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A Universal Path to Spiritual Democracy

It was the dream of Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s philosophical mind, the statesmanship of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, sufferings and displacements of 15 million innocent people and the bloodshed of over a million additional innocents that Pakistan was created in 1947. Pakistan’s birth as a new nation came about when the British colonialists, under the chaotic conditions of the Indian subcontinent at the time, liberated two new states: Pakistan and India. The independence of the subcontinent had occurred after about two 200 years of British rule in India and a previous about 700 year history of Muslim sultanates and dynasties having ruled India since the start of 13th century (although earlier Muslim conquests and inroads had occurred into present day Pakistan and Afghanistan during Rajput Hindu kingdoms since the 8th century) that laid the foundations of Pakistan’s origin and identity.

The true objective of founding fathers of Pakistan was to incorporate the fundamentals of moral and humanistic principles that were to be at the core of a new pluralistic nation’s ideals and ethos. Such ideals were to encompass and accomplish people’s life as individuals, their society and their culture as a whole. It was to begin both from their inner and outer commitments, evolving through modes of practice and culmination of a socio-politico-economic system to serve the commons and provide them absolute justice and equality at the doorsteps of every individual whether a believer or not but of an equal citizenship.

Iqbal and Quaid had envisioned Pakistan as a secular and welfare state based on universal humanistic values and virtues. They believed in evolving a progressive and unique democracy in conformity with modernity and spirituality. Spiritual Democracy is a moralistic reconstructive idea of democracy with its enduring placement back to where it belongs in the commons, as an ever-shining example in human welfare at work for the public, their culture and their socio-politico-economic architect. This ideal is bound to become a waive of the future necessitating for individuals and collectives around the world to accomplish ideal civic societies in parallel with spiritualizing democracies.

Pakistan’s Nemesis and overarching Concerns for Pakistan and beyond

Pakistan’s reality, soon after its creation in August 1947, unfortunately turned into the nemesis of what had been cultivated and envisioned by the founders. A lot had to do with very early start of animosity between Pakistan and its neighbor India over Kashmir dispute in October 1947, a leadership vacuum due to the sad and early demise of Quaid in September 1948 without timely replacement with proper leadership, there was lethargy in constitution making until 1956 and the delayed electoral process that began in 1971 rather than in 1951 when it was due. Pakistan also engaged in ongoing conflicts and four wars with India over the early decades and in 1971 war Pakistan lost half of its territory and 52% of its population becoming a separate nation named as Bangladesh.

Overarching concerns that still remain, following the poor leadership and poor governance of the past and all else that kept going wrong for Pakistan over the seven decades. Even during the period of global progressive democratic trends from the mid to the late 20th century, Pakistan failed to democratize due to the ubiquitous military that has been prohibitive to the consolidation of democracy as seen in Pakistan over the seven decades. Thus far in the early 21st century even if established democracies in the world including the west have been stalling, in Pakistan military’s direct control did not end until 2008 when the last Military dictator resigned due to the fear of indictment.

During the last decade, there have been ongoing civilian intra-political party tensions in Pakistan including dharnas. In July 2018 general elections, a newer and third political party PTI (Pakistan–Tehrike-Insaf) won the national elections for the first time. There is a ray of new hope that this political party under the insightful leadership of a budding and popular politician Imran Khan as a new PM will attain Pakistan’s envisioned and belated future goals.

The new leadership team is sorting out deeper meanings and real objectives for Pakistan’s future from all the negative socio-political praxis and trends that prevailed for a long time in Pakistan. In a genuinely needed future democratic setup the reconstruct of healthy civil military relationship is in the making, for the first time, under Imran Khan and that would mean a long awaited supremacy in decision making of the elected civilian government leadership over the military leadership.

