Of the hottest discussions among mainstream Muslim clerics today is Shari’ah. For overwhelming majority of Muslims, shari’ah is an immutable, divine and utopian law that must precede over all the affairs of mankind. In this light, orthodox Muslims promote shari’ah and enforce it.
In most Muslim countries, shari’ah is actually the national constitution like Iran or markedly modifies the constitution in secular states like Turkey. To realize the significance of shari’ah to mainstream orthodox Muslims, one only need to see how strong the campaign for shari’ah has been in the Muslim minority Western world. The Islamist insurgencies whether ISIS or Boko Haram always insist that full implementation of Shari’ah is their major goal.
Despite these, very few orthodox Muslims can discuss shari’ah, it sources and decrees. If they do, then over 50% of them wouldn’t even be advocating it in the first place.
The aim of this paper is to critically analyze Shari’ah and prove that Shari’ah is far from a just, humane and equity law that can better substitute secular laws. It will be proved that those proposing Shari’ah are greatly robbed of their brain; either their reasoning or conscience. We “ll be treating only Shari’ah penal code for apostasy, adultery and theft.
However, it is essential to briefly to cover the sources of Shari’ah law before delving proper into the topic.
SOURCES OF SHARI’AH
This is the mother Book in Islam, the only legacy of the messenger of God left after his death. Hence, it is the only definite source of Islamic legislation. But ironically, less than 5% of Shari’ah emanate from the Qur’an and even then, this 5% can only losely be classed as Qur’anic due to distortion by clergy.
These are oral traditions compiled 150-400 years after the messenger and said to explain the Qur’an. These traditions constitute over 70% of Shari’ah. Although it is regarded secondary and not as definite as the Qur’an, orthodox Muslim sages have espoused that it abrogate verses of the Qur’an.
This is concensus of the scholars of the previous generations, particularly the first 2-3 generations after the messenger. There are two major sects of orthodox Islam; Sunnis and Shiites. Each sect has her schools of law that seek to interprete and broaden the laws in the Qur’an and Hadith. Consequently, these schools of law derive additional laws that constitute about 20% of Shari’ah.
According to Shari’ah, a Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed. Some scholars opin that he should first be demanded to repent while others insist no repentance is acceptable and the apostate must be killed outright. This is in line with the following Hadith(oral tradition);
Narrated ‘Abdullah: Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”—Sahih Bukhari 9:83:17
Contrary to the deceptive claims of apologists, apostates do not have to declare their disbelief, proselytize or oppose Muslims to be executed under Shari’ah. That is why the Shari’ah court of Sudan detained and sentenced Mariam Ibrahim to death exclusively for apostasy earlier this year.
Death for apostasy is the most controversial side of Shari’ah. To kill a man for changing his belief is not only cultish and violate basic human rights but contradict God ‘s principle of freedom of beliefs through out the scriptures.
Worst still, a Muslim doesn’t have to admit to apostasy before he is condemned by the clerics. For instance, according to the schools of law of orthodox Islam, refusal to perform Salat beyond 3 days amount to apostasy and the offender may be executed. Denying certain tenets of orthodox Islam, opposing the clerics could earn you apostasy and execution under Shari’ah.
Despite no justification for this oppressive law in the scriptures, despite the Qur’an insistence on no compulsion in religious matters, mainstream Muslim clerics and scholars still regard the penalty of death for apostasy.
In secular states like US or Nigeria, apostates are seldom killed thanks to secular laws preceding beyond Shari’ah. In Shari’ah states like Saudi A. or Iran, apostates are killed.
We admit that adultery is a grave offense that leads to broken homes, unwanted pregnancies and health infections. It is however too much of a stretch to justify stoning adulterers on ground that it serves as a powerful deterrent for potential adulterers. Yet this is a decree of Shari’ah derived from Hadith;
Sahih Muslim>>Book Of Punishment
‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported that ‘Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession.
Individuals of married status are stoned to death for adultery under Shari’ah states and this has been in effect in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and part of the Muslim world.
When you consider the argument for stoning adulterers, it mainly cashes on the high level of infidelity or promiscuity in regions where adulterers are not stoned, like the West. Of course, this may seem to have won the Shari’ah advocates a point, but it really has not. There are a thousand and one ways to fix a fault. Infidelity and promiscuity may be minimized by more humane and bloodless measures beside stoning.
The level of promiscuity and marital infidelity may be alarming in the West, but this is rather due to the fact that adulterers are not brought to book, not because adulterers are not stoned.
If the Shari’ah advocate continue to proffer stoning adulterers as a measure to minimize infidelity or promiscuity in secular societies like the West, perhaps we may demand the abolishment of stoning adulterers in Shari’ah states as a step in eradicating honor killings.
