The Shariah law: Relationship between Religion and Politics [Part 3]

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THE LIFESTYLE OF TODAYS MUSLIMS NOT TRULY ISLAMIC

Arabs in dance barsThat is one area of difficulties. But there is another very important area of difficulty: That is, the life‑style of the Muslims in most countries is not truly and profoundly Muslim.

You see, you do not require a law of Shariah to say your prayers five times. You do not require the law of Shariah to make you behave honestly. You do not require the law of Shariah to be imposed to make you speak the truth and to appear as witness in court ‑ or, wherever you appear as witness ‑ honestly and truthfully. A society where robbery has become the order of the day, where there is disorder, chaos, usurpation of others rights, where the courts seldom witness a person who is truthful, where abusive language is a common place mode of expression, where there is no decency left in human behavior, what would you expect Shariah to do there? How the law of Shariah would genuinely be imposed in such a country, this is the question.

SUITABLE ATMOSPHERE REQUIRED FOR THE IMPOSITION OF SHARIAH LAW

Lets put it in a different form. The question is that every country has a climate and not all the flora can flourish in that climate. Dates flourish in deserts but not in the chilly north. Similarly, cherries cannot be sown in the desert; they require a special climate. Shariah also requires a special climate. If you have not created that climate, then Shariah cannot be imposed.

Every prophet ‑ not only Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) ‑ every prophet first created that healthy climate for the law of God to be imposed, willingly not compulsorily. And when the society was ready, then the laws were introduced and stiffened further and further, until the whole code was revealed. That society was capable of carrying the burden of the law of religion, whether you call it Shariah law or any other law.

In a society for instance, where theft is common place, where telling falsehood is just an everyday practice, if you enact Shariah law and sever the hands of those who steal, what is going to happen? Is that the purpose of Shariah? It’s not just a question of senti­mentality about religion. God’s Will be done no doubt, but it will be done in the orderly way as God wishes us to do.

SHARIAH LAW USED AS A PRETEXT TO SEIZE POWER

It is not the love of Islam which is urging them on to demand Shariah law. It is just an instrument to reach to power, to capture power and to rule the society in the name of God. Society is already ruled by corrupt people, by cruel people but that is done in the name of human beings; that is tolerable to a degree. But when atrocities are committed in the name of God, it’s the worst possible, the ugliest thing that can happen to man.

So as such, we must think many, many times, before we can even begin to ponder over the question whether anywhere in the world, the law of religion can be imposed as a legal tender? I doubt it.

The Shariah law: Relationship between Religion and Politics [Part 2]

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All religions split up into sects with time

But that Is not all: Every religion, at the source is one and single and non-splittable, but as you pass along in period of time, the religion begins to diverge and split within and multiply and become more and more in number, so that the same faith which, for instance, at the time of Jesus Christ (peace be on him) was one single Chris­tianity, turned into many hundreds of Christianity. Looked from the vantage point of different sects, the one single source appears to be different in color. Different‑colored eye‑glasses are used by vari­ous followers of various sects. The same is true of Islam. It’s not just a question of Sunni Islam and Shia Islam and how they interpret the Shariah.

Within Shia Islam there are 34 sects whose interpretation of Shariah differs with each other. Within again, Sunni Islam there are at least 34 sects whose interpretation of Shariah differs with each other. There are issues on which no two scholars of different sects agree. Not superficial issue; even the fundamental ones. How to define a Muslim?

If thirteen centuries, plus some years are not enough for you to be able to define the very fundamentals of Islam ‑ what is a definition? ‑ how much more time would you require?

This is a very grave issue. If the Shariah interpretation of one sect is imposed, then it will not just be the non‑Muslims who will be dispossessed of the fundamental right of participation in the country’s legislation, but within Islam also there would be many sects who would be deprived of this right.

The Interpretation of which sect is to be imposed on Shariah Law?

Again there are so many other problems: For instance, according to some Shariah concept, the punishment for a crime is so much different from the concept of another sect, that Islam would be practiced in the world so differently on the same issue, that it would create a horrible impression on the non‑Muslim world. What sort of faith that is which advises one punishment for the same crime here and another there. And in some other places it is just the very thing to do and it’s no crime at all.

These and many such issues make the question of imposition of Shariah almost impossible.