New Dynamic leadership and a New Hope: a ‘Naya’ Pakistan

Under the new and unique leadership after three quarters of a century since Pakistan’s inception, there has arisen for the first time, a golden opportunity for reconstructing poverty and corruption ridden Pakistan into a secular welfare and modern democratic state envisioned by the founders. This new venture and movement by the PM Imran Khan has been termed as a “ Naya (new) Pakistan”. For Naya Pakistan, Imran Khan’s government is determined to undoing all the illegal and large and long term land holdings through proper legislation; collecting land and property taxes based on current market values; speeding up the courts and make them transparent; making meritocratic appointments in government institutions; changing education to a holistic education system so that skill enhancement and character building become its central goal; making peace with Pakistan’s neighbors; choosing trade over aid; and letting civilians rule the country rather than soldiers . Furthermore, PTI is to strive for fulfilling the dream to cultivate a promising image of a progressive Pakistan rather than a failing state, a country that would be implementing the universal values and virtues of a common humanistic belief eventually leading to a progressive welfare and democratic state.

PM Imran Khan’s own reimagining over the past two decades and wanting to reconstruct Pakistan through a silent revolution in the country. Currently, under his own leadership, country will need a dedicated team of individuals with humanistic and altruistic heroism that will use the true envisioned legacy as a blueprint and apply diligently to work it out as a practical reality for Pakistan’s better future.

Pakistan’s true futuristic spiritual life was never meant to be and can no longer be the life of religiously sectarianisms and extremism, nor other religious aberrations of any radical groups. The true life of every Pakistani citizen is actually to begin individually when one consciously perceives the importance of it, and begins to realize what spiritual values really are?

The global dimensions of our Sense-of-Self and our collective lives mean that it is of utmost importance for Pakistan today to uncover its own false beliefs and political biases, its culture and privileges, and its unwitting complicity in bureaucratic and institutional oppressions. This, in Pakistan today, is indeed a realistic enterprise for finding firm moral and ethical grounds in a world, that extend far beyond its own horizons, that can spin completely out of human control, holding all ideologies as suspects.

Therefore, in order for Pakistan as a Muslim majority nation to emerge from the prevailing state of chaos and turmoil, it must experience a new and holistic type revolution, one that will refuse to adhere to exclusivist Islamic and politico-socio- economic character. One may call it the individual to collective self-revolution. There is nothing that can better transform humans from the exclusivist religiosity and also materialistic conceptions of existence to a genuine humanistic awareness of life that brings such a revolution from within for each and every one in the nation. Pakistan as a nation is indeed at the verge of such a reconstructive change having just begun under PM Imran Khan.

In the context of all this, PM Imran Khan has envisioned a ‘Naya (New) Pakistan’ .The concept of reconstructive “Self-hood” of Allama Iqbal is the essence of true reawakening for “Naya Pakistan” with purposeful actions, being continuously nourished following the trials and tribulations and through the virtues of creative empathy, harmony, love and pluralistic unity. The credit of all this reinvigorating transition will certainly go to the new leadership
This purposeful action has just been initiated by the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party) since the general election win in July 2018. Status quo ante is being challenged with determination and has to be eradicated fully over time. Conceptual transparency and true understanding of forefathers’ vision will inform implementation with strict criteria and virtuous actions. The vast majority of analysts and critics will continue in their disbelief due to the magnitude of change needed in Pakistan. The older political guards and vested interest groups will go on mounting a campaign to resist the change. They fail to comprehend that the ordinary people especially the youth- as a new generation- have wanted to move on. It is no longer possible to keep recreating the old past. The nation is euphoric and for the first time seeing opportunity and hope for its aspirations being reflected in governance of the state as a ’Naya Pakistan’.

Historical and universal perspective of Spiritual Humanism and Spiritual Democracy

Though the masses of humanity throughout the ages have lived in comparative ignorance of the spiritual realities of life, historically spiritual humanists have appeared the world over in different cultures in different countries during different centuries. They have all shared two main characteristics: certain views and virtues of the human beings and certain principles of effective communication. This should not be surprising as science too became universal, so did inquisitive and constructive ideals of well informed persons searching for knowledge with appropriate scientific methods to discover the same truth, and same principles of communication, regardless of the times in which they had appeared.

There have been prophetic teachings, there have been ancient philosophers, thinkers and unique educators like Buddha (483/400 BC) who in the dark history of mankind, was a beacon of light who sacrificed his kingdom in order to pursue his quest for truth and devoted his life to the enlightenment of his fellow human beings. Confucius (551- 479 BC) was a Chinese educator, editor, politician, and philosopher of Chinese history. His philosophy known as Confucianism emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.

