"Anti Sharia Hysteria"
Whose Sharia is it anyway?
August 2, 2012 | Strategic Research Circle, Lee s Summit, MO
During November 2010, Oklahomans overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment banning use of Islamic law in court. In June of 2011, Tennessee passed an anti-terrorism law that empowers the attorney general to designate Islamic groups suspected of terror activity as “Sharia organizations.”
A federal judge blocked the Oklahoma amendment after a member of CAIR, A Muslim civil rights group, claimed that the law was an unconstitutional infringement on his religion.
Such bills are product of a campaign started by Islamophobe groups, most of them with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Ironically, these groups do not believe that Christian, Jewish or canon laws could also be affected by such legislation.
These anti-Muslim groups drafted a model legislation blaming Sharia as “one of the greatest threats to American freedom since the cold war” They cite studies claiming that a sizable population of Muslims in Islamic countries support Islamic rule. They link American Muslim organizations with their overseas counterparts, as if other religious groups have no similar relationships.
However, a study by the Abu Dhabi based Gallup Center found that only a fraction of American Muslims claim they are represented by American Islamic groups.
The anti-sharia hysteria is calling people to an imaginary “problem” that does not exist. Overwhelming majority of American Muslims are not interested in promoting Sharia, a term that they themselves don’t know what it means. Even people in Muslims nations are wondering what it takes to apply Sharia in their countries. American Muslims say that they are merely asking for rightful recognition of their faith in a society where multiculturalism and protection of religion is guaranteed in the constitution.
U.S. Constitution forbids the government from favoring one religion over another. It also bars federal and state governments from interfering in religious matters. However, new anti-sharia bills sponsored by the states are carefully crafted to withstand constitutional scrutiny, interchangeably using “foreign and international laws” with “Sharia”.
In cases involving divorce, custody, inheritance and business contracts, courts do look at religious issues before making rulings. However, they follow guidelines set by the state and federal laws rather than foreign or religious codes.
The anti-Sharia drive is aimed to marginalize American Muslims through hate driven by an imagined fear.
Islam, like any other faith, aspires its followers to educate masses about it. However, making people of other faiths follow Islamic practices is entirely different matter. It’s clear from Quranic verse La ikraha fi deen. that“There is no compulsion in faith”
What is Sharia?
Every society has laws or disciplines to establish justice and laws of Muslims is Sharia. Sharia is not a matter of casual discussion, especially when it comes to taking someones life, limbs, or property. It has conditions and provisions that both ignorant Muslims and non-Muslims tend to quote, that is to misquote.
Sharaa’ means to legislate. it also means a tent, a protection or shelter from things in a society that can be difficult to deal with. Sharia also means a source of water that never goes dry. It also means path to that source of water.
Sharia protects or preserves six things; Religion, Life, Property, Intellect, Reputation, and Lineage.
The term Sharia can be a comprehensive set of rulings, a moral and legal obligation for Muslims. Principles of Sharia are unchallengeable but the applications of the principles may grow or change in different times and places. European Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan compares relevance of Sharia in modern world with renovating a old house without changing its foundation. This process of growing or renovation is called Fiqh and Usul in Islam. Usul is a science that organizes the process of generating rules based on following principles.
1. Harm should be removed and benefit promoted
2. Actions are from intentions
3. Certainty overrides doubt
4. Difficult situations require flexibility
5. Customs of people should be taken into consideration
According to Raghib Isfahani, a 12th century persian scholar of Quranic commentary or tafsir, there are two types of justices, Adala muqtada and Adala muqayyida. the first one is natural laws, other is imposed by the people. Western thinkers like John Locke believed in the natural laws. However, scholars who came later, brought the idea of human convention, laws that humans could agree on. Meaning, there are no laws of absolute standard or divine laws. In other word, West went with the idea of “greatest good for the greatest number”. However, over the centuries, Muslims believe in divine or natural laws or fitra did not waiver. Perhaps, for this reason, Islamic laws are wrongfully considered in the West as primitive.
Sharia or Islamic laws are derived from four fundamental sources; Quran, Sunnah (practices of prophet Mohammad), Ijmaa (consensus of Muslim scholars or community or common laws), Qiyas (analogical reasoning).
The second source of Sharia is Sunna or practices of prophet Muhammad. He added injunctions to the Quran on matters that needed explanation in greater details. intentionally left out by God, to give freedom to humans to decide their own affairs out of His mercy to the them. That is why Muslim scholars believe that the matters where Quran and Sunnah are silent, is for reason.
The third source of Sharia is Ijmaa or juristic analogy and that has to be from consensus of the scholars, judges and Muslim community. So if group of experts and people agree on something, it becomes a legislation or part of Islamic legal codes for Muslims to adopt.