Moreover, the fundamental rights of other sects are also tampered with, or trampled upon, in many possible situations. For instance on the question of drinking of alcohol. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, alright; but, the very question of whether it is a punishable offense and whether the punishment, if any, is imposed by man in this world, is a fluid issue. It is a controversial issue and has not yet been agreed upon by all the people involved. What is the punishment of drinking? The Holy Quran does NOT mention any punishment. This is a fundamental law, the Book of law and it is inferred from some Tradition, by some scholars, that; that should be the punishment. But that inference is far‑fetched and the Traditions themselves are challenged by others not to be authentic.

So, will a large section of not only Muslim society, but also a large section of non‑Muslim society, be punished for such reasons as in themselves are doubtful. Whether it’s valid or not, this is the issue. Yet there are extremists, everywhere and particularly those who go for Shariah to be imposed.

You will find many extremist who are totally intolerant of others opinion. Consequently, such gray areas also will be taken as No Doubt areas by the extremists. They will say, ‘Yes, we know; it’s our opinion. It’s the opinion supported by a medieval scholar or our thinking. And that is law’.

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The Shariah law: Relationship between Religion and Politics [Part 1]

The Shariah law is an extremely hot debate among Muslim countries and now this debate is taking place in countries where Muslim population is on the rise. It is understood generally that if the majority of a country constitute with Muslims, then the Muslims have the right – rather, an obligation ‑ to enact Shariah law. It is argued that if they believe in the Holy Qur’an and if they believe also that the Holy Qur’an is a comprehensive Book which relates to every area of human activity and directs man as to how he should conduct himself in every sphere of life, then it is hypocrisy to remain contented with those claims. They should follow the logical conclusion and enact Shariah law and make it the only law valid for the country.

Now, this is what’s being said on the one side. And on the other side, many difficulties are pointed out ‑ such as proposed legislative problems ‑ very serious constitutional problems as well as very serious problems in almost all sphere of the enactment of Shariah. So, lets first see, why Shariah law cannot be exercised or imposed on people, who practically, as far their normal way of life is concerned, are not the ideal Muslims, much to the contrary. In those areas where they are free to practice Islam, they fall so much short that one wonders when they willingly cannot exercise Islam, how could they be expected to do it by coercion and by force of law. This and many others are the areas where debate is being carried on and pursued hotly, let us try to understand all the sides of this issue.

Shariah is the law and there is no doubt about it; the law of Islam; the law for Muslims. But the question is how far can this law be transformed into legislation for running a political government. On top of that many other issues get involved in it. For instance, if a Muslim country has the right to dictate its law to all of its population, then by the same reasoning and logic, every other country with the majority of population belonging to other religions would have exactly do the same right to enact their laws.

The entire world would become a world of not only political conflict but also of a politico‑religious conflict, whereby all the laws would be attributed to God, yet they would contradict each other diametrically. There would be such a confusion that people would begin to lose faith in God Who speaks one thing to one people and another thing to another people, and Who tells them to enforce this law on the people or ‘they will be untrue to Me‘.

As such, you can well imagine what would happen in India for instance, if the law of the Hindu Majority is imposed on the Muslim minority. As a matter of fact, a large section of the Indian society is gradually being pushed towards this extremist demand ‑ by the way of reaction, I suppose to what is happening in some Islamic count­ries. What would happen to the Muslims and other minorities in India? Moreover this is not a question of India alone. What if Israel enacts the law of Judaism ‑the law of Talmud ‑ it will be impossible for any other non‑Jew to live there, normally and decently.

In the same manner Christianity has its own rights and so has Buddhism.

PARTICIPATION IN LEGISLATION

The next consideration is the very concept of the state: This is the most fundamental issue which has to be resolved and addressed by those who are concerned with politics or international law. The question is that anyone born in a state has the right to participate in its legislation.

In the secular concept of the running of governments and le­gislation, everyone born in a given country, whatever be his religion or color or creed acquires the basic fundamental civic rights. And the most important among these rights is the chance at least, to participate in the shaping of the legislation.