Past and distant centuries had also brought forth prophets who stood out as dynamic, altruistic and humanistic beings. There is, for instance, the great epic story of prophet Moses (PBUH), whose spiritual genius created a nation out of a slave people and gave them the unique concept of a universal Creator.

Prophet Jesus (PBUH) also was primarily interested in the spiritual liberation of the individuals. He discovered the eternal truth that the Kingdom of God is within human self, thus giving us the golden key to the Love of God and love of neighbor for bringing peace and harmony on earth.

The model and mission of the last prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was socio-political and spiritual one bringing about the ever lasting light to ameliorating the longest darkness not only locally in the Middle East but also ever broadening with universal implications from 7th century to the present time and for the future of all of humanity without straying from sacred traditions of humanistic mutual love, tolerance and co-existence. The covenants and the constitution of Medina state to this day remain the best of examples for the governance and further more, for eliminating the prevailing chaos and conflicts globally. Due to his vast knowledge Allama Iqbal came to the conclusion that the modern era started with the proclamation of the prophet-hood of Muhammad (S.A.W) in the 6th century AD instead of 17th century AD, claimed by most of the western thinkers. According to Iqbal, the prophet of Islam stood between the ancient and the modern world. In so far as the source of his (the prophet’s (S.A.W)) revelation is concerned, he belonged to the ancient world; in so far as the spirit of his revelation with its applications to this day is concerned he belonged to the modern world.

During the last two centuries, the triumphal opening chords of similarities between 13th century humanistic philosophy of Rumi and 19th Walt Whitman and 20th century Allama Iqbal were struck:
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Allama Iqbal (1877-1938) were two exceptional souls that stand out today as they have occupied themselves with such human spiritual endeavors to comprehend the unity existing between the human soul and the whole of nature. Both of them undoubtedly were inspired profoundly by America’s most-read poet Jalāl-ad-Dīn Rumi (1207- 1273) who continues to have a tremendous universal impact on spiritual humanism.

Rumi’s philosophy can help us all to focus the light of our attention on Rumi’s passionate conviction that ‘love is the strongest unifying force, and that this force is present everywhere and in everything. It may even encourage us to study the extraordinary works of Rumi and many others mentioned here that so often open up the hearts of so many around the globe. For Rumi peace was also the natural quest for a whole person’s Self, and the human being’s inclination to rise from a natural universal humanistic order. In humankind’s fight to root out conflict, violence, and wars, Rumi’s view of unconditional love may prove to be one of best way to human brotherhood .In this context here, we may particularly consider Iqbal in the 20th century and Whitman in the 19th century both as Rumi in-carnates. Rumi’s 13th century starry spiritual breadth and Human warmth rekindled in 19th century America and 20th century Indo-Pak subcontinent.

Iqbal a great poet and philosopher, having been inspired by Jalal uddin Rumi became a conceptual and “Spiritual Father of Pakistan”. He was one of the great universal humanist figures in the literary history of the early 20th century East with a mission to reawakening the world to a modern/postmodern renaissance and to bring East and West closer to each other through a synthesis of both cultures and civilizations.

Iqbal’s philosophic ideals of the‫ human individual and collective ‬Self development (Khudi), his precise intellectual thought and spiritual practice best reflected his profound insights that permeated with the teachings of Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) example. The historic Medina State model of the Prophet (PBUH) as exemplified in the 7th century was the essence of a pluralistic socio-political culture of spiritual democracy based on universal and spiritual humanism .The Holy Prophet created a wakeful universal and conscious community named as an Umma of Democracy .The Prophet created a link

Between the ancient and the modern world. His message came to the modern and the current times integrating morality, justice and spirituality. Life, according to the Prophet was to be led according to the constructive, transparent and positive trends. The current revival of Islamic thought in socio-political context can certainly be derived from innovative intellect, logic, and wisdom of prophetic model. The US Supreme Court in 1935 proclaimed the Prophet as one of the greatest lawgivers of the world.

