Shariah Law

Were I a reporter, I would walk around asking those who rage against it, “So, what IS it?”
We love being afraid of things we don’t know! And some people love living in fear. I can’t understand why. Living in fear is not fun. Perhaps because fear unites people against other people? Yay, power!
I strongly suspect those who fear Shariah Law do so because their interpretation of it is incorrect. What they probably imagine is an actual, written text that cannot be changed and is frightfully harsh. Stonings! Uhm, what else? Not being able to leave the house! Women forced in burkas! (Oh, please, like you even really care.) Forced marriages! Police who are over-policing! And other crap that are actually totally against Islam.
The truth is, Shariah Law isn’t actually a real, written thing. I recall a friend of mine trying to search for The Document on Google. It was kind of hilarious, but I was too impressed with the fact that he tried researching to laugh. I told him there is no Document. It’s not like the Ten Commandments. The truth is that each community of Muslims understands Shariah in different ways. It is always changing. There is a huge variety of ways it is understood. Shariah Law is concerned with what is perceived to be the ideal government, but more concerned with very personal religious rituals.
Are there interpretations of “Shariah Law” that are cruel and inhumane and just downright wrong? Of course! Far too many, apparently. There are also interpretations that are awesome. And before anyone runs screaming, I’d like to clarify that I don’t–*bursts into laughter*–that I don’t, want to establish Shariah Law as government here in the US. (I should not have to say this. *scowls* Shame on you all!) And I don’t have to want it, because our Constitution pretty much has it down:

Democracy, And the Right to Vote

And those who obeyed the command of their Lord and established prayer and their affairs are decided by mutual consultation and they spend on others what We have given them. (Qur’an 42:38)

(Some Muslims are enough of a dumbass to preach that democracy is against Islam, despite the existence of this verse. *slams head into keyboard*)

Freedom of Religion

Although this Message has been sent down by the Almighty, there is absolutely no compulsion or coercion in religion; no doubt the virtuous path has become clearly distinct from the erring. (Qur’an 2:256)

Do not argue with the people of the Book unless it is in the kindest and politest manner. (Qur’an 29:46)

Protection Against Tyranny

And whoever stands up for their rights and defend themselves when they have been wronged, there is no blame against them. The blame is against those who oppress people, and cause disorder in the earth resorting to aggression unprovoked. They are the ones for whom there is an awful doom. (Qur’an 42:41–42)

And also,

God likes not the utterance of loud unpleasant speech except from one who is being oppressed. And God is Hearing, Knowing. (Qur’an 4:148)

The Right to Living Necessities for the Poor in Society

And in their wealth there was the right of the beggars and the unfortunate. (Qur’an 51:19)

(In Islam, those who can afford it are required to give 2.5% of their annual income to the poor.)

Protection from (what’s known as present-day) McCarthyism (yeah, seriously)

And no sole bearer of burden will bear the burden of another. And if any one heavily loaded calls any other to share its load, not anyone will bear anything from its burden, even though he may be a near relation… (Qur’an 35:18)

Protection from Defamation

O believers! let not the men scoff at the men, perchance they may be better than those who scoff, and nor the women at other women, perchance that they may be better than those women who scoff, and do not taunt one another and nor call one another by nicknames. What a bad name is, to be called a disobedient after being a Muslim, and those who repent not, they are the unjust. O believers! avoid most suspicions, verily some suspicion is a sin and do not look out for faults and do not backstab one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abominate it. And fear God, Verily God is Oft Returning, Merciful. (Qur’an 49:11–12)

(Backstabbing is like eating human flesh.^ In Islam, the punishment for backstabbing after death is that the victim takes the offender’s rewards [for good deeds] and the offender takes the victim’s punishments. [for sins])

Security of Property and of Person

O believers! enter not houses other than you own, until you take permission and salute the residents thereof. This is better for you, haply you may be heedful. (Qur’an 24:27)

The Right to Fair Trial (no matter who it is)

Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression. (Qur’an 5:2)

And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness. (Qur’an 5:8)

Whenever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of) justice (Qur’an 4:58)

You who believe stand steadfast before God as witness for (truth and) fairplay (Qur’an 4:135)

There’s more, but you get the idea. And there are ahadith detailing each of these rights.
Originally, I started this post to focus on the aspects of the Qur’an that no fear-mongering creep ever does–you know, the stuff you never see out of context (or see at all, because that would not be helping their case)–but here is where we’ve ended up, so that will be a different entry maybe.

