Sharia Laws and Fixing Them is a chapter from the book American Muslim Agenda available at Amazon and Kindle
Whether you are an atheist, a theist, or an agnostic, you may see the element of balance embedded in every aspect of creation—life and matter.
What does God want? Mothers want her kids to do well, teachers want their students to score As, chefs want all their patrons to enjoy their food, and the makers of iPhone wants all their customers to enjoy the phone to its max benefit. So God wants all his creation to function effectively and harmoniously and cohesively as he has created. That can be called God’s will, and subscribing to that thought can be called submitting (Quran), surrendering (Bhagavad Gita), or following (Bible) the creator.
Ever since our conscious life began, there have been some individuals among us who have worked hard to keep God’s will. The purpose of every religious or nonreligious leader is to create societies where no one has to live in fear of the other or no one is to be pushed out of the web.
Religion is a beautiful instrument with a purpose to maintain the social cohesiveness among the inhabitants. A majority of people get that right; a few don’t. And those who don’t, don’t realize that they are working against the balance without being aware of it.
Justice is the one word that wraps God, balance, harmony, and cohesion together, and that is the foundation of all societies. Without justice, things go awry, and if not checked, they will degenerate from there.
Each society, civil or religious, has its code of conduct that it operates on. Islam is no different. Sharia in its purest form is a how-to-serve-justice manual based on the Quran and the hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and life examples). Indeed, it is a human effort to understand the concept of justice enshrined in the Quran for the day-to-day living. Sharia, like all other human laws, including the laws of the United States, has its shortcomings when it comes to just applications of the law. However, the world has evolved, but sharia has indeed frozen in time.
American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and will continue to oppose the kind of sharia “that is prevalent in a handful of Muslim majority nations across the globe.” The misguided ones are duping Americans to believe that Muslims want sharia law here in America. They are wrong. No Muslim organization in America has asked for it—none. I will be one of the first ones, if not the first one, to stand up against sharia for the public. However, I support sharia for the personal use of people to square off their conflicts. We are Americans, and the law of the land is our law. There is no substitute for it.
The Genesis of Sharia Laws
After the death of Prophet Muhammad and the first four “rightly guided” caliphs, the new community was grappling with unique issues and was battling within to ensure that no one was denied justice. The desire to be entirely just was overwhelming.
Allah commands justice and ethical conduct (Quran 16:90; 4:58). You should stand firm in judgment, even if it went against yourselves or parents and relatives. Follow not your inclinations, lest you not be just (Quran 4:135, 6:152). Moreover, do not let the hatred of someone prevent you from being only toward him (Quran 5:8). You should do justice in all circumstances without any bias, discrimination, or prejudice, whether the outcome goes against you or your loved ones or in favor of your rivals.
Each issue was different, and the decisions were customized to one’s situations; it required a full-time judge to study the books thoroughly before a recommendation was made.
The scholars of the time met the challenge and created a body of knowledge as supplementary guidance and established the standards of moral conduct. Sharia laws were designed to be free from misapplications and regret-free decision-making processes.
Personal and Public Sharia
For this book, sharia is referred to as personal and public based on the functions. The personal sharia is about the relationship between an individual and the creator, whereas the public sharia is a relationship between the individual and the society.
The personal sharia deals with beneficial actions of individuals; they are purely personal and ritualistic in nature that every individual Christian, Jew, Hindu, or pagan follows in living their daily life—actions like praying, fasting, going on a pilgrimage, doing charity, feeding the hungry, taking care of neighbors, zakat, marrying, dying, and burying. It is indeed a guide for individual Muslims to observe and follow their faith.
The public sharia, on the other hand, deals with the individual’s relationship with fellow members of the society such as divorce, business contracts, adultery, theft, murders, conversion, apostasy, blasphemy, rape, and inheritance.
Sharia laws are intended to construct a complete justice system with fairness to all members of society. Peace and a sense of security are the products of justice in a given community.
American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and are happy with the public laws that serve justice. They are not looking for any proposal to substitute the American laws while they practice their faith.
The violations of justice and the rule of law are in every faith, culture, and political system to varying degrees. In this respect, no community is free of blame, and no one can cast the first stone against another community.
However, like all laws, the public sharia needs a severe revision to reflect the changing needs of society. The values enshrined in the Quran are dynamic, and because sharia laws are derived from the Quran, they must indicate the compelling applicability of the book. In modern times, the contentious issues that have most often recurred stem from the treatment of divorce, women’s rights, inheritance, theft, adultery, apostasy, and blasphemy.
