Is Shariah Implementable?
By Nadir Baloch
“Shariah for the UK” depicted a banner during a demonstration held by Muslims in London to condemn blasphemous publications. Such calls have sparked concern and distress among western countries where Muslims live in large numbers. . In 2008 United Kingdom allowed Islamic Law (Shariah) to be used in deciding the matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance to make legal decisions for Muslims who opted for it. Whereas, in the United States’ Oklahoma State a ballot was passed to ban the use of Shariah in court cases in November 2010.
The debate hasn’t been limited to the West only. Shariah has been a highly argued subject in the Muslims countries too. It lacks a unanimous structure because different sects in Islam interpret Islamic injunctions differently. Islamic Shariah of Shias isn’t applicable to the Sunnis and vise versa. The fierce differences between the main two sects of Shia and Sunni in Islam very much symbolize the controversies surrounding the so called Islamic legal system. Besides, there are several other schools of thoughts within the Muslim community that interpret Shariah differently.
Shariah is basically an Islamic legal system designed to interpret divine guidance. It was first introduced and used as the main source of legislation during the Umayyad Caliphate (661 – 750 AD). The system was mend to ensure complete submission to the will of Allah by defining every minute action. Shariah is partly implemented in some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen and Brunei but with different implications resulting from diverse explanations.
Criminal Laws in Sharia have been the most controversial ones and inapplicable even in most of the Muslim dominated countries. Punishments such as stoning for adultery, flogging for drinking alcohol and amputation for theft have received worldwide condemnation. Other debates surrounding Sharia have been child marriages, polygamy, gender biased inheritance rules, female genital mutilation and honor killings.
The Islamic Legal System is derived from four sources: Quran, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas. The conflict surrounding Shariah results from the fact that all the above mentioned sources lack authenticity. Even Quran which is considered the word of God in Islam isn’t devoid of dispute.
Ibne Abu Dawud a renowned scholar of Quran and Hadith in the 9th Century revealed controversies over the compilation of an official Quran and burning of other versions by Uthman Ibne Affan the third Caliph of Islam. In his book Kitab al-Masahif he narrates that Abdullah Ibne Masud who was one of Prophet Muhammad’s closest servants and had learned Quran from him had refused to accept Uthman’s official Quran as the pure version. The book also said that Hujjaj Ibne Yousaf the infamous governor of Iraq had also made changes in the consonantal text of Quran. Hence, creating doubt over the purity of the book which is the most reliable source of Shariah.
The second most prominent source is called Hadith. It is the collection of sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad. The fact that the first biography of Muhammad was written a hundred years after his death by Ibne Ishaq raises questions over the genuineness of Hadith too. What makes Hadith more unreliable is the argument amongst Muslim scholars as to which tradition actually belongs to the prophet of Islam. Most of the Muslim scholars even rejected the first biography of Muhammad by Ibne Ishaq calling it blasphemous.
Kutub us Sittah (six books) are considered the most reliable source of Hadith by Sunnis. These books are named after the collectors of Hadith such as Al Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Al Tirmizi, Al Nasa and Ibne Maja. Shia Muslims have their own different collection of Hadith called Kutub al Arba (four books) comprising of Asul-i-Kafi, Man La Yahdruhu Al Fiqh, Tahdiib Al Ahkam and Al Istibsaar. The method of collection for all the individual collectors has been different and confusingly contradictory. There has been an endless debate as to whose collection of Hadith is the most reliable one. In fact the contradictions are so apparently sharp that it becomes almost impossible to make distinction between genuine and fake Hadith.
The remaining two sources namely Ijma (consensus of the Islamic scholars) and Qiyas (the analogical method of deciding a matter based on the teachings of Quran and Hadith) have been the weakest sources since the two depend on the more important main sources of Quran and Hadith.
Movements for the revival and complete imposition of Shariah like that of Taliban and recently ISIS can be quoted as examples of how confusing Shariah can be. The mode of operation of both however cruel and unacceptable to the modern world were yet justified through examples from the actions of Prophet Muhammad. On the other hand those opposing the brutality also quoted examples of kindness from Islamic history to condemn these acts.
Shariah is very confusingly controversial even among its supporters. And the dispute within the Muslim community over the legitimacy of Shariah and its sources alone is sufficient to say that Shariah cannot form the basis of a compound system required in the modern day.
Nadir Baloch is a blogger from Pakistan. He can be contacted at [email protected].
The photo attached in the mail is taken from the express.co.uk