By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
24 December 2016
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.
This is to help remove some misconceptions that the article may create in the readers’ mind regarding the contemporary Islamic scholarship, to spell out the disconnect of the Sharia Law of Islam with the faith of Islam, and to remind that blaming Islam or Islamic scholarship singularly disregarding civilisational fault-lines is too simplistic, and no solution at all to this growing menace.
The article begins with the castigation the ‘religious ideology’ of Islam citing some of the brutal rulings of the Sharia law, such as “killing apostates, stoning women to death for sexual indiscretions, and brutally slaughtering gays, … encouraging Muslim soldiers to take female war prisoners as an ideology and instigating wars to impose its inhumane value system upon others”
While the list of brutal rulings can be extended, they do not constitute ‘Islamic religious ideology (Sharia), as they derive from the Sharia Law of Islam which is distinctly different from the Sharia of Islam. There is a subtle but irrefutable difference as explained below:
The Qur’an represents the divine Sharia of Islam (5:48) which is preserved verbatim as revealed over fourteen centuries ago, and is not influenced by the opinion of scholars, politicians, intellectuals, philosophers or any human agency. It uses the words Shira (technically Shir’ah) and Sharia (tech. Shar’iah) synonymously with the generic notion of a system or principles of law (5:48, 45:18). It expounds fundamental universal notions for just and harmonious governance of human society. These include, among others, justice, liberty, equity, good deeds, good neighbourly and inter-faith relations, sharing of wealth with the poor, eradication of slavery, deliverance of women from various entrenched taboos, empowerment of women use of intellect (Aql) and rational logic (Fiqha) , striving for excellence – to cite some major examples.
The Sharia Law of Islam, on the other hand, is historically derived and the product of human agency - it is based on the cumulative opinions and rulings of Muslim jurists’ dating from the early centuries of Islam. The Muslim jurists also privileged their own rulings over the Qur’anic commandments by declaring: “Any Qur’anic verse which contradicts the opinions of ‘our masters’ will be construed as having been abrogated, or the rule of preference will be applied thereto. It is better that the verse is interpreted in such a way that it conforms to their opinion.” [Doctrine of Ijma in Islam, by Ahmad Hussain, New Delhi, 1992, p.16]
Hence, to conflate the Sharia Law of Islam with the Sharia of Islam or to regard it as an intrinsic component of Islamic religion is simply a blunder.
The article then declares: “The current mainstream Islamic ideology not only promotes these atrocities, but the leading Islamic scholars are teaching it as an integral part of the Islamic religion.”
I am afraid; the author is ignorantly, if not falsely blaming the “leading Islamic scholars” for teaching a version of Sharia Law that espouses the cited brutal rulings.
In classical Islamic scholarship the Sharia law represents only the best and most appropriate rulings of the past scholars, though the rulings cited are also embedded in the labyrinthine juristic traditions that inform the Sharia law. The brilliant Islamic scholars and professors of law who teach Islamic law in elite universities in the Western world will be deeply distressed by the above sweeping remark.
Moving down the lines, the article pronounces: “Islamophilia has taken a variety of forms, such as insisting that Islam is a religion of peace, pronouncing Jihad a peaceful endeavour, and claiming that Sharia laws are compatible with the U.S. Constitution — despite overwhelming evidence against such unfounded assertions, which contradict both historical facts and current mainstream Islamic teaching.
Here, the author appears to claim that Islam is not a religion of peace and the Qur’anic word ‘jihad’ does not connote a peaceful endeavour. It appears the author ‘s remark is informed by the secondary sources of Islam, which are punctuated with apocryphal and embellished material as expounded in the following article, the title of which speaks of the contents:
It is conceivable, the author has not probed the Qur’an to comprehending its message and his knowledge about the Qur’an is based on a cursory or selective reading - disregarding its holistic message, or seeking its worst meanings (the Qur’an asks for seeking its best meaning), or on what he may have read in the text books or the secondary sources.