The concept of Khudi is a hallmark of Iqbalian philosophy with global applications, while Tawhid, human fraternity and tolerance remain integral components of Iqbalian philosophy with no less applicability. Here, we can compare the Western sense-of-self that is very similar to Iqbalian thought of Khudi (meaning sense-of-self) and remains famously robust to this day in the West for those who study Walt Whitman. It is being talked about even more so today when we are in a desperate need to transform currently declining liberal and corporate democracy to a spiritual one.

Walt Whitman, a Great American philosopher and a poet, more than any other philosopher in the west, represented this ideal sense-of-self better than most others. Also, in the Western cultural context, we have gone through the loss of original spiritual participation with a descent into extreme materialism separating our Souls from our Creator. That is the gift and the curse of Scientific Materialism. Within this paradigm, we have come to believe only in what we can see and hear with our outer senses and we have completely ignored our inner senses. Walt Whitman defended democracy in his Democratic Vistas first published in ‘The Galaxy’ in December 1867 and May 1868 in two parts of Democracy and Selfhood in the individual and collective perspectives. He recognized the shortcomings of American democratic state even in the 19th century. Whitman was idealistic and wrote more on the future of democracy as an ongoing evolving process necessitating the future renewals for better achievements and better outcomes.

Whitman’s basic contention on Democracy was that a democratic awareness was needed to provide the people with prototype models of human character and behavior by educating them for genuinely democratic society for the future. Healthy and true democracy, he believed depends upon the improvement of the character and personality of the common people, and that he as a poet had to help them. Individual Self-hood and individual senses of equality according to Whitman are the two principles on which the successful working of future democracy depended. From the time of America’s founding’s, there have been consistent visionary messages on spiritualizing democracy as emphasized by Walt Whitman, and by others like Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, William James and William Everson all being clearly heard to this day with added inspirations from Carl G Jung.

Iqbal and Whitman both poetically expressed the uniqueness of traditions and gave glimpses into matters that are universally humanistic and spiritual. The ability to articulate and highlight commonalities makes poetry an excellent medium for dialogue and reconciliation between different traditions and civilizations. And in a world where differences are the common cause for opposition, wars and even killings, finding ways to dialogue and communication become absolute necessity. Also, the similarities between Iqbal and Whitman certainly show us that Islam and America, despite their differences, do not inevitably have to be at odds. The two poets have pointed out surprising affinities between the spirits/souls of the two different traditions and civilizations.

As a Muslim and a Pakistani American, I have been nurtured by both of these traditions. And there is no conflict ever or clash of civilizations in my soul and in my being and there is no end of history either. While it is impossible to remove age-old traditions from human culture, we can redirect them by redefining their underlying significance and meanings. Spiritual Humanism is natural, and not supernatural. By using a method of scientific inquiry we can define the inspirational, singular spark inherent in all living creatures.

Global Democratic Deficits and Spiritual Democracy

We as human individuals, families and communities, the world over, go on suffering from a lack of connection to each-other, rejecting equality, local and global politico-social strife, alienation from nature and its rhythm, armed conflicts and bureaucratic hegemonies. Numerous communities around the world also continue to face the challenges marked by economic opportunity, equal justice, freedoms, and environmental deterioration when our own survival as a species can be in doubt. Such obstacles for achieving and accomplishing positive societal goals locally as well as internationally are being blocked for peoples everywhere making them suffer from moral confusion, bitter social conflicts, fragmentation of experience and knowledge .In other words, the unifying center no longer can hold.

There is, thus, an urgent need for newer ideas of integrating spiritual resources, unifying moral and social beliefs that are able to affirm the value of cultural pluralism in the process liberating and harmonizing the self and society on a national, regional and universal basis. Such a faith must be comprehensive enough to integrate the technological, economic, social, environmental, moral and behavioral dimensions of experience .It cannot otherwise bring the wholeness and harmony that we all require.