Of course, parties come and go; majority parties today may turn into minority parties tomorrow. Everybody’s wish is not fulfilled or carried out. But in principle, everybody has a fair and equal chance to make his say heard at least by the opposition, on matters of common principle. But what would happen if one Shariah or one religion is imposed as the law of that country? If Muslim law were imposed in a country, all the rest of the people who are inhabitants of the same land, would have to be considered as second, third or fourth rate citizens of the same country with No say whatsoever in the legislation. But that is not all the problem is further complicated within Islam itself: Because Islam has a Book revealed by God and the Muslim scholars claim that it is their right to interpret the Book.

LEGISLATIVE BODY SUBORDINATE TO RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS

On issues of differences of opinion, the legislative body stands subordinate to the scholastic opinion of such scholars who spe­cialize in understanding the Holy Qur’an; or who CLAIM to specialize in understanding the Holy Qur’an. What would be their mutual relationship. A body is elected to legislate. They legislate and you might come across some scholars of Islam disregarding the legislation dubbing it un-Islamic.

Whose voice should be heard? On the one hand, it would apparently be God speaking behind those people; but only apparently. On the other hand, there will be a voice of the majority of people of the country. So the dilemma becomes almost impossible to be resolved.

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 10: Militant elements)

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The growing talk of militancy and the use of force which we hear, needs to be carefully analyzed before we can understand the importance of this bizarre phenomenon. The narrow, non-tolerant attitude is certainly becoming more popular with the Muslim ‘clergy’ in almost all Muslim countries. The responsibility for this mainly lies on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia, which is attempting to capture the imagination of the whole Muslim world and seems resolved to spread its political influence under a religious guise. As it enjoys the unique advantage of being the custodian of the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, it is certainly in a position to exploit this situation to its best advantage.

The religious philosophy of the Saudis emanates from Wahabism, which draws its inspiration from the non-tolerant world of medieval Islam rather than from the more understanding and benign Islam of the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The spread of Saudi influence is aided by Saudi petro-dollars and the colossal size of Saudi bank balances in major banks throughout the world. It is to the credit of Saudi Arabia that part of the interest accruing from these colossal investments is being used to form channels of aid from Saudi Arabian coffers to the poorer Muslim nations with sizable Muslim populations. More often than not, this aid is provided not to boost their ailing economies, but to build mosques, training schools and institutes producing scholars of a Saudi brand.

Hence, wherever you follow the flow of Saudi aid, you will also observe a rapid increase in the narrow, non-tolerant attitudes of Muslim ‘clergy’. No doubt, when the Christian world hears these voices roundly condemning all non-Islamic values and preaching jihad (that is, holy war), against non-Islamic governments, they are led to believe that the talk of this holy war will readily be translated into actual belligerency. What is happening is in fact completely different.

The Muslim ‘clergy’ talks highly about holy wars and the utter destruction of non-Islamic forces. What they actually mean by non-Islamic forces is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or atheist forces. According to their view, all Muslim sects other than their own are either no Muslim in their character or hold to doctrines that render them liable to earn the wrath of Allah and His true servants. The real enemies of Islam, as they discern them, are not non-Muslims but some sects of Islam within the world of Islam. The awakening militant tendencies are much more directed by Muslims of one sect against Muslims of another sect than against non-Muslims. This is why so much stress is laid by them on capital Punishment for Apostasy. That is their weapon against Muslims who differ on some doctrinal issues from the majority sect of a country. These sects are, in fact, dealt the death-blow in two steps—first, their doctrines are declared to be non-Islamic, which earns them the title of apostates; and second, the doctrine of death being the penalty for apostasy, they are considered liable to be executed.

A neutral observer will agree that this growing militant tendency is creating disorder among the Muslims themselves and that it is responsible for generating extreme hatred in the hearts of adherents of one sect against the adherents of another. No one who has even a remote understanding of modern warfare can imagine a real threat from so-called ‘Islamic’ militancy. Of course, there is danger in these growing tendencies and one is bound to be perturbed by them. The danger from ‘Islamic’ militancy is a threat to the world of Islam itself; it is an inward-looking threat which is destroying the peace of Muslims everywhere. All the intolerance, narrow-mindedness and bigotry which we observe in the Muslim world today is playing havoc with the peace of the Muslim world.