The following article that draws on by far the most accurate historical records (the Qur’anic verses – which, as uttered by the Prophet Muhammad, were immediately memorized and recorded and preserved verbatim to this day) demonstrates the peaceful character of Islam as preached by its Prophet:
The extensively researched and duly authenticated (joint) exegetic work [Essential Message of Islam] by this writer– which can be accessed at the link referenced below or obtained from Amazon.com tables the following definition of ‘jihad’ based on the usage of this word across the Qur’anic text:
“On a personal level, jihad is a struggle to face the hardships and challenges of life with patience and determination, or to constantly endeavour to accomplish a lawful goal. On a community level, it is an ongoing struggle to overcome the social, moral, material, intellectual and spiritual deprivations of the time. “
On the whole, this writer fully agrees with Dr. Tawfik that there are serious problems in the contemporary Islamic thoughts, populist religious notions and scholarship, but to blame all the ‘leading scholars of Islam” for preaching the brutal version of Sharia law as illustrated in the article may constitute libel, if not a hate narrative - if this writer is not mistaken.
The Muslim jurists whose cumulative opinions inform the Sharia Law were not infallible and their opinions/ rulings were conditioned by the paradigms of their civilization and prevailing political and historical factors. Thus, those Muslim scholars or spokespersons who insist to introducing the Sharia Law, disregarding the anachronistic factor are conceivably lobbyists – championing a political model of Islam that is neither consistent with the Qur’anic message nor with the modern secular values.
The truth is, as expounded in referred exegetic work of this writer, “any attempt to reintroduce any school or schools of Islamic law in these countries (where Islamic Law is not operational) would be like going in the reverse gear in civilization... Muslims, therefore, should have no aversion to abiding by such Western/ secular laws that do not contradict the Qur’an, in as much as they readily avail of all lawful things of convenience of the Western secular world.” [p. 358, 359]
Finally, it must be stressed that the statement “There is neither a single major approved Islamic theological institute nor a leading Islamic scholar who stands unambiguously against these barbaric 7th century values and teachings” is erroneous and highly misleading. We live in a world where the call by a section of lobbyists to introduce ‘Sharia Law’ Islam gets immensely more publicity than the voice of those who do not subscribe to such views. On his part, this obscure scholar has ‘unambiguously’ spoken against “these barbaric 7th century values and teachings” as the following extracts from his referenced articles demonstrate:
1] “In light of an undeniable influence of Islam’s theological discourses (including the Classical Sharia and the Sira) in the veritable petrifaction of the Islamic faith as enshrined in the Qur’an, and in feeding the twin terrible menace of this era – Radicalization of Islam and Islamophobia, it is imperative for the Muslims to treat their theological discourses in their historical perspective as classical subjects in the higher academy, as happened in the past with other major theological disciplines”
2]“ with an endless series of paradigm shifts in human civilization from the medieval era to this day, many of the Classical Islamic Law’s rulings stand in conflict with the modern secular values, creating a civilizational divide. Besides, its application by the Islamists and extremist Muslim outfits such as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan is pushing those countries to anarchy and civil war. Most alarmingly, some of its preposterous rulings and notions that remain buried in its exhaustive discourses feed Islamophobia, Islamopathy, radicalization, Islamofascism, violent sectarianism and international terrorism, demonize Islam and its Prophet, and trivialize the entire global Muslim country in the eyes of the rest of the world. Thus, any perceptive mind would conclude that in the historical perspective, the domain of the Classical Islamic Law (Islamic Sharia Law) has run out its course.”
Therefore to conclude that “not a single major approved Islamic theological institute nor a leading Islamic scholar who stands unambiguously against these barbaric 7th century values and teachings” is unfair if not unscholarly. How many ‘leading Islamic scholars' the author of the article contacted before doing this pieces is anybody’s guess.
To conclude, there is no denying the fact that the Muslim leadership made little effort to diffuse Islamophobia, such as by disowning the Sharia Law as a religious instrument, and more importantly, by failing to loudly, visibly and massively protest against the horrendous terror crimes that are perpetrated in the name of Islam. However, there are many other fault-lines to this cancerous eruption. As elaborated in the following article, some of these fault-lines lie in other’s territories. It is time, both the Muslim and Islam critical leadership put their acts together to address the fault-lines in their respective camps – rather than the stronger side blaming the weak – the unfortunate irony and bitter truth of history.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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