Conventional democracy has had roots in social ideals of ancient Athens and moral visions of Hebrew and Muslim prophetic teachings. Democratic concern as an evolving ideal despite its historic and cyclic decline and rise has steadily grown in influence over the centuries and has kept still its extraordinary transformative power and potential throughout the world and even so over the last two centuries. In short, it is our purpose here and always to stay abreast and explore the global moral, social, environmental and our belief systems’ urgent importance for democracy despite the fact that liberal democracy’s deficits and flaws have been creeping in with vengeance in recent decades. Many in the East and west have been watchful in raising ongoing voices for reformation, improvements and overhauling of democracy.

Here, I began highlighting some crucial points about a south Asian nation of Pakistan and beyond in the context of the broader democratic shortcomings of the Muslim world since the failures of the MENA (Middle East North Africa) spring, and importantly today we must talk about the western liberal democratic system that continues to decline rapidly. We do know that liberal democracy has never been set in stone and has indeed been regressing undoubtedly and is becoming problematic. We also know that all democracies are ever open to further and ongoing improvements and can still be revived being a versatile political model that we humans have thus far evolved to deal with the serious challenges of governance in modern and post modern world.

There certainly has been this rare but intrinsic capacity for the renewal that opens up democracy to converse with spirituality .We can thus commence injecting spirituality, slowly but surely, into conventional democracy transforming it to a desperately needed spiritual democracy at this point in human history. In my view this will bring about a life-promoting change in doddering democracies around the globe.

Accepting the practical idea of spiritual democracy is the sole answer: realizing the oneness of humanity with the universe and all its forces, helping people feel happiness, peacefulness, and interconnectedness on an individual and collective basis. It can also inspire us to adapt sacred activism through channeling of forces into human compassion, just and equitable heart and conscience, enabling us with tools to begin solving some of the gravest global problems, while uniting people on this planet earth.

Spiritual democracy is to embrace a notion of God in nature, a simple way of saying that we all come from God. Thus Spiritual democracy is the simple recognition of God in each person’s nature-a truly democratic notion. As we all come from nature, we are all carrying divinity. Therefore spiritual democracy is the science of God that must become a necessity to begin and end with nature – and this means our inner and outer nature. Spiritual democracy is an idea whose time has come. Allama Iqbal and Walt Whitman are alive today and with us, they are forebears of this change and transformation whose vision has been inspiring many throughout the world and more so with each passing day. Spiritual democracy as envisioned, has been long overdue.

At this point in time, people of the world have a real chance to communicate and organize quicker and en-mass through information technology, which is to play a key part in the broader awareness and uprisings for improvements. Spiritual democracy is meant to bring about a global change by bringing peace in ones own mind and soul aiming to speak out, to challenges, and to expose the evils of extreme materialism, governmental hegemonies and all the extremes as illnesses seen in the human heart and mind for us to overcome.

Holistic Education and cultivation of individual self: A way forward for Democracy and Democratic Citizenship

Whether all educationists are philosophers or not, one thing seems clear – that all philosophers are educationists – directly or indirectly. It may be Farabi, Rumi, Whitman Iqbal, Dewey or Gulen; they all came up with the notion that to bring about any politico-social change at a higher level in human societies worldwide, change in the educational system is fundamental. Allama Iqbal though was a philosopher and a poet, he too touched on the very core of the problems existing in the Muslim societies and the broader world of his time, through his reflection and recommendation upon the changes required in the educational system.

Iqbal’s educational philosophy is not only the solution to the problems that existed in his time, but also holds solutions to the prevalent problems of the global societies of today. Here, I very briefly seek to explain the education policy that stems out of Iqbal’s education philosophy. For the same purpose, a three-pillar visual diagram has been introduced that will help the readers to grasp the importance given by Iqbal to the cultivation of Self in his education philosophy.