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 9: Khomenism)

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There is a long history of growing Iranian consciousness of its exploitation and enslavement by foreign powers of one type or another. Despite the fact that a very large majority of Iranians are Muslims.  One cannot ignore the fact that Iranians have never been able to forget or forgive the conquest by Arabs of their homelands. Although the wounds appeared to have been healed long ago and many potent factors such as commonality of religion and common enmity against other countries have played an important role in cementing the Iranians to the Arabs, it cannot be denied that there is still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the Arab domination of Iran for the past few centuries. One must also bear in mind that in the pre-Islamic era, Iran could boast one of the most powerful and illustrious civilizations ever to have influenced mankind anywhere in the world. At the inception of Islam, the Arabs knew of only two worlds—that in the West, dominated by the Roman Empire, and that in the East, commanded and governed by the Chosroes of Iran. The memories of that remote and glorious past, though subdued to some extent by the strong influence of Islamic brotherhood, could not entirely be wiped out. There always has been along and lingering shadow of the great Iranian civilization in the hearts of Iranian intellectuals.

The long history of Iranian-Arab feuds and Iranian punitive excursions into Arabia also left ugly and irritating scars on the Arab minds which even the great healer, time, could not obliterate. This is only human. People throughout the world may sometimes find it difficult to dissociate themselves from the past or to forget injuries and insults to their honor. Such chapters of history are never permanently closed but are opened again and again.

Let us now turn to more modern times It is not against the Arabs alone that the Iranians have been nursing their grievances. During the Second World War, the Iranians were subjected to a worse kind of domination by predominantly British forces. Whilst in the Arab case there had at least been the redeeming factor of a common cultural and religious bond, in the case of the British the chasm between the ruler and the ruled, rather than narrowing grew wider. Nor could it be bridged by any social, cultural or religious similarities.

After the decline of British influence there followed an era of indirect control and subjugation of Third World countries by the major powers through stooges and puppet regimes. It was in this period of neoimperialism that the Iranian protégé was transferred from the British lap to the American lap. The Shah of Iran thus became a symbol of American imperialism which supported conflicting ideologies to its own as it does today, for example, in Poland, Nicaragua, Israel and South Africa.

The fuel of hatred which was ultimately sparked off by the Khomeinian revolution was not only a product of American oppression but had been accumulating for centuries, like the subterranean reserves of oil and gas. The important point to note is that this hatred was not essentially religious in origin. If Khomeini had not exploited the hatred in the name of Islam, some communist leader would certainly have exploited it in the name of social justice. Whatever religious or irreligious name was given to the revolution, the underlying forces and factors would remain the same.

I have pointed out many times to those who regard excesses committed by Khomeini against some of his own people, and acts of revenge perpetrated in other countries, as Islamic in character that Islam as a religion has nothing to do with the expression of Iranian dissatisfaction. In a manner of speaking, the West should treat Ayatollah Khomeini as their benefactor rather than as their enemy. I say this because I am quite positive that if Khomeini had not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic face in order to support and perpetuate a junta of Muslim ‘clergy’, the situation would most certainly have been exploited by Iranian leaders of leftist inclination. The same Iran which we see as green sprinkled with red today would have instead appeared to us entirely red. It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear to the West—could be seen as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in this perspective.

It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear —could be seen politically as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in political perspective.

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 8: Examining Terrorism [Iranian Revolution])

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Let us turn to some particular illustrations of terrorism in order to diagnose the underlying maladies. We shall begin with Iran and see how Khomeinism came to be born. It is common knowledge that in the days of the Shah there was great prosperity. The highly ambitious industrial and economic development plans augured a bright future for the country. But can man live by bread alone? As far as Iranians under the despotic rule of the Shah were concerned, the answer was an emphatic ‘No’. They wanted to have a responsible share in the running of affairs in their own country. They could no longer just be satisfied with full stomachs. Their hunger for self-respect, dignity, their craving for freedom and liberation from a highly regimented system of oppression made them continuously restive and volatile. This situation was ripe for a violent and bloody revolution.