Even here in America, laws framed initially with the intention of ensuring liberty and justice for all were misapplied for over a century after they were written, resulting in the severe denial of rights to women and slaves. It is only in the last seventy-five years that we are tuning ourselves to the intent of our constitution. A woman is no longer considered a chattel, and slavery has become an illegal practice. As of right now, the rights of individuals with different sexual orientations are at the center of the debates as much as the acceptance of a woman president in our country. Regarding capital punishment still evolving, we are behind Europe, and we remain as antiquated as Saudi Arabia in putting people to death.
However, even as we speak today, there is yet another speculative issue that has been brought up: the issue of application of sharia laws here in our country. This contentious debate is mostly a product of the salespersons who earn their living selling fear.
As an American Muslim who has traveled throughout this country, I can strongly affirm that no group of American Muslims has called for the application of sharia laws in America. Although a few individuals may have expressed their support for compliance with the regulations here in our country, they have, nevertheless, remained avid supporters of the laws and freedoms of the United States.
The sharia industry has been built with strong fortifications to the point that many Muslims are led to believe that sharia law is divine. In this way, the application of sharia throughout history can be comparable to the business protection plans used by defense, tax preparers, and other industries where the involved matters are so complicated that the society needs them.
The brouhaha about sharia law by many congressmen and legislators is ridiculous. These legislators who are introducing the bills in different states to ban sharia laws are as Neanderthals as some of the Taliban. Hear me out—if you and your spouse file for divorce, the judge will not bang his gavel and say, “It’s done.” Efforts will be made to find reconciliation with services such as arbitration, marriage counseling, and pastoral counseling, hoping you may find the magical moment to reconcile. Add to that rabbinic counseling where a rabbi counsels a Jewish couple to bring them back together, so Muslims are asking an option of having an imam counseling. What the hell is wrong with that?
Islam teaches each to be accountable for their actions. We do not need a sharia industry, and Islam certainly does not have clerical establishment built into it, nor is there a need for one.
We can retain the private sharia and let go of the public sharia. The civil laws of our nation provide ample justice, and we don’t need a duplicate system. Sharia law was never considered divine to begin with. Hence, there is no need to even dream about it.
Fixing Sharia Laws
American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and will continue to oppose the kind of sharia “that is prevalent in a handful of Muslim majority nations.”
The right-wingers are misleading Americans to believe that Muslims want that kind of sharia law here in America. They are wrong. No Muslim organization in America has asked for it—none whatsoever.
We are Americans, and the law of the land is our law. There is no substitute for it.
Rather than the outright rejection of sharia that serves as a system of justice to the given populations in Muslim majority nations, we need to fix the laws; without it, a broad swath of the population becomes rudderless. Our constitution has been amended several times, and that is what is needed to be done with sharia.
However, the moderate majorities in all groups see the value in fixing the cancerous cells rather than rejecting the whole system. Unless we fix things, injustice in the name of justice will continue.
The golden rule is central to all religions, saying, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” There is no religion on Earth that teaches one to treat the other any less. Most people get their religion right, and some don’t.
Conservative men tend to be insecure when dealing with women; no matter what faith they belong to, they behave the same. Their perceived safety hinges on keeping someone or the other under their thumb, usually women.
Sharia was a human effort to dispense justice to fellow beings following the Quran and the Prophet’s examples; however, men are fallible beings and have failed to deliver justice. They have got it all wrong when it comes to women, apostates, blasphemers, and victims of rape. Sharia practiced in a few Muslim nations does not reflect God’s wisdom or the practice of the Prophet. It needs to be fixed.
Our conservative lot gets offended when sharia is criticized as they (mistakenly) believe that sharia is God’s law, delivered like the Quran. Criticizing sharia is the right thing to do; after all, how are we going to fix it?
Muslims need to feel secure that God is not going anywhere, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not going anywhere, nor Quran will disappear; they are eternal. God tells the Prophet not to worry if people don’t listen to his message because he is the one who gives guidance. God also says he will protect his system (religion). Shouldn’t we trust in God? The conservatives—be it Christian, Muslim, Jews, Hindus, or others—don’t believe in God and aggressively preempt him.
Just as Americans cannot fathom any other form of law other than the one we know, the Muslims in Muslim-dominated nations cannot imagine any other law either. Our rules are not perfect, and neither is theirs. We have amended ours many times, and so should they.