Also, Abu Nasr Mohammad Al-Farabi Al-Farabi (872-950), who was a legendary Muslim Golden era intellectual, philosopher, linguist, and educationist. He dealt with metaphysics keeping in view three basic concepts; Creator, the emanation and beings and the internal structure of beings. He always attempted to understand the intellectual framework of the world and society. He wanted to restore unity and morality in politics seeking guidance from Quran. According to Al- Farabi, education is a process to create ideal society, not unlike John Dewey, by nurturing and preparing individual towards attaining perfection and freedom on broader foundations. For him, education was the acquisition of knowledge, skills, virtues and values for happier human life. Al- Farabi prescribed persuasive and instructional strategies for common people while for those intellectually more curious, he recommends demonstrational methods. Sound character, intellectual competence and demonstration skill are the basic components of his effective teachings. There should be sequence in learning starting with the language, then logic, seven forms of mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, and jurisprudence and academic theology. The concept of evaluation means the measurement of learning outcomes. Different instruments may be used to test knowledge and intelligence. The capacity for deductive and critical thinking understanding the relationship between parts of information and to arrive at the understanding of the whole.

In the context of spiritual and moral upbringing of a person using the pedagogical methods of Jalāl ad-dīn Rumi (1207-1273) remain very important. The problems as relying on systematic process of educating a person, coherence of information, correct setting of a pedagogical requirement, organization of information through words and conversation, formation and reinforcement of a material by means of question and answer are analyzed from pedagogical point of view. The teachings of Rumi deal with the development of a human person, his perfection and the realization of his self-essence. His views reflect that coherence of the information in education is the foundation of conveying the information clearly, completely, and compactly and relying on certain requirements. He emphasizes the possibility of reaching one’s goals by giving the demand an important role, he shows bilateral demand in the organization of the education and he himself brings up his students by frequently organizing in common language with them. Rumi deeply understands the essence of the word and reaches the soul of his reader by the power of word. Moreover, the ways and means of using Rumi’s ideas in the process of upbringing a perfect new generation (not unlike Gulen) are identified in his teachings.

Fetullah Gulen (Born: April 27, 1941 (age 77 years), is a great thinker, scholar, educator, poet, writer and philosopher, his ideas on holistic education are based on high qualities of education and a mixture of modern secular education with traditional spiritual values and virtues. First and foremost, and most importantly, the genuine success of our own children and youth at the schools and colleges in Muslim nations and all other nations are the most crucial to the economic health, social welfare, our cohesion as any nation, as well as for the youth’s own life enhancement and their fulfillment both as individuals and collectives.

The current education system through out the world has been deteriorating due to inflexible ideas, short sightedness, value free, vocation-oriented and entirely secular learning. Secular educational systems have taught people only to search for new ways to dominate nature and other human beings (Gülen 2003). This has resulted in worsening and imbalancing both between humanity and nature and between human individual and communities. Gülen’s teachings carry the assumption that some major global problems like weapons of mass destruction and environmental destruction are created by the scientists who do not take responsibility for the consequences of their work (Agai 2003, 59). To Gülen, harmony between humans and nature and universal understanding between people will only be achieved when “the material and spiritual realms are reconciled” through appropriate child parenting, upbringing and holistic education from early life of children and the younger generations (Gülen 2000).

The true objective of this holistic educational vision according to Gulen is to raise a “Golden Generation,” (desperately needed in the world in the 21st century), a generation of ideal universal individuals, who love truth, who integrate spirituality and knowledge, who always work efficiently to benefit the society [Gülen, 1998]. Such a person is “zul-cenaheyn ” of Gulen and a ‘ Shaheen’ of Iqbal who possesses two wings,” exhibiting a “marriage of mind and heart” [Gülen, 1996b] with a merging of spiritual and ethical values with contemporary science and understanding [Gülen, 2004] this will create a “genuinely enlightened youth” [Gülen, 1996a] who will altruistically be servants to the people. [Gülen, 2000]. In the recent decades Gulen’s philosophy of education is being popularized around the globe spanning to over 150 countries of the world. This philosophy culminates into the holistic and spiritual human development. As stated, it begins from parenting, early child development and education not just vocation oriented schooling but much broader education. The world nations must also catch up in the creation of a “golden generation” of youth and “The Great Community” of John Dewey also very briefly discussed below.

In addition to Gulen holistic philosophy of education, John Dewey’s ((1859-1952)) attention to experience and reflection, democracy and community, and to environments for learning have been also very important. John Dewey’s educational ideas are alive and well today along with Gulen Pedagogic philosophy and their influence on millions of children and youth in the United States and around the world today remains undeniable.