18 thoughts on “Shariah Law

  1. assalamu alaikum sister,alhamdulillah great post.may allah reward you jannah and happiness in this life for your efforts.jazakallah khairan.

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  2. I'm sorry Nahida, you know how much I enjoy reading your blog, but post like this are in the best case misleading and in the worst case lies of omission. Every religion needs *some* good rules in it, that doesn't mean that all the rules are good(which is especially problematic if you lead people to infer that the Quran is the eternal word of God and everything in it is true)For example, you neglected to tell your readers about verse 9:29 which states that the believers in other monotheistic religions have to pay an extra tax which is intended to humiliate them(Not to mention what it says about non-monotheists)[1] or verse 2:282 which states that a male's witness is equal to two females' witness(in financial matters according to some, in all matters according to most) [2].Love,Afief[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizya%5B2%5D: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_women%27s_testimony_in_Islam

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  3. "Are there interpretations of Shariah Law that are cruel and inhumane and just downright wrong? Of course! Far too many, apparently. There are also interpretations that are awesome."Uh, I think she'd have covered it in this?Everyone already knows about the possibility (and often reality) of bad interpretation.

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  4. Yes, my understanding is that Muslims pay Zakat and non-Muslims pay Jizya? They are both mandatory taxes.Nahida has addressed very controversial verses here, I doubt she omits information on purpose. I got the impression that this was supposed to be an overview of how she would write Shari'ah law.

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  5. From the wiki page Owl linked:"In return [for the Jizya], non-Muslim citizens were permitted […] to be exempted from military service and the zakat taxes obligatory upon Muslim citizens."

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  6. Okay Afief had submitted another comment here (that I didn't let through) saying that a tax differs from a donation, which is true. A donation is a direct transfer to the poor. However, it is mandatory for those who can afford it, and I'm guessing the government would come by to make sure you've paid it–like they would with tax. The Islamic state may still ask for other taxes in order for the government to function, and Jizya paid by non-Muslims may be used to make up for Zakat or for the military service the government doesn't receive from them.I didn't let through his last comment because the premises were different from the ones on which this blog is based (i.e. telling us that the Qur'an is not the word of God, that there are bad and good parts) which he is free to believe, but it's stuff we've heard already and argued about tirelessly and can agree to disagree about without derailing in the comments section. He's also implied already that I'm attempting to lead people to believe that the Qur'an is the word of God who didn't already… which I'm not. I couldn't care less what everyone else believes. Non-Muslims are more than welcome to participate here, as long as they're not like "zomg your religion is teh suck and everything you believe is wrong!" (which he didn't do) because it's a ridiculous fight to have. I'm just correcting the absurd beliefs that people here in the US have about Shariah Law. But for the purpose of being fair, I am leaving this comment, because I don't think people should continue to argue with him directly when he isn't made available to counterargue.

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  7. Well he still seemed to expect us to address EVERY VERSE in the Qur'an for the rest of the world, because surely if we don't mention one, it must be because we are being deceptive! Not because that's a lot to cover in one post and it's being covered in multiple posts or anything. He could have just asked about jizya instead of acting like Muslims owe the world an explanation.

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  8. I want to add that, from my reading, it appears jizya was only demanded of able-bodied males within a certain age range.Essentially the problem is that when you don't search for information in an individual's space or ask her if she can write about something, instead assuming she hasn't written about it and isn't going to, you wrongfully conclude that she is only choosing particular verses and actively omitting others, when in reality she accepts the entire Qur'an and is gracious enough to explain each verse if we ask and it has not been covered. And then you end up offending most of her audience, the majority of whom share her religion, with your sense of your-religion-is-a-disaster.