If you look at most Muslim communities over the World, particular the Shari’ah compliant ones, honor killing is a typical trend. Confront any Muslim in such communities about the draconian stoning penalty for adultery, their response never change. They insist on stoning adulterers because in their understanding, adultery is so corrupting and filthy that the only way to purge it from the society or expiate the sin of the adulterers is by stoning them to death.
This dogmatic and superstitious view on adultery in turn generated rejection and stigmatization of whatever they consider near to adultery, like ladies having boyfriends or chatting online with males. This ultimately lead to honor killings.
Speaking from the Qur’anic viewpoint, the stoning of adulterers can be debunked very easily. It is a man-made tradition plagiarized from the Bible and not Islamic. Throughout the narration of the Qur’an, those who stone are always the disbelievers. Never is it mentioned that believers stoned or were commanded to stone anyone.
The penalty for adultery in Islam is flogging a hundred lashes(Qur’an 24:2). Where the adulterers are slaves(as in the middle ages), the penalty(100 lashes) is to be halved(Qur’an 4:25).
Even upon letting aside its absence from the Qur’an, stoning to death cannot be the penalty for adultery because going by the Qur’anic stipulation, it is impractical to halve this where the adulterers in question are slaves.
As earlier stated, Shari’ah advocates have no logical or moral defense for the draconian penalties of Shari’ah. Their usual defense has always been on the basis of “deterrence”. Yet, they have been able to win even non-Muslim liberals to their side.
As for the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off the hand of either of them in requital for what they have wrought, as a deterrent ordained by God, for God is almighty, wise.
As you already know, the penalty of theft under Shari’ah is amputation. Theft of any item beyond a fixed monetary value is punished by amputation. For this reason, Shari’ah advocates can boast of lower incidence of theft in Shari’ah compliant states.
At face value amputation seem to be the ultimate measure to eliminate theft, but when we bore deeper, there are loopholes.
You see, the penal code exist also to protect life of criminals, not merely to penalize criminals. Those turned of by “jungle justice” in rural parts of underdeveloped nations. Penal codes also exist to ensure criminals pay equitably and proportionately for their crimes, not negligibly or excessively. Shari’ah law fails in this regard. Too much focus is laid on deterrence while justice or redemption for criminals is totally forgotten.
If you amputate a thief, you render him handicapped forever. Daily, he suffers for a crime even long after he has repented. Theft victims eventually recover or replace their belongings but a thief loses his hand permanently under Shari’ah. How can this be justice?
Once a thief is not always a thief. Secular laws that mostly imprison thieves captures the spirit of the scriptures better than Shari’ah. The toll of the penalty is temporary, reversible and offers thieves a second chance to make to set things right. Shari’ah law condemn thieves to misery forever.
Because this penalty for theft is unethically excessive. It violates the moral and scriptural principle of equity and moderation in handling criminal. Amputating a thief is just as good as burning down a car simply because the driver violated parking rule. It fair well as a deterrence, but it falls short of justice.
To ensure equity and balance in dealing with thieves, the value of the item(s) stolen have to be considered. That is why our first inquiry on learn of a theft is; “what was stolen?”. Shari’ah failure to take this into account lead it to decree amputation for any thief, whether the stolen good is a gallon of gasoline or a motorcycle. Of course, a thief is a thief, but to penalize one who stole a piano and one who stole a van equally by amputation is injustice and disproportionate.
In the end, having lost academically, Shari’ah advocates begin invoke the scriptures.
Of course, the Qur’an 5:38 commands that thieves’ ‘hands’ be ‘cut’. But contrary to the exegesis of orthodox Muslim scholars, ‘cut’ and ‘hands’ may be metaphors in Arabic. You can’t understand the Qur’an if you treat all the verses literally. Parables, Metaphors and other figures of speech can be found in the Qur’an.
The word ‘cut’ in the above verse is ‘iqtaa’ in Arabic, occuring in 14 other instances in the Qur’an, of which 12 imply non physical or metaphorical cutting. Again, the word ‘hand’ in the above verse is ‘aydi’ in arabic and is used often as metaphors for power, means or resources.
Keeping all these in mind, it is more appropriate to interpret ‘cut their hand”; the penalty of theft as cut their means or resources. This may be applied by imprisonment which translate as cutting their time, or fine which translate as cutting their wealth, or labor which translate as cutting their strength.
This is in tune with modern secular laws and captures the Qur’anic spirit of proportionality and moderation regarding penalty or retaliation.
If you consider Shari’ah academically, morally or spiritually, it is utterly bereft. Yet it get the vote of 90% of Muslims, non-Muslim leftists and liberals, most of whom are ignorant of Shari’ah decrees.
Make no mistake, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more to the injustice and oppression in Shari’ah than death for apostates, stoning adulterers or amputating thieves. In my next article; Shari’ah II: Phantom Heaven, i will delve further into other areas of Shari’ah.