There is nothing wrong with the intent of sharia; it’s the corruption that needs fixing. When done, Sharia would be as good as any other law aligning fully with the human-rights declaration.
Let’s deal with a few Sharia-related issues concerning rape victims, apostasy, and blasphemy laws.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Pakistan declared that DNA evidence in case of rape is supplementary, and they still require the four male witnesses to prosecute the rapists. Science (knowledge) means nothing to conservatives whether they are Christians or Muslims.
Asma Jahangir, a human-rights activist of Pakistan, responded, “The council members were refusing to reach out for the truth in rape cases and had given such urgency and prominence to their recommendation as if acceptance of DNA testing [were] a great threat to Islam.”
Moazzam Syed wrote in the World Muslim Congress forum, “So a rape victim needs to produce four pious Muslims who must have watched the full act of rape?” A few conservative Muslims may not like this statement, but that pales to the misery of the rape victim who endures the anguish for her entire life.
That isn’t justice, and that isn’t Islam. Not only are the conservatives defensive, but they also carry an attitude; any suggestion of reason or application of logic threatens them, and they scream that their religion is threatened. I have heard these sentences from Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all other right-wingers in different circumstances.
A documentary (Pakistan) is in the making where a thirteen-year-old girl returning from the school was gang-raped, and the damned judge was embarrassed that she dared to bring the case to his court, and the men laughed and questioned, “Why was she not at home?” Shamefully, this is also a part of men’s attitude in America—“she asked for it.”
I am glad they had the sense at least to debate in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Iran; the woman would have been stoned to death. Again, that is not Islam and purely the culture of those nations.
This shameful act of honor killing is not exclusive to Muslims. In Punjab, Haryana, and other parts of the subcontinent, the Hindus and Sikhs also kill their girl victims to protect the honor of their family.
The first word in Islam is iqra, meaning “read, recite, and understand.” That was the first word uttered to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. Iqra opens the door to everything in life. On another occasion, the Prophet said that if you have to learn something new, don’t hesitate to go anywhere, including distant lands such as China.
The prophet did not say, “Your minds are being plucked out. You don’t need it anymore to think. Everything is given to you in the Quran, and my examples—just follow it.” Indeed, the Prophet said in his last sermon that he was leaving this book to his followers to read, understand, and follow it.
The guardians of sharia eagerly approved and adopted text-message divorces and even e-mail divorces because they cared about men and not the women. This is not justice, and this is not Islam.
Some of the conservative men don’t believe in the equality of women and don’t listen to the Prophet. The hypocrites say that “Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a mercy to mankind.” Do they fully understand what it means? Fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet declared that women were free to own property, own their business, initiate marriage and divorce, and could disobey their husbands if they were coerced into doing things against their will. That is Islam.
Twelve hundred years later, the Western societies accorded that status to women, including the passage of Women’s Suffrage Act here in America just a hundred years ago, while a few conservative Muslim organizations have gone back to the times before the Prophet.
Prophet Muhammad did not punish anyone for blasphemy. Instead, he did the right thing—prayed for them. The self-appointed guardians of sharia laws can tell great many stories of the Prophet, yet they do the opposite.
The blasphemy laws go against the God-given freedom, and it aids the tyrants to abuse it. In Pakistan, a man framed a girl for desecrating the Quran. Joseph Colony, a Christian town, was completely destroyed before they discovered the truth.
Muslims believe that we are answerable to God on the Day of Judgment. The more of us speak up, the higher the chance of delivering justice to fellow beings; if we don’t, then evil persists. The least a Muslim can do is to speak up.
A petition was written years ago, urging the Pakistan government to release Asia Bibi, and an apology from Muslims to Christians was a part of it—an excuse for causing fear and apprehensions. Many Muslims refused to sign because of the inclusion of the word apology. It was a major disappointment.
Appeal for Justice to Asia Bibi and Mercy to Humankind
To: The People, Ulema, and Government of Pakistan
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a mercy to humanity. He is indeed a blessing to the humankind and rightfully known as Rahmutul Aalameen. There are innumerable examples of forbearance, forgiveness, and kindness of the Prophet (PBUH) toward those who insulted and even tried to harm him.
One of the most famous stories often repeated is about an old lady who threw trash on the Prophet every time he passed in front of her door. One day, the lady did not throw garbage at him. Concerned, he asked the neighbors and found that she was sick. He knocked on her door and offered help. Overwhelmed with kindness and love, she chose to become a Muslim.