Now, recommending sharia to be a legal code of a state is one thing, implementing it in a non-Muslim or even in a Muslim country is entirely different matter. Many Muslim countries have not made shariah part of their penal codes and when they did, government or people don’t follow them, which in Islamic tradition is even worst than having it in first place.
There has been fear mongering about Sharia that it’s creeping into American social and legal system. If overwhelming Christian majority decided not to make America a Christian country, why would 1% of American Muslims wish to impose their religious practices on their non-Muslims fellow Americans
Quran also mentions making treaties with people. Allah says in Quran, “If they incline towards peace, you also incline towards peace”. And once you agree on terms and conditions, that become part of the sacred or legal codes for the Muslims affected by that treaty. Which is based on the basic idea from a hadith that scholars of my community never agree on something that is wrong or harmful to the people.
And the final source of Sharia is qiyas. Meaning, if decision is not arrived through Quran, Sunnah or Ijmaa then you can use the analogy to come up with your legal code, as long as that analogy is not misused or goes against the first two sources, Quran and Sunnah.
Sharia also recognizes and implements penal codes of previous religions such as Ten Commandments, all of which is part of Islamic sharia. It may not be in same order, but it’s there. So the idea of consensus or Ijmaa is important in interpretation of Islamic rulings.
There are six punishable offenses in Sharia
2. Armed robbery
3. High treason
4. False accusation (eg accusing a woman of adultery)
5. Adultery itself
6. Stealing or mugging
Now when you talk about chopping off hands or stoning people to death, we are looking at Islamic codes in very superficially and radically simplistic terms.
Yes, Quran does say that “As for the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands as a punishment for what they have earned, a deterrence from God” (Al maida, 38). The word for deterrence in Arabic is makal which means to recoil or to shrink back from, to refrain from or to make an example of.
To cut off one’s hand hedges on important conditions, that it has to be stolen from a secured place. that it can’t be from something left outside. Also, you can’t cut off hand for stealing food. If the person is poor or homeless and breaks into a food store, that is categorically not the ground for cutting hand.
Also, a person who mugs another person, forcefully taking or snatching his money or belongings, as long as there is no weapon involved, person’s hand is not cut, . They can be punished but not by cutting hands. Omar, one of the successor of prophet Mohammad, relaxed the punishment of cutting of hands during a famine.
Even in the Christian tradition, you cut off hand with the idea that it’s preferred to go to heaven maimed than to be thrown in hellfire with a whole body.
"And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Mathews 5:30)
The basis for Sharia is necessity (zaruriat) and need. Other than four above mentioned sources, there are twelve additional sources of Sharia that cover social benefits. Again, the whole concept is to benefit mankind, which is agreed upon by overwhelming majority scholars of Islam
For examples, traffic signs. There is consensus (ijma) among scholars that it’s a sin to run against a red light, which is based on the principle of masleha or public interest. You could harm people if you don’t follow traffic rules. The whole point of Sharia is preservation of life and property so that life becomes enjoyable, becomes full of blessing in which people praise and give shukr or thank to God. Other examples of social benefit is when people do noble things such as charity or taking care of weak and the poor.
"Even people in Muslim nations are wondering what it takes to apply Sharia in their countries"
"a study by the Abu Dhabi based Gallup Center found that only a fraction of American Muslims claim that they are represented by American Islamic groups"
"U.S. Constitution forbids the government from favoring one religion over another. It also bars federal and state governments from interfering in religious matters" "Sharia is a complicated matter especially when it comes to taking someones life or property" "Sharaa’ means to legislate. it also means a tent, a protection or shelter from things in a society that can be difficult to deal with" "Principles of Sharia are unchallengeable but the applications of the principles may grow or change in different times and places" "Sharia protects or preserves six things; Religion, Life, Property, Intellect, Reputation, and Lineage" "Muslims believe in divine or natural laws or fitra did not waiver. Perhaps, for this reason, Islamic laws are wrongfully considered in the West as primitive" "Sharia or Islamic laws are derived from four fundamental sources; Quran, Sunnah (practices of prophet Mohammad), Ijmaa (consensus of Muslim scholars or community or common laws), Qiyas (analogical reasoning)" "To cut off one’s hand hedges on important conditions, that it has to be stolen from a secured place. that it can’t be from something left outside. Also, you can’t cut off hand for stealing food. If the person is poor or homeless and breaks into a food store, that is categorically not the ground for cutting hand" "Sharia also recognizes and implements penal codes of previous religions such as Ten Commandments, all of which is part of Islamic sharia. It may not be in same order, but it’s there"
The sources of this article were derived from dead and living scholars of the West and Islam. SRC appreciates their contribution.
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