Islam sees voting in elections, especially in a democractic system of government, as a trust and thus, it becomes important for eligible voters in the forthcoming general elections slated for February 16 and March 2, 2019 to ensure compliance with its entire requirements as set out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The vote, according to Shari’iah, must not be wasted, because that is regarded as a betrayal and Allah (SWT) warns: “O you who have believed, do not betray Allah and the Messenger or betray your trusts while you know (the consequence). “ (8:27)
The trust requires that a voter selects a trusted and just candidate seeking for political office, who abides by the limits set by Allah (SWT), and is able to competently manage the post he is to be voted for. Allah says: “Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.” (28: 26)
That is why the idea of vote buying and selling is totally discouraged in Islam and by the Nigerian Electoral Act 2010, Article 13, which stipulates specific amounts of money as fine or jail terms for offenders, both the buyers and sellers. However, in Nigeria, nobody has been jailed or fined despite evidences of this practice among the politicians and electorate in the previous elections. But, arrests have been made and the electoral commission has vowed to continue campaigning against vote buying and inducement of voters.
A former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Lai Olurode, said that what vote buying means, in essence, is mortgaging of interest, i.e instead of giving preference to merit, you are being asked to swap your vote for monetary or material gains, and for something that might be tangible but insignificant.
Prof Olurode, who is the current Chairman, University of Lagos Muslim Community, in a chat with Muslim News, described vote buying as haraam (unlawful) in Islam. He said, for the eligible Nigerian Muslims who are participating in different phases of the electoral process, vote buying is strongly forbidden and it is unlawful according to the Nigerian Electoral Act.
The Nigerian Electoral Act 2010, Article 13 reads thus: “A person who – (a) corruptly by himself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or (b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the periods stated in paragraph (a) of this section.”
Prof Olurode stressed that it doesn’t speak well for a Muslim who preaches against corruption, who knows what is haraam, who knows that Allah detests such behaviour, to now partake in vote buying, by whatever means, directly or indirectly.
“It is something that is unholy. It is like colluding to sell the society and make sure that the future of Nigeria is permanently for the highest bidder”, he said.
Buying of votes could be classified as a form of bribery in which both the giver and taker incur the wrath of Allah. Bribery is to give money or things in order to nullify a right or to realise a falsehood.
It includes everything a person spends, such as money, benefit or service to others in order to achieve his interest, and this is the reality of buying and selling of votes.
Buying and selling of votes or the conscience, and voting for he who pays the highest amount, are all classified as betrayal of trust.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour.” It was asked, “How will honesty be lost, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “When authority is given to those who do not deserve it, then wait for the Hour.” (Bukhari)
It is therefore not decent for a voter to cast his vote in such a way. It is equally not right for a candidate to gather votes in this manner. It is abhorrent for a community to be established on the basis of purchase of conscience and tribalistic tendencies, instead of competence.
What is expected of those who see money as everything and sell their votes or buy those of others? What then would be expected from such a person if he becomes the winner? Logically, he would try to recover all he had spent through abuse of office.
Using one’s position for personal interests is forbidden religiously and is a crime punishable by law. Voting is a witness which one will be asked about before Allah. Allah says: “Their testimony will be recorded, and they will be questioned.” (Qur’an 43: 19)
Whoever casts his vote in exchange for money or other things without selecting the ideal and appropriate person in accordance with the standards of Islamic Law has made a false testimony, because he would have testified for a man’s capability to lead over the Muslims where he does not deserve it.
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