Avoiding Political Apathy Through Sincere Leadership
As a science, politics is generally understood as the art of power struggle. Harold Lasswell, the American political scientist, explains that politics is actually about the government of the day determining and taking actions on who gets what, when and how in a society. From this viewpoint, the essence of politics centres upon the elements of power and its commanding nature in decision-makings that will definitely affect the lives of people in general. Unfortunately, as power is often argued to be intoxicating, the strife for it will constantly become the main agenda of some individuals and organizations to the extent that any measure to retain or secure it becomes the main objective, side lining other matters of importance vis-à-vis the people.
When power becomes the sole focus, leaders might lose the plot on the notion of politics as the mechanism to advance the welfare of the people. This has actually bring about a sense of political apathy among members of the society as they are constantly thrown into the ring of political fights and competitions for positions and power by individuals or organizations. This is actually detrimental to democracy as political apathy results to low voter turnouts in elections, lack of interest in national agendas and also adoption of unconcerned attitude in anything deem political. To avoid political apathy among the general public, people need to be convinced that they have importance in the political process therefore requiring them to participate actively in the process. Their welfare must remain a top priority for leaders who seek their support for political legitimacy. Ultimately, political leaders need to be sincere in their quest for power and leadership positions.
Unlike the secular understanding on the western notion of politics where it must be separated from religion, in Islam, politics lies within the domain of the religion. This understanding actually represents the exact feature of the religion as a way of life which includes all areas of human interactions including their interaction with Allah the Almighty and also with other fellow human beings. The framework of maqasid al-shari’ah (the higher objectives of the shari’ah) is the best guidance for leaders to exercise their power and positions in any decision-making process and formulating policies that will promote and safeguard the welfare of the people. Muslim scholars have largely agreed that the broad objectives or the higher intents of Shari’ah are to uphold the overall welfare of mankind and prevention of harm and evil. Allah the Almighty says in the holy Quran:
[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters. (Al-Hajj 22: 41)
Politics in Islam must also meet the objectives or the intentions of the Shar’iah which includes the preservation of the religion, life, mind, offspring and property. Muhammad Allal Al-Fassi, the Morrocan scholar and nationalist (d.1974), explains that:
The general higher objective of Islamic Law is to populate and civilize the earth and preserve the order of peaceful coexistence therein; to ensure the earth ongoing well-being and usefulness through the piety of those who have been placed there as God’s vicegerents; to ensure that people conduct themselves justly, with moral probity and with integrity in thought and action, and that they reform that which needs reform on earth, tap its resources, and plan for the good of all.
As such, it can be understood that only when mankind sincerely understand their actual roles and responsibilities in this world, would they then realise what is hoped from them.
Leaders need to be aware of political apathy that might already exist among members of the society. This can happen especially to those who feel that they have been unfairly marginalized or become casualties in political competitions created by leaders who are not sincere to their cause. There should also be a pause on race for political power and positions as prolong adversarial approach between political parties will cause the country to lose sight of what is actually important for the nation and its people.
Therefore, since politics is about power, then those entrusted with that power need to have clear conscience on how the power should be utilised, for whose benefits and what is hoped from them. Leaders who are truly sincere to the cause of the people would understand that even if they lose in a political race, they will remain steadfast to elevate and preserve the welfare of the people and exercise the much needed check and balance mechanism to the power won by their rivals.