Once on the way to the city of Aţ Ţā’if, the Prophet was pelted with rocks by miscreants. His associates wanted to retaliate, even the archangel Gabriel offered to help bring relief to the situation. The Prophet said no. Instead, he asked God to forgive them because he was the last messenger. If they were destroyed, to whom would they preach? He hoped that if not them, their progeny will accept the God-sent message to humanity.
He enjoined us that “if anyone eats a full meal when his neighbor is hungry or starving, then he is not from among us.” He never said “Muslim neighbor.” He loved humanity and asked Muslims to be role models of charity, kindness, concern, and love to all.
What was the need for the Prophet to have endured such painful experiences? It was to guide humanity toward kindness and shape long-term solutions for peaceful communities and the greater good of the society at large. He was committed to mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill; indeed, he was the ultimate peacemaker, mercy to humanity.
As Muslims, we need to keep his message of kindness alive and bring to fruition what he was all about—Rahmutul Aalameen. Let the mercy and compassion he taught become a blessing to the universe and continue to shower on humanity.
We appeal to the ulema, [the] thoughtful people, and the government of Pakistan to give life to the examples of the Prophet in representing Asia Bibi. What would Rahmutul Aalameen have done?
Asia Bibi is not a Muslim, and her menial work was considered unclean (napak) by others who believe themselves to be good Muslims, denied her water from the common source. Is this not a most egregious insult, and the denial of water, the same as a denial to sustain life?
First of all, he (the Prophet) would not have denied Asia Bibi the water of life. Indeed, in another famous occurrence, a person fed water to a thirsty animal, and the Prophet had said God would grace the person for that act of kindness. He would have been kind and magnanimous and would probably have us pray for Asia Bibi’s well-being. God loves the forgivers and those who repent.
As Muslims, we need to keep his message of kindness alive and bring to fruition what he was all about—Rahmutul Aalameen. Let the mercy and compassion he taught become a blessing to the universe and continue to shower on humanity.
We owe an apology to Asia Bibi, her family, and the Christian community. We should build goodwill in our and their hearts.
We ask the people of Pakistan to debate about the blasphemy laws seriously. The violent silencing of Governor Salman Taseer calls for an immediate need for a discussion on the topic. Islam is about free will, and as Muslims, we need [to] stand against any oppression toward any human being following in the footsteps of the prophet. Amen!
In humility, we submit this appeal to bring rahmat (mercy) and justice to every human being.
- Mike Mohamed Ghouse, World Muslim Congress
- Dr. Imam Zia ul Haq Sheikh, Islamic Council of Irving, USA
- Dr. Mirza A. Beg, World Muslim Congress, USA
- Dr. M. Basheer Ahmed, USA
- Dr. Nauman Anwar, USA
- Bishop Ijaz Inayat, Pakistan
- Dr. John Dayal, All India Christian Council, India
Muslims claim that the Prophet was a mercy to humanity. Shouldn’t the actions of his followers reflect that attitude toward fellow humans? Does Asia Bibi see the Prophet as mercy? Whose fault is that? The Muslims who denied her water must be punished for their acts. Had they given her way ahead of them to take water for her sick child, she would have given the dua prayers not only to them but also to the Prophet who taught them to be merciful.
It is a tool of oppression employed by kings, dictators, and some of the caliphs to keep the dissent under control. It is ironic that Islam insists on free will, yet some of these followers have messed it up. It is time, as American Muslims, to make a declaration to rid of this and hope that Muslims around the world will follow suit.
There is no punishment for apostate; one is free to be a Muslim and choose to walk away from it without consequence. There is no support for the penalty in the Quran, but apostasy has crept in through sharia laws, crippling the inclusive nature of Islam and giving birth to political Islam.
This cooked up innovation was injected into Islam by Maulana Maududi, Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and a host of other Muslim “scholars” from the past. Sadly, Muslims have swallowed their stuff without questioning the validity of their claims.
Pastor Nadarkhani is the only case pending now in Iran. He was a Muslim and chose to become a Christian. The other two examples in the last ten years are that of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan and Lina Joy in Malaysia. I hope the Iranian authorities release him soon; that is the Islamic thing to do.
