Voting in Islam
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
With regards to the principle you have asked, if a person is overcome by two evils, one should choose the lesser of the two.
An example in Fiqh where this principle is used is if one is forced out of necessity to eat either dead meat or the wealth of another person then he should eat the dead and unlawful meat, as eating dead is the lesser evil of the two. (Al-Ashbahwa-Al-Nazaair p.76)
If we do not vote then the harmful consequences of our actions will affect future generations. Just say for example there is a candidate who is against Islam. If the two million or so Muslims refrain from voting and this candidate gets elected he may put forward legislation that is detrimental to the Islamic way of life i.e. he may ban people from wearing hats, hijabs etc. Alternatively, we could vote for someone who whilst not being Muslim, may be more considerate towards them than other candidates. (Kitabul Fatawa p.27 v.6)
The process of voting in non-Muslim countries is not based o religious ideologies. Normally a candidate promises the public better services and facilities. These services may sometimes be connected to a particular religion, like promising Muslims or other faiths financial help for the construction of prayer buildings etc. (Tafsir Qurtubi p.190 v.6)
In situations where there are no worthy candidates, then the vote should be given to the one who is the trustworthiest and will be a source of benefit to the Muslim community. (Jadeed Fiqhi Maqaalaat p.291 v.2)
Voting can be seen as way of giving testimony in favour of a person/party whom one is voting for. He in fact is giving testimony that the candidate is trustworthy in his beliefs and actions and better than the other candidates. Thus, abstaining from voting will not be permissible as this is shahadat and to conceal it one will be sinful.
Allah (SWA) in the Holy Quran has said:
“And do not conceal the evidence and who so conceals it then his heart is tainted with sin.” (Surah Baqarah v.283)
Islam has preferred and has encouraged people to give testimony before they are approached. The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has said, “Should I not tell you of the best witnesses? He is the one who produces his evidence before he is asked for it.” (Sahih Muslim p.77 v.2)
In conclusion, voting is not something that is impermissible. By voting it will not be considered that one agrees with all of the candidates ideologies and beliefs. If it is thought that a party or a candidate will benefit the general public, then the vote should be given to them.
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham