Saturday, April 07, 2012
Rejoinder to Javed Anand’s Review of the book: Heavan on Earth: A journey through Sharia Law by Sadakat Kadri, published in The Indian Express issue of April 7, 2012:
The question –‘ whose Sharia is it?’ posed by the title of the Book Review, is itself a mischievous construction, as nobody can exclusively claim to own Sharia. If the insinuation is towards Muftis who lay down their individual fatwas; they always give references to Quran, Sunnah, Qiyas and Ijma, the very foundation on which Prophet has approved any Islamic formulation could be and should be judged. Besides, a fatwa is merely an opinion. The Muslims have every right to either abide by it or reject it, as per their own personal judgment. The problem with modern day secularists of the mongrel streams of reasoning is that they and their ‘so-called reformist ideas are relegated to the fringe of fringe of the Muslim Ummah all over the world, while mainstream Ulama get almost slavish following from the masses over their sharia formulations. It is this frustration, that the modernists or so-called moderates, proposing reforms or a 'Sharia' of their own, while ironically remaining at times outside the very pale of Islam, that eggs them on to whitewash themselves in front of their western masters who fund them for their labors demonizing Islam.
In this book review, Javed Anand has more or less gone with the idea that while the drastic penal laws historically remained 'symbolic' and even Prophet himself is known to be most reluctant to enforce them and that too on persistent admission of guilt and demand for punishment; the reformist want all such panel laws to be scrapped out of Quran and Sunnah. If for more than 14 centuries the status quo has not changed Ummah’s belief in the Sharia of the salaf, why this call for change for the change. Why this agenda of demonizing Islam over matters, that has no threat to those outside Islam, if any. The usual suspects who have been relentless foes of Islam include all those ideological or religious groups that have designs to rule the world exclusively --- without any challenge from any source whosoever. The Zionists, the crusaders and lately the Marxists, with their own dreams of World Order, find Islam a most formidable foe in their designs to rule the world. It is therefore their centuries’ long effort to challenge Islam has continued relentlessly, both academically as well as physically. Even if they had succeeded subduing Muslim world in the physical sense, they were always wary of the hidden spark in the inner most hearts of the believer, and wanted Muslims to be robbed on all its relations with Islam. It is not necessary to recount at how many levels they carry on with their anti-Islamic phobia. The world is already aware of their abject failure to scratch Islamic belief from the heart of the believers. On the contrary, the more the foes of Islam and Muslims internationalize their propaganda against Islam, their own populace, who had till now ignored Islam due to information overload, were suddenly felt the need to study Islam on their own. The astounding result is a flowering of Islam in the very midst of all non-Islamic societies in the West.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Whose Shariah is it?Javed Anand : Sat Apr 07 2012, 00:22 hrs
Book: Heaven on Earth: A journey through Shari’a law Edited by: Sadakat Kadri
Publisher: The Bodley Head, London
Pages: 316 Price: £ 12.99
In the beginning, and for long thereafter, the pious men of Islam knew better than to play god. Obey me in matters of religion, but in worldly affairs remember that I am just like one of you, said Prophet Mohammed. In his acceptance speech immediately after being chosen the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr told fellow Muslims: support me as long as I follow the teachings of Islam, oppose me if you find me going astray. The short-tempered second Caliph Umar seemed to believe that the egalitarian teachings of Islam should not be taken too far when it came to gender relations. Yet he had no qualms bowing to an old woman who challenged him in public. “When Allah and his Prophet have prescribed no limit, who are you, Umar, to place a ceiling on the amount of mehr a man must pay to his bride on marriage?” she demanded. “You are right and I am wrong”, the caliph meekly conceded, adding, “it seems everyone remembers Islam’s teachings better than me”.
This is common knowledge among Muslims. In his book, Heaven on Earth: A journey through Shari’a law, India-born Sadakat Kadri brings a fresh perspective. Example: “At the time of the Abbasid caliphate’s foundation, traditions of judicial restraint were so ingrained that scholars would weep in court rather than judge in the name of god”.
The concern was this: How do mere mortals act on god’s behalf?
That’s simple; any Molvi Saheb will tell you today: follow the Shariah for that’s god-given law. But in his engaging and entertaining book where Kadri journeys between the classical texts of Islamic history and jurisprudence, engages with current-day custodians of the faith and chronicles the prevalent practice among the ummah today — in India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere — you realise it’s not all that simple.
The Quranic verses come in on the top of the Shariah corpus. The problem however is that the Quran is anything but a criminal procedure code. Allah commands the believer to do good, refrain from and prevent evil. But as Kadri notes, Allah has reserved to Himself the right to punish all sinners and reward do-gooders in the Hereafter, except for a handful of Haddood laws for “crimes against god”. These are theft (amputation); fornication or false accusation of the same (80 lashes); retaliatory justice (eye for an eye...); “waging war against god and his Apostle” or “spreading of disorder in the land” (exile, double amputation, crucifixion and decapitation). Besides these five, Kadri rightly highlights that though there is no reference to them in the Quran, two more offences appear in the Haddood list: intoxication (40-80 lashes) and adultery (stoning to death). Add to these seven the issue of jihad, apostasy and blasphemy and we have a near-complete picture of the minds of today’s Islamists who fantasise about the return of caliphate and Shariah laws. Since these together also constitute what many consider to be “the problem with Islam” much of Kadri’s book focuses on them.
Isn’t the idea of crucifixion or stoning to death obnoxious to modern sensibility? Yes, admits Kadri while also making two points. First, 14 centuries ago such punishments were the norm. Second, the first four “Rightly Guided” Caliphs and classical jurists over centuries of Muslim rule were aware that for Allah “The Most Compassionate and The Most Merciful and his Prophet” — repentance took precedence over punishment.
A man once confessed the crime of fornication to the Prophet and asked to be punished as prescribed in Islam. The Prophet ignored him until he reiterated his crime four times. Only then was the punishment ordered but no one asked questions about the partner’s identity. Caliph Umar once acquitted an expectant mother of the charge of adultery when he told him that she was a “heavy sleeper” who had undergone intercourse without realising it. In the six centuries of the Ottoman Empire there is only one recorded instance of a stoning to death. Citing these instances, Kadri quotes figures to show that even today in most Muslim countries that claim to live by the Shariah, the Huddood laws are mostly of “symbolic value”.
Shouldn’t these penal laws that belong to another era be scrapped altogether? Kadri clearly doesn’t want to go there. He is however, unsparing in his criticism of current-day Muslim hardliners who are all too eager to play god. Arguing forcefully that for well over a millennia Muslims evolved legal systems (Shariah) that were consistently and significantly more tolerant and less violent than their European counterparts, he laments that in the last 40 years the freelance jihadis have managed “to associate the Shariah in many people’s minds with some of the deadliest legal systems on the planet”.
On a more hopeful note, Kadri points out that throughout Islam’s history, the overwhelming majority of Muslims have shunned the extremists. In our own technological era, he suggests, many Muslims are discovering Islam for themselves, through the online world, to discover what is right and wrong.