Dewey in his philosophy said that the most important thing about democracy is what comes before voting: the thinking, discussion, and debate. He proposed that freely allowing groups such as local unions, professional organizations, business associations, and schools and colleges should meet regularly to deliberate on public welfare questions. Elected politicians should follow the public lead since only the ordinary citizens knew what was best for them. He further agreed that Americans and masses of other democratic nations’ citizens were very often uninformed and easily manipulated by the wealthy and powerful politicians. Thus, he repeated his ideas to make schools emphasize problem solving, thinking skills, and other knowledge necessary for democratic decision making. In addition, he assigned a key role to the media (then mainly newspapers, journals, and books and today’s info technology) to pass on accurate facts from the experts to the people. Dewey concluded that the result would be a much better democratic civil society, which he named “The Great Community.” Governing the nation, he said, would be everyone’s business, not just that of an elite class of experts and politicians. He used the Term for his Pedagogic Philosophy as instrumental and pragmatic ideas as tools or instruments to investigate and solve societal problems and he attempted to find out the best way to educate children for life in a democracy. His concepts included human fulfillment, education as human growth and his faith-based education complemented Dewey’s educational vision.

Chinese New Model of Democracy

There are also interesting practical lessons from the Chinese Enlightenment that has been emerging over the past three decades with a practical democratic model of today that has put our Western democracy in the darker shade, as crises and chaos swamping Western liberal democracy today has begun to rapidly reveal. It was instructive for our esteemed new Pakistani PM Imran Khan, who recently visited China since his winning of elections. Also, other Muslim world leadership and the Western leaders must examine closely the “Chinese system of democracy” and ask as to how this system, which has set the current standards for Chinese national development and progress is to measure up. Obviously, this innovative system is certainly creating a significant worldwide awareness and recognition.

China has developed a model of democratic meritocracy that is morally desirable and politically stable, based on Confucius humanistic spiritual philosophy. We can summarize and evaluate the “China model”—meritocracy being at the top, experimentation in the middle, and democracy at the bottom—and with its implications for the rest of the world. Under the leadership of a sober-minded, forward-looking CPC (the Communist Party of China), Chinese-style democracy has never been healthier and China has absolutely no need to import the declining party electoral political systems of the West or of any other countries. The Chinese-style democracy also has the spiritual democratic foundations.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states “the multiparty cooperation and political consultation system under the leadership of the one Communist Party of China shall continue to exist and develop for a long time to come. This could again be a lesson currently for Pakistan and the world.

After several hundred years, the Western model of democracy is increasingly showing its aging. It is high time for the profound reflection on the ills of doddering democracies, which have precipitated so many of the world’s ills and solving and accomplishing less and less today. Between 1980 and 2000 the cause of democracy experienced only a few setbacks, but since 2000 there have been many more setbacks reaching the financial crisis of 2007-08, while China kept rising. If Western democracy is not to collapse completely it must be revitalized, reappraised and rebooted. This is not only what Pakistan and the Muslim world urgently need to do but also the whole world needs to revitalize conventional democracy.

The CPC has led the Chinese nation to unparalleled growth and staggering achievements, particularly in the reduction of poverty and ending corruption as the new Pakistani PM got very well informed about China’s course of action. It may be fairly described as a transformational miracle, bringing prosperity and optimism that were unimaginable merely three decades ago in China. Even Western political thinkers contend that Chinese-style political meritocracy can help to remedy the key flaws of Western electoral democracy. They discuss the advantages and pitfalls of political meritocracy, distinguishing between different ways of combining meritocracy and democracy.


In these critical times of uncertainties, divisive politics and environmental challenges, we can observe that the very foundations of democracy are being eroded globally. In order for all of us to protect, improve and restore the democratic principles needed for any society that stands for dignity and justice for all, I have tried to explore the urgent needs to reaffirm the higher values and spiritual underpinnings of a true and genuinely democratic society. Not only does democracy need to be kept well and alive throughout the world, it must be seriously re-evaluated at this point in time of the twenty-first century to ensure a mindful and inclusive process that works to serve all of us and in every country for the greater good of the humanity as a whole. It is about time to put our universal and collective purpose to work in order to evolve a morally robust democratic system locally and globally that will bring the true leadership to be equipped with an altruistic vision for the future stability of human beings on the planet earth.

