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Chapter 5 (Part 1)
Shackled By Sharia
Last week, we completed our discussion about martyrdom. We learned that the call for martyrdom is present in media, schools and mosques. While it may seem subtle, it has generated thousands of youths to come forward to participate in martyrdom. The focus on death and the afterlife allows Muslims to treat this life as a way station and not a place where their life begins. Yet, Ali notes that if imams were to focus on making this life matter, Muslims will be able to live and thrive in the modern world. Today, we will see why Muslims are unable to move forward due to sharia.
What is sharia? The sharia law derives from Qur'an and hadith. This law contains a set of religious principles that Muslims should follow and adhere to. It s a legal system that controls how Muslims should live their lives and the penalties that one must face if breaking this law. Sharia is practiced in places like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iran. For example, in Sudan, Merriam Ibrahim a twenty-seven year old was sentenced to receive one hundred lashes and death for adultery and apostasy. She was eight-months pregnant at the time. While you may think that this occurred a long time ago, this actually occurred in 2014. Merriam wanted to follow Christianity (her mother's religion) rather than Islam (her father's religion), therefore her family forbid this which led to her arrest and harsh penalty. The penalty is determined according to the sharia law. Sadly, Merriam's own brother told CNN that "she should be executed." Under the sharia law (and Sudan's Islamic law code), a father's religion must be the religion of his children. While Muslim woman are not allowed to marry outside of their religion, Muslim men are allowed to. Therefore, in Merriam's case she was supposed to follow her father's religion. Her punishment? One hundred lashes and death. While she was later released due to her being married to an American citizen, this is a prime example on how sharia can be used.
Merriam's case may sound extraordinary and rare. Yet, this is not rare at all. Sharia is routinely used all over the Islamic world. Whenever the sharia is applied, it is supported by the Qur'an. For example, beheadings are sanctioned in the Qur'an 47:4. It states, "when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks." In the Qur'an 5:33 it sanctions crucifixions when it says, "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land." In the case of adultery and fornication, the Qur'an specifically shows no compassion and determines public lashing as its punishment. Qur'an 24:2 states, "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment."
The sharia codifies Islam's rules. It controls how you give worship, your life, behavior, your "economic and legal transactions", home life, and how to govern the nation. French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville states, "Islam...has most completely confounded and intermixed the two powers...so that all the acts of civil and political life are regulated more or less by religious law." It has a prescription for everything. It even tells you in what manner a husband can beat his wife. In Western countries, we look at laws to protect the rights of the person. Although we have laws for everything, we look towards settling in and out of court. More importantly, we strive to settle peacefully. Yet, the sharia has a different goal in mind. It is "first and foremost about the maintenance of a moral order." Muslims believe that these laws were given and driven by Allah and Muhammad. Therefore, it is fixed and never changed. In addition, the laws that were created in the seventh-century is still followed by the Islamic world everywhere. Ali states, "Where Western law generally set boundaries for what cannot be done, leaving everything else is permissible, with sharia the system is reversed. The list of things that can be done is very small, while the list of what cannot be done overwhelms everything else -- except for the list of punishments, which is even longer." Sadly, the sharia becomes the way of life for many Muslims, even though it retards the growth of the individual in their society.
Many Muslims often argue that there are many sections in the Old Testament of the Bible that also contains rules and punishments. Therefore, it isn't fair to target Islam only. In the Old Testament, Moses sanctioned many laws and governed everything. He governed how to punish one that commits idolatry and prohibiting certain marriages. Yet, the laws that Moses imparted is not put into practice today. The only set of rules that is "timeless" is the Ten Commandments. Yet, these set of rules are practiced by many nations not just Christians. Sharia on the other hand use their seventh-century laws and apply it today in this modern world.
Sharia can be seen practiced in the Islamic world. For example, in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers many men go to the central square to watch those being punished by the sharia law. They would go there to see a robber getting his/her hands cut off, stoning of adulterers and beheading of murderers. There are many crimes that can result in death. For example, if anyone were to blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, this would be punishable by death. This blasphemy laws are enforced in many Muslim countries. While many people may think that the practicing of sharia law may soon dwindle, it is becoming more and more popular and advocated for. Sharia has spread globally and found "universally accepted" in the Muslim world. For example, when predominantly Muslim nations were asked "Do you favor or oppose making sharia law, or Islamic law, the official law of the land in our country?" Indonesia (204 million), Pakistan (178 million), Bangladesh (149 million), Egypt (80 million) and Nigeria (76 million) people supported the sharia law being imposed in their country.
Sharia can be seen solely as a law that is used to govern the country, yet, it dictates how you should live, what you do in the privacy of your home and how one must morally act. The sharia law has been the choice of law for many Muslim countries. Yet, this law retards the growth of Muslims. The sharia law shackles those to the seventh-century time that goes against the modern world. Next week, we will continue to see how sharia affects Muslims and how this should not be practiced anymore.
1) What is "sharia?" What do you think about the sharia?
2) What do you think about Merriam Ibrahim's case? Do you think the punishment was appropriate for her "crime?"
3) Do you find the sharia problematic? Why or why not?
4) How does the sharia "shackle" Muslims? In what ways?