choose and are not subject to any regulations – imagine a world like that – OH WAIT – financial crisis of 2008 anyone? i can’t believe MuslimMatters endorses this guy and libertarian ideology – research the facts!

    • deanahmad

      November 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      I am not surprised that this “economist:” wishes to remain anonymous. S/he doesn’t know that the economic crisis of 2008 and was caused by reckless government monetary expansion, channeling of the artificial credit into the housing industry to create an unsustainable bubble, and the moral hazard of saving the culprits from the consequences of their actions by bailing them out. The economic interventionists destroy the prosperity of the nation and then have gall to blame those who opposed their intervention for the catastrophe. Yes. Research the facts, PLEASE, and then go and read Ibn Khaldun’s brilliant “Introduction to History.”

    • Bob Williams

      May 27, 2013 at 10:17 PM

      Even the most critical views in this commentary neglect to consider the corporation’s birth as a creature of the State. Instead, they view corporations as a separate entity from the State and even with a propensity to ‘devour’ the State. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall pointed out in a 1976 dissenting opinion that the State need not be devoured by its own creation. One method always available to the State has been martial law. During both World Wars, corporations came under the temporary command of its parent – the State. Corporations, large and small, are extensions of the state and are as bureaucratic and inefficient as their parent, to whom they often rely upon for help from competition in the market in the form of protective tariffs, regulations,and sometimes bail-outs. Remember – in a free market there are no corporations; corporations are creatures of the State.

  9. antsinyourpants

    November 6, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    right, so you’d have us believe that they were ‘too big to fail’ bail baloney.sounding like much of the something really status quo jive. the same status quo that continues to perpetuate war on multiple fronts and adding trillions of dollars to national debt, oh but as long as their is a democrat at the helm of a sinking ship, we”ll all continue to float?! bogus sir.

    • deanahmad

      November 13, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      As I said in my “candidate’s spotlight appearance on Montgomery County TV”:

      Our great nation is facing a serious crisis, yet the incumbent parties prefer to spend their time in office pointing fingers of blame at one another to seriously addressing the problems. The budget deficit spirals out of control and the nation debt mounts. The solvency of Social security, Medicare and Medicaid arte gravely threatened.
      Because I am beholden to no special interests, I can tell you the truth about these issues. The budget will never be balanced as long as we continue to spend trillions of dollars on undeclared wars like the one Afghanistan, an adventure that continues to drain American wealth and lives long after Osama bin Ladin has been killed. And how many trillions have been spent and thousands incarcerated in the insane war on drugs that has turned a spiritual and medical problem in to a criminal problem, as if we learned nothing from the tragedy of the era of alcohol prohibition. If we blunder into a war with Iran we will insure our bankruptcy, even as we unleash a disastrous region war that could turn int8i a world war.
      While spend ourselves into bankruptcy , our civil liberties are sacrificed an arrogant attempt to turn our great republic into yet a new Roman empire. Laws are passed for the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without charge and without judicial review. All in the name of national security, but what is it we are trying to secure if in the process we adopt the morality of our enemy?
      We are bleeding money into economic stimulus that stimulates nothing good. Banks sit on piles of handouts, reserving a share for bonuses to their wealthy managers who managed them to the edge of bankruptcy, while homeowners continue to face foreclosures four years after the mortgage crisis that government stimulated and the bankers exploited. As the government boats that GM is still alive, how many small businesses are dead or dying because economic resources have been taken away from them to support mismanaged firms deemed “too big to fail.”
      My fellow citizens, do not waste your vote on candidates who are not committed to the policies you know are necessary to restore American freedom and prosperity. Make your vote count by voting for me, Dean Ahmad, the libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland.

  10. Just a thought

    November 8, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    I don’t imagine you expect the democrats or the republicans to do better?

    I would like to mention some of the basics of libertarianism not mentioned by the good professor;

    1. People are “egoistic, coldly calculating, essentially inert and atomistic”

    2. The only motivation for labour was either the possibility of great reward or fear of hunger…i.e. no social programs. Poor People are poor because they’re lazy. The wealthy are rich due only to their ambition

    3. Rights are of a negative nature.

    4. Free market economics with no re-distributive measures.

    The list goes on and on…

    *disclaimer: there are many forms of libertarianism

    @antsinyourpants – I dont think @Anonymous Economist is bolstering a push for the status quo. Just pointing out well known tenants of libertarianism.

    • deanahmad

      November 13, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      These are stereotypes and oversimplifications of libertarian thought, of no more merit than the stereotypes and oversimplifications of Islamic thought we have had to suffer. That some individuals agree with some of these statements is no more of an indictment of Libertarianism than the fact that some Muslims call for the cold-blooded murder of 14 year girls for defending their Islamic right to an education.

    • Bob Williams

      May 27, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      Adam Smith was quite critical of corporations in his advocacy for a cooperative spontaneous order. And throughout the 19th century libertarians saw themselves as ‘socialists’, including individualists such at Benjamin Tucker and his British counterparts such as Albert Tarn. ‘Just a Thought’ describes something more Randian or Stirnerite than anything recognisable as libertarianism. Of course, the Rockefeller Foundation took the lead at the dawn of the twentieth century to hijack libertarianism in order to provide rhetorical camouflage for corporatism. The result has been much confusion in economic and political discourse for a long time now.

  11. Ibrahim

    November 13, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Why are non-scholars allowed to go back and forth debating this concept whether or not libertarianism is compatible with Islam? Especially on this blog? Why are we even continuing with this discussion without the input of a real scholar?

    • Bob Williams

      May 27, 2013 at 10:23 PM

      Greetings in Peace! Dr. Imad-ad-Diyn Ahmad is a scholar and fellow at the Minaret of Freedom Institute. His PhD is genuine, making him a real member of the academy. Peace.

  12. Khalil

    November 19, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    How would you square libertarianism with the khilaafah (caliphate) of Abu Bakr (the Ridda wars)?

    A study of the Islamic state from hijrah to the year 40 after hijrah will reveal many violations of the nonaggression principle, free market principles, and civil liberties which are cherished by libertarians. And what was the battle of Tabook if not a pre-emptive strike?

    Filter libertarianism through Islam, not the other way around

  13. Ibrahim

    November 21, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    It’s rather suspicious that all opinions that seem to be critical of the author’s are getting a lot of dislikes. Surely, his opinion can’t be _that_ popular?

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      November 22, 2012 at 6:09 AM

      One person can’t dislike something twice. If there is some way this feature of the website is being abused please let us know and we will InshaAllah fix it.

      JazakAllahu Khairin
      Comments Team Lead

  14. emma

    March 24, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Shariah is the only way to go. Everything else will fail, sooner or later. That is just the way Allaah made it. So, Muslims please stop trying to find alternatives to Shariah or ideologies you think “fit” with it, but never will. Shariah was made to be applied by itself, alone, above all else. The deen is for Allaah alone. That’s it. End of story. Get over it already.

    • Shaheer Abdullah

      July 22, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      The shariah is a set of rules and regulations and muslims can have different ideologies pertaining to what kind of model they think should be built on that model. One set of principles; Many models.

  15. Faraz

    April 7, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    I am Muslim and a Libertarian…I fully supported Ron Paul (yes I know he is in the republican party)…however when he did not receive the nomination (yes, I knew he wouldn’t)…I could not in good conscience support the two evil parties in Washington…therefore I voted my heart and Gary Johnson received it.

    Muslims in the US think the democrats have something good to offer them….some of the wealthier muslims believe the republicans are out for their best interests…however Libertarians are the only ones that care about everyone’s rights.

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