In Islam - Sharia Vs Islam
By Rehman Faiz
28 March, 2006
The Abdul Rahman case is considered
to be a test for Afghanistan's path towards secularism and democracy,
the system strongly promised by president Hamid Karzai, apparently a
secular and broad minded leader. Abdul Rahman was detained two weeks
ago when his relatives reported to the police about his conversion to
Christianity which is forbidden under Islamic Sharia law. Supreme Court
Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada has persisted that Abdul Rahman, is in
police custody and that he could face the death penalty if he refused
to become a Muslim again. It is important to note here that the strict
Sharia law was introduced and implemented by Taliban, who confronted
strict criticism by the secular states especially by the West governments
and if sentenced to death, the man will be the first to be punished
for conversion since the dismissal of the Taliban regime.
Over the last few years,
the experts have continuously been expressing their concerns over the
superficial way of modernization in Afghanistan even four years after
the fall of the Taliban while the corruption and cronyism remained one
of the major part of the country's administrative system with ever increasing
production of narcotics currently reaching to an extent of $2.8 billion.
The current case has verified various concerns and apprehensions by
the secular circles on the developments in Afghanistan, triggering alarms
in Germany, the US, Italy and all NATO countries with their peacekeeping
troops in Afghanistan. German politicians has started a serious debate
this week to define the role of Germany, a country which is sincerely
involved in Afghanistan's postwar reconstruction and peacekeeping with
2,700 soldiers deployed there, with a reformist agenda in Afghanistan
but without any genuine breakthrough by the religious conservatives
in Afghanistan. The similar debates and dialogues have been started
within the parliaments and governments' circles of the developed countries
identifying that if Afghanistan went ahead with the death sentence it
would show that the country has serious flaws in its way towards democracy
Sharia Law has been an issue of major concerns by the secular circles
and the civil society organizations during the past many years. According
to these circles a strict and harsh religious law is impractical since
there is no boundary between civil and criminal matters in this law.
The Sharia law has been criticized due to its clash with the known and
recognized global standards of human rights especially its clauses relating
to blasphemy, Hudood, Qisas or Diyat issues. These clauses have harshly
been used in many of the Muslim countries mostly to set personal scores
against minorities, and to badly violate the minorities' and women's
The accretion of discriminatory religious legislation in many Muslim
countries has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance, which
contributes to acts of violence directed against Muslim and non Muslim
minorities groups like Hindus, Christians Ahmadis, Zikris, and Shias.
Even if the Government does not encourage sectarian violence, there
are instances in which the Governments failed to intervene in cases
of societal violence directed at minority religious groups. In this
regard it is considered that the separation of religion from the state
is crucial in order to grantee equal and just rights for all.
It is important here to have a look at the genesis of the Sharia Law
in the Islamic tradition and its position in the basic tenets of Islam.
Sharia is the Arabic word for Islamic law, also known as the Law of
Allah , and governs both public and private lives of those living in
an Islamic state. Sharia covers not only religious rituals, but many
aspects of day-to-day life, politics, economics, banking, business or
contract law, and social issues.
Although it is considered that the Sharia law has been inspired by the
Quran yet in fact it has been developed and evolved through medieval
Islamic periods with the will and efforts of the then Islamic rulers.
The Sharia as it developed in the first few centuries of Islam incorporated
many pre-Islamic Middle-Eastern indigenous and tribal customs and traditions.
Therefore Sharia law is a reflection of human efforts made some 1000
years back to establish legislative systems for the then regimes by
taking help from the Quran as well as the legal principles from other
traditions. Thereby it refers the social and economic conditions at
the time of the Abbasids and became out of touch with later social,
economic, technological, cultural and moral developments.
The efforts to apply the Sharia law in today's world, mainly consisted
of the religious tenets of a millennium's back society, just reveals
the failure of the Islamic clergy in getting benefit out of the productive
theme of 'Ijtehad' (the way of improvement according to the contemporary
social needs). The failure of Islamic clergy in bridging up the Sharia
law between the contemporary global needs and the basic Islamic ideology
is evident by the examples given below.
The basic Islamic ideology in the Quran ensures freedom of religion:
"Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians,
and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in
the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense
from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve".
2:62] "Let there be no compulsion in religion" [2:256] similarly
there is no death penalty for apostasy even: "Surely (as for) those
who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then
increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in
the (right) path" [4:137].
It is important to note here that the Quran authorizes death penalty
for murder and other horrendous crimes, not for apostasy: "You
shall not kill any person - for GOD has made life sacred - except in
the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir
authority to enforce justice" [17:33]. Another Quranic verse states:
"For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that
whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief
in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive,
it is as though he kept alive all men" [5:32]. Similarly one can
find numerous inconsistencies between the basic Islamic principles and
the proposed Shariah law. For instance, Shariah sanctions stoning to
death for both the adulterer and adulteress, while the Quran prescribes
100 lashes as punishment for adultery.
These few examples highlight the failure of the modern Islamic clergy
in re-modifying the Islamic scripture to address the newer challenges
in the fields of science, economy, sociology and politics as modified
by the clerics of many religions including Christianity. If we compare
Islamic and Christian theology during the medieval times we can find
numerous similarities between the two traditions on the subjects of
state, theology, sociology and economy. However, we find both religious
traditions expediting through the opposite directions especially since
the early 20th century. The clerics of Christianity seem successful
in incorporating the newer issues like global peace, human rights, charity
and human assistance, economy, polity and sociology. However, there
seems to be a be an overall lack of initiative as far as the Islamic
clergy is concerned.
The Muslim clerics seems tackling the only issue of the modern age:
the post-colonial and post-imperial fallout. The critical challenge
produced by the modern issues is the way to assess the contemporary
Muslim clerics in directing Muslims towards a profound, vivid and practical
way to lead peaceful, interactive and coordinated lives with other inhabitants
of the global village.
Rehman Faiz lives in Lahore - Pakistan
E-mail address: email@example.com