What’s Sharia, and what’s wrong with Sharia Law?
Do you know the craziest thing about all the efforts some non-Muslims are undertaking to prevent Muslims from bringing Sharia Law here, to North America?
Islamically, there’s actually no such thing as Sharia Law in the first place: it’s a bilingual oxymoron, incorrectly implying that something perfect can be made by men.
But all those efforts, and all the confusion that surrounds them, make us wonder whether we Muslims who live here will eventually have to make what we consider a false choice, between our country and our religion.
The simple truth is, to most Muslims, for everything other than what we consider the “5 pillar items” like our declaration of faith, our charity, our prayers, our pilgrimage and our fasting in Ramadan, rather than a rigidly fixed set of laws, al-Sharia, “the path to the water hole” is a set of principles (principles like equality, justice, and the importance of linking rights to responsibilities and risks to rewards) promoting a set of simple practices (like living humbly, serving God and minding your own business) that Muslims believe are divinely ordained and therefore perfect. And so we also believe that if they were followed perfectly that would give us a perfect world.
So far so good.
Because most of us realize that no matter how they start out our laws end up being made by not-so-perfect people who don’t always live up to those principles. In fact, sometimes they subvert those high-minded ideals for their own sake, and create laws that do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do.
And when believers do that to their own religion, Muslims know that’s called an abomination.
Most of us know that just calling something Sharia doesn’t make it so.
But the problem is that it’s the abominations of al-Sharia we so often end up talking about regardless, and the abominations we sometimes even end up defending, things like stoning adulterers, and/or oppressing women, and/or condoning pedophilia, for the sake of religious freedom.
But since those abominations are clearly indefensible Islamically, they can be –and should be– rejected Islamically, according to al-Sharia.
So the choice isn’t between Sharia Law and the West; it’s actually between Islam and what’s become of Sharia Law.
According to the Chair of Canada’s Imam Council Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi, what’s lacking in all our misconceptions regarding al-Sharia is a clear distinction between the revealed laws and principles –such as justice, freedom, consultative democracy etc., which one can find as the basis of many civil societies, Muslim and not — and the contextually and culturally influenced interpretations which became derived laws over the last 1400 years. Because so few (Muslims and non-Muslims together) understand sometimes even the most basic principles of Islam, a schism develops between scholars and the rest of humanity, to the extent that many non-scholars think it’s all equally al-Sharia. He also pointed out even the most learned scholars sometimes make mistakes. And regarding this article he told me, “Shari’ah is not as simple as one may think. Unless one consecrates oneself to the process and has a broad knowledge of texts, Tafsir/Quranic exegesis andFiqh/Jurisprudence as well as of their specific validity, all we have is personal opinion.”
That means to have any useful meaning, the English language phrase “Sharia Law” can only be understood as shorthand for the process of taking Islamic ideal-world perfect principles down into the reality we live with and for every step we take in between, kind of like what the phrase “Constitutional Law” means in America. No-one thinks “Constitutional Law” is anything but an ongoing field of study, examining a centuries long dialogue conducted by us, our lawyers, our judges, our jurists and our legislators about applying an ideal to the day-to-day world we live in, upon which our laws are based.
But if we’re being honest, I think Western Muslims will have to admit that those religious freedoms we think we’re protecting, among many other things, are actually better protected here than in many if not most (or perhaps even all?) countries throughout the Muslim world. And the abominations don’t deserve defense, Islamically or otherwise. In fact, those abominations are responsible for the fact that what passes for al-Sharia in much of the world today is a travesty, that falls so far short of what it should be, and so far short of we already enjoy in both America and Canada because of our Bill of Rights and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which are already unquestionably “Sharia-compliant”) that Muslims here should immediately and unequivocally reject them, paradoxically for the sake of so-called “Sharia Law.”
In fact, we should defend our own country’s traditions of Constitutional Law in their stead, because that’s actually better Sharia than so-called “Sharia Law” has been since the days of Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Because claiming direct divine inspiration for your legal system makes it frighteningly easy to use the coercive power of religion counter to what most religions claim is the express purpose of faith. It’s supposed to be about realizing our individual responsibilities to our Creator to help us control ourselves, not about seeking the power to control others. Since faith makes us all subject to a Creator who made everyone alongside us to some absolutely good purpose, that requires us to be good for everyone as well, faith is supposed to make us more equal to each-other, and make our societies more just.
An objective, honest and historically accurate assessment of Muslim history admits that instead of doing that, “Sharia Law” has often been abused to exactly the opposite purpose for over a thousand years.
How did that happen? When one of his companions once questioned the Qur’an’s claim that some Christians had taken their leaders as lords in place of our Creator, Muhammad explained that by obeying priests in place of God, and subjecting themselves to scholars in place of seeking God’s wisdom for themselves, especially when those clerics counsel obviously contradicted God’s clear commands, some Christians had in fact done just that.
And looking at some Muslim’s scurrying attempts to do the same — a practice that led inevitably to abominations like the Jahili/ignorant death-eaters of franchised al-Qaeda, sucking up to their evil demon masters, committing atrocities no sane person could ever doubt were just dead wrong — I’m not sure we Muslims are much better than they.
However, it’s not just Muslim religious law that’s being subverted. Another reason for Muslims clearly defending America and Canada’s Constitutional traditions for the sake of al-Sharia is how fear of Muslims and al-Sharia has been used to subvert those foundational laws in a manner that works counter to our nation’s express purposes of freedom, liberty and equality for all as well. And as an aside to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, I think the ease with which that subversion has been perpetrated here in North America is something that should frighten us all.
As a Canadian Muslim, who loves what’s best about Islam and Canada together, I honestly believe Muhammad foreshadowed Canada in Medina over a thousand years ago, because that’s what Allah told him to do. As prophet to Muslims, he used that authority and Medina’s diverse people’s personal election to make himself the world’s first Prime Minister, and created a Shura Council that presaged Parliament.
And I think he did that because the Qur’an said God made us different diverse peoples so our diversity would help us better find our paths towards Him together. Muhammad knew al-Sharia was supposed to be good for everyone whether he or she were Muslim or not.
Because everybody needs water, for virtually everything we do, no matter what we do or who we are. Personally, I think that’s why they called the Islamic principle of egalitarian justice al-Sharia in the first place, that helped them build up an fair, just, diverse, inclusive and tragically short-lived society over a thousand years ago in the Middle East, before traitors to Muhammad’s divinely inspired intent, whether Muslim or not, whether willfully or not, and whether knowingly or not, began so very quickly to tear it back down.
But his example lives on, for those who make an honest attempt to find it: that’s why Muslims following al-Sharia for real can get along with everyone who wants to get along with them. In religion you really do get what you’re looking for. Authentic Islam really does mean peace.
My bottom line? There’s no need to defend North America from al-Sharia. Al-Sharia, and Muslims who’ll defend it and North America’s highest values, are already here.