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  9. "like Muslims owe the world an explanation."You do. When you go around raping and pillage you owe the world at least an explanation if not an apology.She's not being "gracious." Give me a break. She's paying her dues.

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  10. ROFLMFAO.Right. Only Mexicans and Muslims ever "owe the world" explanations. Because we are all murderers. Let's make her "pay her dues" because all Muslims are the same and if anyone who calls themselves a Muslim is raping and pillaging–she is equally accountable!

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  11. As I'm just bouncing around from link to link I happened to come across your blog, so forgive me if I'm essentially "anonymous". It's a very interesting post.While I think it's fair for you to say that Muslim communities will interpret Sharia in different ways, there is a foundation in Sharia that is widely accepted based on the Quran, and Sunnah, and also matters of fiqh which go beyond even these two. So I agree with Afief's assessment that perhaps you (maybe inadvertently) didn't address some of the more "controversial" areas that Sharia touches, but there are more than the couple of examples that he's referring to. Perhaps we non-Muslims shouldn't comment on what we see as "barbaric" or "inequitable" because, well, we aren't Muslims. I might agree with you if what we know of Sharia both historically and even today was fairly benign and was isolated within the community in which it was practiced and didn't place its religious requirements on those who don't practice Islam. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.As to your friend who couldn't find any printed Sharia Law, I think maybe he wasn't looking in the right place. To be fair, this link is Sharia Law as approved/authorized by a Shia (Imams Sestani and Khamenei), but as you read through the titles and injunctions, I think you would be hard-pressed as a Muslim to deny that they are derived from the Sunnah and interpreted appropriately according to both Sunni and Shia in all but the most minor points.http://www.al-islam.org/laws/I found this document to be quite revealing and educational, and I respect the amount of Islamic education and knowledge one must attain to be able to confidently write and legislate Islamic Law, even while I wholeheartedly believe that it is not the way forward for anyone. Thanks for your time and the space to comment.

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  12. There is a whole tab for controversial verses; I don't imagine that I've finished addressing them yet, but to assume (as he did) that the entire notion of law being interpreted without placing religious requirements on others, or without being barbaric or inequitable, is impossible… is a little more than presumptuous, especially when traditions have been modified and histories actively erased–even to the point of preaching ahadith that are blatantly contradictory to the Qur'an as valid–by the male half the population in fear of losing power.These are laws forged by men through patriarchal interpretations and the deliberate stealing of power, not God, and therefore I have no issue stating that any interpretation of it that is clearly stretched to accommodate the insecurity of theologians is bullshit. Islam was meant, from the day it was delivered, to be a flexible religion, one that could be comfortably practiced from the angle of any culture during any time. And men abused this, to an inexcusable extent, erasing and forging over traces of the origins of dictations in a successful attempt to harness their privilege. Barriers were installed. Powerful women were erased. And their daughters were kept from education, so that they were kept from applying their own logical, soundly argued interpretations to religious texts.

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  13. Queen Of Sheba

    Hey Nahida I know this post is super old but do you think that under sharia law there should be a punishment for people who have sex outside of wedlock? I know the conditions for proving zina are incredibly difficult to meet but even in the case where four witnesses who weren’t spying happened upon two individuals committing zina do you think that should carry a punishment? I’ve come a long way on my spiritual journey but the thought of charging people with lashing just for having consensual sex outside of wedlock is something that has never sat well with me. I’m really curious to know your take on it.

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      1. Queen Of Sheba

        But why does the Qu’ran stipulate a punishment then? Not being stubborn, just curious. Because in countries like Pakistan and Iran people who do have sex outside of wedlock and the justification is because the Qu’ran mandates it. I’ve read the passage many times but I’m stumped as to why the Qu’ran would stipulate a punishment with conditions that make it almost impossible to get caught in theory. Take the case of The stoning of Soraya M where her husband wanted her dead so he convinced four other men to lie about witnessing her committing adultery. As a result she was stoned to dead despite being innocent. How can Shariah law be just if terrible tragedies like that occur?

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