I started this writing knowing that, despite the commendable achievements that may have been accomplished by different democratic projects in different parts of the world in the past, the contemporary experiences are teaching us that democracy has been experiencing a crisis of confidence in meeting the needs of numerous peoples around the world. I have thus emphasized that a life-promoting and progressive spiritual democracy is most certainly needed. One that will embody a vision of an inclusive civil society in which all participants, regardless of their identity, will be fully included and given protected space to remain equally human in order to achieve fullest and flourishing life.

Through the use of newer ideas and examples, like the current Chinese experience in meritocracy combined with democratic governance as presented here briefly as a useful lesson for many countries around the globe who could actually customize and design their own Democracies rather than import them from china or elsewhere.

Additionally, morality and spirituality can certainly help secure the Western and Eastern expressions of democracies for consistent betterment. The experiences of many persons, especially those that live at the margins of civil society (especially women, children and others) even in established and evolving democratic countries, attest to governance systems that end up excluding them rather than including them into meaningful participation. Here I conclude with a call for identifying some of the flaws and deficits in liberal democracy and to be mindful to eradicate them as necessary. Also, persons who are disillusioned with the democratic processes that fail to bring about life-promoting and progressive change in their contexts need closer attention. The most urgent need is for a political spirituality that is willing to sacrifice and put into action transformational and altruistic leadership behavior and well informed and educated youth, who will certainly ensure democratic governance that is to meet the felt needs of people everywhere and anywhere in the world.

Pakistan as an example here in the context of democracy since its inception in 1947. Despite a well understood and recognized philosophic vision of Allama Iqbal on Spiritual democracy amongst the scholarly and intellectuals of Pakistan, there has been a lack of comprehension among the politicians. There were no concerted and determined efforts for spiritual democracy ideals to be pursued and consolidated over the seven decades in Pakistan. However, under the new leadership of PM Imran Khan and his own current context of “Naya (new) Pakistan”, he has reintroduced insightfully the founders’ vision, with firm commitment and staunch belief in spiritual democracy. This is with responsibility and accountability to God Almighty, to the community and every individual human being as an equal citizen, for services to be rendered and promoting the welfare of all irrespective of caste, color, creed, or ethnicity. It remains a heavenly inspired spiritual democracy that is the waive of the future for the entire world in the 21st century.

As also discussed above, the same philosophic vision of spiritual democracy has prevailed in the scholarly and intellectual circles of USA since the middle of 19th century and is ready to lead the same waive of the future. This is all about revisiting a Spiritual Democracy in the pioneering works of Whitman’s Democratic Vistas and writings of many others in the USA.

In today’s public sphere, anxieties regarding the risks of authoritarianism, autocracy, migration, economic disruption, multiculturalism, globalism, and identity issues, among other problems, go on permeating political and public life as divisions and fears reverberate through media and even during common conversations. The “threat” narratives remain pervasive everywhere in the world, persisting, and often debilitating. Questions linger on regarding where do we go from here. I have thus explored envisioning of spiritual democracy, specifically the cultivation of a democratic spirit of the East and West exploring and comparing similar ideas that inform poetry, teachings and writings for reimagining Walt Whitman’s seminal works, Democratic Vistas, and Allama Iqbal’s writings. We are to utilize Whitman and Iqbal’s works, and related foundational writings of others to set the historical socio-spiritual stage to build on Whitman and Iqbal’s vision to reconstruct a universal path, embracing democratic living through love, expression, community, and citizenship.

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Muzaffar K Awan MD is a Pakistani-American physician who has lived in the USA for over 40 years. He practices medicine in Allen Park, Detroit Metropolitan area of Michigan. He has had keen interests in the enlightenment thought and practice of moderate Islam, East-West intellectual exchanges and interfaith dialogues. He is an amateur writer and has written numerous articles in International and Pakistani magazines and newspapers.

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