We need to wrap our heads around the issue as it is not Quranic, and neither Prophet Muhammad punished anyone for abandoning Islam. It is a case of twisting God’s laws to suit the rulers or the patriarchy who wanted to control others.
However, the Quran mentions nothing of such punishment, so why should we impose such a cruel and inhumane form of punishment? Are we so insecure about our religion that if anyone is to leave it, we have to kill them?
American Muslim scholars are best suited to research the topic as their environment is as pluralistic as it was during the times of Prophet Muhammad.
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq writes in his blog Apostasy and Islam,
Now one of the most significant tools of anti-Islam/anti-Muslim propaganda is based on the issue of apostasy, claiming that Islam does not uphold the freedom of faith. Even our children are getting confused, and many are quietly disavowing our weak position on as fundamental an issue as freedom of faith/religion.
Undeniably, the traditional position of Muslim scholars and jurists has been that apostasy (riddah) is punishable by death. The longstanding problem of the conventional view, as held by Classical jurists or scholars, can be explained and excused as not being able to see apostasy, an issue of pure freedom of faith and conscience, separate from treason against the community or the state.
Dr. Louay Safi states,
Traditionalist scholars have long embraced classical positions on apostasy that consider the rejection of Islam as a capital crime, punished by death. This uncritical embrace is at the heart of the drama that was played in the case of the Afghan convert to Christianity, and which would likely be repeated until the debate about sharia reform and its relevance to state and civil law is examined and elaborated by authentic Muslim voices. Indeed, one cannot find in the Quran any support for the apostasy (riddah) penalty. . . . I am inclined to the increasingly popular view among contemporary scholars, that riddah does not involve a moral act of conversion, but a military act of rebellion, whose calming justifies the use of force and the return of fire . . . A Christian or a Jew who converts to Islam is no more a Christian or a Jew, but a Muslim and must be respected as such. By the same taken a Muslim who converted to Christianity is no more a Muslim, but a Christian and must be respected as such.
Nowhere in the Quran does God say to “kill” those who leave their religion. On the contrary, God emphasizes that all Muslims must practice the total freedom of religion.
Means of insight have now come unto you from your Sustainer [through this divine writ]. Whoever, therefore, chooses to see, does so for his good; and whoever wishes to remain blind, does so to his hurt. Moreover, [say unto the blind of heart]: “I am not your keeper.” (Asad, Quran 6:104)
Sharia was a human effort in delivering justice to fellow beings following Quran and the Prophet’s examples; however, humans are fallible beings and are not providing justice to women, apostates, blasphemers, rapists, and rape victims.
Sharia, as practiced in a few of the Muslim nations, does not reflect God’s wisdom, nor does it correspond with the Prophet’s practice. It needs to be fixed before we sink with our sins of injustice to fellow humans in general and women in particular.
American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and will continue to oppose sharia laws as they are applied in many places across the globe. I will be one of the first ones, if not the first one, to stand up against it. The Muslim majority in America is happy with the American system and does not want to have sharia law here in America.
On the show Hannity on Fox News, I have challenged the likes of Spencer and others to show an American Muslim organization that wants to impose it on Americans. It’s merely a hype; they cannot substantiate it. This may be bad news for the likes of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, John Hagee, and a host of other right-wingers who thrive on selling hate and painting chaotic scenarios. It will hurt their sales and affect their cash flow. They cannot dupe Americans with unsubstantiated and statistically insignificant claims. Americans are trained to see another point of view and to be nonjudgmental.
As a Muslim, I stand against sharia for public consumption but allow for personal use for people to square their conflicts. We are Americans, and the law of the land is our law. There is no substitute for it.
If it is not common sense, then it is not Islam.
A Few Verses on Justice
Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity toward [one’s] fellow-men; and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind. (Quran 16:90)
BEHOLD, God bids you deliver all that you have been entrusted with unto those who are entitled to that, and whenever you judge between people, to judge with justice. Verily, most excellent is what God exhorts you to do: verily, God is all-hearing, all-seeing! (Quran 4:58)
O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do! (Quran 4:135)
“And do not touch the substance of an orphan—save to improve it—before he comes of age.” Moreover, [in all your dealings] give full measure and weight, with equity: [however,] We do not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear; and when you voice an opinion, be, even though it be [against] one near of kin. Also, [always] observe your bond with God: Be just, this has He enjoined upon you so that you might keep it in mind. (Quran 6:152)
O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be: this is closest to being God-conscious. So, remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do. (Quran 5:8)