Sharia: To Embrace it or Fear it, That is the Question
The recent cabal against the Ground Zero Mosque, Cordoba House, or Park 51 (whatever they would call it) has whipped up a fury in the United States about Sharia, which is simply ‘the road to the watering place’ or ‘the righteous path,’ in classical Arabic. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I have my ideas about Sharia that is culled solely from al Quran, the Recitations of the Archangel Gibreel (or Gabriel) to the Prophet Muhammad, a man who was only meant to pass on this message to humanity. I have done much reading about the subject, and I could not possibly provide a bibliography on the subject in this short blog post, but I am certain you can find the resources easily on-line. It is important to be careful regarding the resource, as there is much misinformation about Sharia being “Law” in the sense that there is no room for discussion. Some scholars, imams, mullahs, sheiks, or whatever one might refer to them, would be inclined to assert otherwise. In fact, al Quran shuns the very existence of these self-exalted ones. Just read the following ayat pertaining to this issue.
“And believe in what I have revealed, verifying that which is with you, and be not the first to deny it, neither take a mean price in exchange for My communications (verses); and Me, Me alone should you fear” [2:41]
“They have taken a small price for the communications of Allah, so they turn away from His way; surely evil is it that they do” [9:09]
“Surely those who conceal any part of the Book that Allah has revealed and take for it a small price, they eat nothing but fire into their bellies, and Allah will not speak to them on the day of resurrection, nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement.” [2:174]
O‟ you, who believe! Lo! Many of the rabbis and the monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah.” [9:34]
I highlight these ayat because it brings me to my next issue. Al Quran is the Word of God. We learn from al Quran that the contents are complete, pure, and eternal. The Word of God is immutable. “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true.” [2:23]. These men, whom people deemed as exalted above others, created mischief when they began to pontificate upon al Quran, and making their thoughts [as imperfect as they were due to their common humanity] into Hadith, which essentially are the musings of such men which are loosely bound to al Quran but highly influenced by the culture and the norms of the period in which they were written.
So, here we have the emergence of different sects within Islam, which God prohibits in al Quran. It is written,
“Those who divide themselves into sects do not belong with you. Their judgment rests with God, then He will inform them of everything they had done” [6:159]
The people of the West somehow believe that there is a monolithic Islam that is practiced today. However, there are so many man-created variations. The predominant ones are Sunni and Shi’a. But even they have their own schools of thought. For instance the Sunni sect has the following schools of thought: Maliki Madh'hab, Hanafi Madh'hab, Shafi'i Madh'hab, Hanbali Madh'hab, and the now infamous Wahhabi School. The Shi’a sect has their own grouping of schools, and they are: the Twelvers, the Ishmaili, the Zadiyya, and the Ghulat. Any number of people within these sects can technically become Sufis. Why has this happened? Humanity has trampled upon the unifying message of al Quran. Humanity has stamped its own culture and traditions, as varying as they are (or not) upon Islam as a result. If we take al Quran on its own, as the complete Word of God, then we get a completely different, more compassionate, and more life affirming Sharia "righteous path," than the one that is continually covered in the press because of such gruesome displays of barbarity as the amputation of limbs, the genital mutilation of females, the oppression of women as second class citizens, the sense that religion, politics and government can never be separated, and on, and on, and on to infinity it seems. These negative behaviors which stress vile and disgusting forms of punishment are quite simply a cultural phenomenon that has been infused into Hadiths. In fact, many so-called “good Muslims “do not follow exclusively al Quran. Hadiths, and the interpretations of self-exalted men have taken precedence within the past 100 years, as a poisoned form of political Islam has taken root, which further serves to separate and divide humanity in violent ways. We see this on the news too. These images cause much fear in the west, and the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 have cemented the negative image of Islam into the minds of many Americans. It is not their fault, totally. The media must take much of the blame for this development. But that is a separate story.
Sharia must be clarified for us, and there are some like Sumbul Ali-Karamali who have tried to set the record straight. If we believe that al Quran authenticates all previous Abrahamic scriptures (i.e. the Tanakh or the Torah, the Gospel), then we know that God is a God of Mercy. Al Quran reinforces this fact before each of its Surahs by testifying to it. “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Compassionate,” is what we read time and again. If God is Gracious and Merciful, then it behooves us to be the same. If God is love and compassion (and do not make the mistake that love is God), then we all must travel upon our spiritual paths in such a manner. Sumbul Ali-Karamali has clarified six principles of Sharia taken from al Quran alone. They are: 1) The right to the protection of life; 2) The right to the protection of family, 3) The right to the protection of education, 4. The right to the protection of religion [2:256, 109:6]; 5) The right to the protection of property (access to resources) (also highlighted in the 8th and 10th Commandments), and 6) The right to the protection of human dignity. Al Quran does not abrogate the Decalogue, otherwise known as 10 Commandments. So, if this is fact, and the Commandments are part of God’s immutable law to humanity, then Sharia cannot be anything but affirming of these principles. In this sense, America has nothing to worry about Sharia in principle. However, there are those who would pervert Sharia to their own ends, to justify their power which causes much pain and suffering in our world. This is not what God wants for humanity. Humanity must be on guard against this Hadith driven, culturally bound perversion that some errantly call ‘Sharia Law.” These are my thoughts as of now, and I am sticking to them.