Guest post: Reconsidering Sharia
Shaukat Malik is a Muslim-American Certified Public Accountant from Potomac. A native of Pakistan, he arrived in the United States in 1980.
Sharia laws are being used by terrorists to violate divine human rights.
Great Britain and France, as colonial powers, must share in the blame for not encouraging or allowing democracy to take root in Muslim countries. This is one reason why Sharia features so prominently in the legal systems of Muslim countries as the only acceptable form of justice. Autocratic rule, out-dated customs and lack of education prevented the judiciary in almost every Muslim country to develop a rule of law in which no one is above the law.
Almost every Muslim country except for Turkey has some form of Sharia incorporated into the constitution. Another reason for this inclusion is the legacy of a natural alliance between the clergy and a dictatorship. Both need each other for legitimacy. Even the Burmese military dictatorship had an understanding with the monks.
Through this alliance a dictatorship can suppress rights and freedoms taken for granted in democratic countries. A suffocating environment that stifles human development takes root, which is avoided by all prospective investors and visitors — unless they have no choice – leading to severe economic decline. Sharia is being enforced in Somalia today and the results are not very good.
Enforcers and supporters of Sharia say that things are economically bad because we are not following Sharia and God is angry. It is interesting to recall that some mullahs blamed the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan on cable television.
Because of cultural and historic reasons and the absence of any women’s movement like the suffrage movement in Europe and America, the male-dominated societies in Muslim countries have used Sharia to target women’s rights in particular. A woman is a source of evil and must be controlled. Interpretations of Sharia and Hadees (some sayings of the prophet were written almost 100 years after his death) are used by men with a vested interest in controlling women.
Most Muslim countries, including Iran, have adopted an interpretation of Sharia involving restrictions on women movements, multiple marriages, beheading for murder, beatings for adultery and drinking. Even today a woman cannot drive in Saudi Arabia or wander alone outside her house. There is an extraordinary focus on moral issues involving the female population. Any deviation from standards, as determined by the religious police, is immediately punished.
The Taliban and mullahs are a modern version of the priests of the Inquisition.
Sharia is used to scare the average citizen into submission. This is done through publicly staged floggings, stoning and executions of men and women for committing adultery or other sexual acts. There are public be-headings in Saudi Arabia every Friday after afternoon prayers.
Sharia, like the Ten Commandments, is God’s word given to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. Sharia covers all aspects of life including marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody, status of women, number of witnesses in rape, etc. It is God’s word in the context of the environment of people living at the time the revelations were being made to the holy prophet. These guidelines are intended to promote a fair and just society. However, the fundamentalist Muslim argues that these laws are the word of God and are written in stone and can never be changed. Most uneducated and orthodox Muslims, including the Taliban, hold this view.
What they are forgetting is that life and circumstances of a woman in 2009 are very different from that of a woman living 1,400 years ago. They conveniently ignore the fact that the world is ever changing. A women living in Arabia when the prophet was alive had a different environment, status, social standing and abilities. Men used to bury their daughters at birth. The woman was totally reliant on the man for support and hence the nature of Sharia relating to women of that time.
Today’s women have equal education, earning power, political and voting rights and are self-reliant and independent. When applying Sharia to today’s women, God would expect us to interpret these laws and adapt them so that we are fair.
We have had great women leaders, like prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto. How can anyone say that they should not go out alone without a male companion. A male companion for a female outside her home may have made sense in the Arabia of 632, but it does not make any sense today.
To take another example, ask any married woman how she would feel about her husband taking on another wife. I think the answer would be a clear, unequivocal, “No.”
The same logic would be applied to laws relating to a man's vote as a witness being equal to that of two women. It would not be considered fair today.
God would expect us to use our intelligence and reason to determine whether a particular Sharia law is just and fair as it applies today. Accordingly, God would expect us to make amendments, as we do to any law when it is no longer suitable or circumstances have changed.
This process is referred to as “Ijtehad,” or reasoning, abandoned by Saudi Wahabbi and Iranian Shiite fundamentalists who have since hijacked Islam.
The Prophet Mohammed was married to Khadijah for 25 years, and she was his only wife during a time when polygamy was widely practiced. It was Khadijah who proposed to the Prophet through her friend Afresh. The holy prophet was married to the same women for over 25 years and remarried only after her death.
His multiple marriages after Khadijah's death took place in the context of his political life and his mission as God’s chosen messenger in an environment where polygamy was openly practiced and accepted. A Muslim living today should follow the model of marrying only one woman. Many prophets in the old and the New Testament had more than one wife but this argument is not used by Jews and Christians to take on more than one wife. Being married to more than one wife is a crime of bigamy, and rightly so.
Muslim men are winners under Sharia law and will strongly support outdated interpretations and traditions for selfish reasons. Having multiple wives and controlling the day-to-day lives of their women is a strong incentive for selfish men to oppose any change to Sharia.
The time has come for the women of the Muslim world and educated Muslim met, who clearly outnumber religious zealots, to confront supporters of Sharia head-on and demand change.
A very simple argument is that Sharia, like the Ten Commandments, was never intended by God to violate human rights. Any interpretation that does so runs contrary to diving human rights given to us by God. Furthermore, the purpose of Sharia is to establish a just and fair society. This would not be possible in a society where women are treated as inferior human beings.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution, in addition to being extraordinary human beings, were God-fearing people. As the saying on the back of every dollar bill confirms: “IN GOD WE TRUST.” As scholars, they studied the Bible and the holy Quran while researching what rights to confer on citizens. Through a stroke of luck or divine intervention they came up with the idea that every human being is endowed with inherent rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This simple statement summarizes what the Bible, the Holy Quran and all other religions on earth are trying to teach us.
By confirming divine human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Constitution is in fact embracing Sharia. Today’s world demands that a country establish a system of law that is just and fair and is welcoming to people from different religions and cultures.
In India Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and communists can live together because of rights afforded to them by the Indian Constitution. The framers of the Indian Constitution borrowed extensively from the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution can be used as a model by any aspiring democracy.
Democracy has its faults but it is the only system that allows you to get rid of bad rulers through elections and reflects the will of the majority for a pre-determined term.
Democratic forces demanding accountability or civil rights are helpless under Sharia laws.
Muslim countries, whether they are presently democratic or not, must review their constitutions and make amendments to remove any rules that violate divine human rights. This is a prerequisite for joining the world body of civilized nations.