By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
29 January, 2014
One of the most important objectives of Sharia is safeguarding of lives. The Quran says very clearly that “anyone who saves any human being, it is as though he has saved the whole of humanity and if anyone who kills any innocent human being, it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity”.
The Quran prohibited and ultimately stopped the inhumane practice of killing of children, especially of daughters, at the time of their birth.
“The girl who was buried alive is asked: For what crime was she killed?” (81: 8-9)
“You shall not kill your children from fear of poverty- we provide for you and them.” (6:151)
“You shall not kill your children due to fear of poverty. We provide for them, as well as for you. Killing them is a great offense and sin.” (17:31)
Many Muslim jurists extended this objective to not only safeguarding of life but also the right to be saved, if you are in danger; the right to be treated, if you are sick; the right to be fed and sheltered, if you are unable to feed and find home for yourself.
To fully protect the right to life, there has to be punishment for someone who disregards the right to life of another person.
Another objective is safeguarding the mind. We find in the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet, encouragement to nourish that mind, to encourage thinking, reflection, and contemplation about the creation; there is also freedom of expression, debate and discussion, in matters that are of benefit to society in a constructive manner.
Again it will remain theoretical until there is a proper mechanism to enforce it. The Quran totally prohibits alcohol, as it beclouds the mind and its rationality. The Quran says:
“O you who believe, intoxicants and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them that you may succeed. The devil wants to provoke animosity and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling, and to distract you from remembering and pondering about God and from observing prayers? Will you then refrain?” (5:90-91)
“They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, “In them there is a gross sin and some benefits for the people. But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.” (2:219)
Another objective of Sharia is safeguarding of honour, even if we take in the narrow definition of the term i.e., of safeguarding of family and progeny, because the family is the cornerstone of any society. On the positive side, we find Sharia encouraging young people to get married, if they have the means. On the negative side we see that Sharia is very strong in its approach when anyone falsely accuses anyone or distorts any person’s modesty. The Quran gives more emphasis on the protection of the modesty of women.
Fifthly and lastly is the safeguarding of wealth. In its positive side it encourages investment. There is protection for the orphans, for people who are insane etc. And on the negative side, it has the system of Zakat, which helps in the distribution of wealth and prevents wealth from being circulated only amongst the rich.
One of the most widely misunderstood ideas is that Sharia is vengeful and that it does not have any room for forgiveness. First there is the concept of ‘Tazir’, which means discretionary punishment. In this, when there is no clear proof from the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet, that there is a clear and fixed punishment for a particular crime, then it becomes a matter that is left to the judge or the ruler. Based on a number of considerations like the seriousness of the crime, the record of the crime, the circumstances in which the crime took place etc the ruler or the judge has the discretionary power; he may even choose to forgive.
The second concept is known as ‘Quisas’ or retribution, especially in the case of injury or murder. And here again we find the fallacy of the argument that there is no room for forgiveness in Islam. Take for example if somebody is accused of murder in the United States and the family forgives that person, is the person still to be persecuted? The answer is yes, it is a state crime. In Islamic law, if they i.e., the family members forgive, the person may be forgiven.
The third concept is known as ‘Hudud’ which means a punishment that has a fixed description for certain offences. It includes adultery, accusing men and especially women in terms of their sexual purity, theft etc. All these crimes have fixed and severe punishments given in the Quran but there is also hope for forgiveness and even encouragement for rehabilitation. The Quran says:
“The just retribution for those who fight God and His messenger, and who commit horrendous crimes, is to be killed or crucified, or to have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or to be banished from the land.” (5:33)
But the next verse says:
“Exempted are those who repent before you overcome them. You should know that God is most Forgiving and most Merciful.” (5:34)
This is one of the best ways of rehabilitation. It is a positive way to reduce crime, rather than a vengeful way to fight crime. There is encouragement of people to purify themselves to make the whole society better.
There is a widespread negative view of Sharia not just because of the media but because of the way the so-called “Muslim” nations use it. They have made it look really vengeful and inhuman, which in reality, it is not.