In the Name of Allah's Law
How should Muslims implement Sharia (Islamic) law? Let's heed the lessons from Pakistan's Lal Masjid tragedy.
These basic principles, it seems, have been completely neglected and abandoned by many Muslims jurists today. Doesn't this lead to injustice? Isn't that the exact opposite of what Islamic law is all about? So does this justify calls for a moratorium on the implementation of Islam’s criminal penal code, as made by academics such as Tariq Ramadan?
Then there is the whole issue of "There is no compulsion in religion. (Qur’an, 2:256)” How does this play with respect to humans implementing what they believe to be God's law? Although there is some compulsion when it comes to the government imposing law and order (people are "compelled" to drive under the speed limit), some Muslims elevate all sinful acts to the level of criminal law, which was never intended by the Sharia.
For example, the students of the Lal Masjid reportedly harrassed music sellers because they believed music was haram, or forbidden by Islam. Yet, there are a number of Muslim scholars who have said that there is nothing in Islam that prohibits music. If these students have their way and ban all music, isn't this "compulsion in religion"? Aren't they imposing their own personal religious view upon the rest of the community? This isn’t Sharia but vigilantism, which is expressly forbidden by the Sharia law itself.
These are only some of the many questions that need to be addressed when it comes to the implementation of Sharia law, and I do not even pretend to know the answers to these questions. Nevertheless, these questions must be answered and these inherent tensions need to be resolved by the scholars of the Muslim world today. And there should be nothing wrong with raising such questions in the first place.
Many Muslims today, especially after 9/11, operate under a "siege" mentality and feel the whole world is against them because of the intense scrutiny now placed upon Islam, its tenets, and Muslim communities around the world. Add to that the enormous amount of suspicion of the Muslim community by their non-Muslim neighbors because of the acts of a few terrorist criminals. As a result, many Muslims feel that taking a critical eye toward issues such as Sharia law is somehow being "disloyal" to Islam.
But truth does not fear investigation, and the least we can do--especially when it comes to attempting to implement God’s will on earth--is ask ourselves hard questions. If we do it wrong and say "God says thus," we will be lying on behalf of God, something against which He warned us sternly: "Woe, then, unto those who write down, with their own hands, [something which they claim to be] divine writ, and then say, 'This is from God,' in order to acquire a trifling gain thereby; woe, then, unto them for what their hands have written, and woe unto them for all that they may have gained! (Qur’an, 2:79)”
The purpose of the Sharia is to promote justice and the common good. In fact, many people will be surprised to learn that the Sharia serves as the inspiration for the law in many Muslim countries, and there are few problems at all. In a minority of instances, however, the Sharia--as some Muslims have presently applied it--has been an instrument of injustice and intolerance (think Afghanistan under the Taliban and Nigeria in the Lawal case). This was never the intention of the God.
Too many Muslims fail to understand this, and because of this disaster has been handed down in the name of God and His religion. This cannot be allowed to happen again. This is, admittedly, a very sensitive issue, but we cannot shy away from it in the least. Our very salvation is at stake. Yet, in my speaking with numerous Muslim scholars, I see hope. The religious establishment across the Muslim world is working hard to update itself, under their own imperative, and not from any pressure from the West. Hopefully these forces for change will win the day.