If the nature of this imminent revolution had not been essentially Islamic, it would have been a communist revolution and could have been even bloodier and more extreme. The turmoil which was to shake Iran from north to south and east to west was a natural and inevitable consequence of a long political oppression.  The negation of fundamental human rights and liberties, were also a subversion and exploitation by a great Western foreign power. Iran was aware of the fact that the despotic regime of the Shah was fully backed, supported and sanctioned by the government of the United States of America. The people’s hatred and urge for revenge did not stop at the toppling of the Shah’s regime and the destruction of all internal forces which in one way or another had been responsible for the maintenance of the monarchy.

The consciousness of American support had brought out the Shah the very worst of his despotic tendencies. He had been held in awe to begin with, but gradually awe gave way to terror. The fear of revolt stiffened his attitude even more with the passage of time. Gradually a police state of the worst type came to be born in Iran. With the passage of time Iranians became aware that the police state was fully and unequivocally supported by the government of the USA. The Shah played the part of a mere puppet whose strings were tied to the subtle, manipulating fingers of the USA. This, as it was mentioned above, led to a situation ripe for revolution motivated by a consuming fire of hatred.

The situation was capitalized upon by Ayatollah Khomeini. The ideology which he propounded to give color and complexion to his revolution was Shi’a Islam. But was it really the love of Shi’a Islam which generated hatred against the USA, or was it the name of Islam a mere facade to hide the underlying motives? Had Khomeini not raised the banner of Islam, would there not have been a revolution in some other name? Is it not a fact that had Khomeini not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic color and complexion, the same situation of hatred could have been equally exploited by a non-religious philosophy such as nationalism or scientific socialism?

In fact Khomeini outpaced forces which were coming fast at his heels and a given time might have overtaken him and all he stood for. That is why the situation in Iran became extremely complicated and confused. The basic urge of the revolution was not against communism or any leftist philosophy, but was aimed at the Shah and his mentors.  Though because there was a real likelihood of leftist leadership taking over the reins of revolution from Khomeini, he had to fight on three fronts simultaneously. After toppling the Shah, he not only undertook to eradicate and exterminate all supporters of the former Shah, but also to root out American influence wherever it was suspected to be. That in itself could have lent support to the leftist ideology, which if permitted to flourish unchecked, might have succeeded in snatching the power from Khomeini’s hands and replacing the Islamic ideology with Marxism-Leninism.

Fortunately for Ayatollah Khomeini, he was shrewd and powerful enough to wield the double-edged sword of Islamic ideology not only against American rightism but as effectively against Russian leftism.

But when all is said and done, it is clear that whatever else it was, it certainly was not Islam which guided and instructed the Iranian revolution. At best, you can if you wish, call what happened and is happening in Iran Khomeinism. The real forces at work are not truly and essentially religious in character. Political powers have exploited the reaction of the Iranians against the Shah to achieve purely political ends.

continued

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 7: Islamic Terrorism?)

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Many intellectuals today relate Islam closely to terrorism. Sadly, one cannot deny that on many occasions some Muslims are found involved in terrorist activities either on behalf of a group or on behalf of a country with a predominately Muslim population.

Are there not equally, other groups involved in terrorism and subversion throughout the world? Would it be fitting to label all brands of terrorism by using the same principle which gave birth to the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ creating a list of Sikh terrorism, Hindu terrorism, Christian terrorism, Jewish terrorism, atheist terrorism, Buddhist terrorism, Animist terrorism and pagan terrorism?

It is not easy to close one’s eyes to various brands of terrorism which unfortunately flourish all over the world; in fact, it is impossible for an observer not to be aware of the persecution, bloodshed and murder, often in the name of some purported ideal or noble cause. Terrorism is a global problem and needs to be studied in its larger perspective. Unless we understand the forces behind the violence, we shall not be able to understand why some Muslim groups and states are turning to terrorism to achieve certain objectives.

I am fully convinced that almost every form of communal violence witnessed in the world today, wherever that is and whatever cloak it wears, is essentially political in nature. Religion is not the exploiter; it is itself exploited by internal or external political interests.

For instance, we find terrorism generated by racism—but that, in the final analysis, is essentially political in nature. There are other small expressions of terrorism born out of rebellion and hatred against prevailing social systems and cultures. These are generally regarded as acts of madmen and anarchists. There is a special kind of terrorism which is related to the Mafia’s struggle for supremacy; this terrorism is directed by certain factions against other factions within the Mafia. Obviously, this terrorism is really a power struggle and therefore political.When we examine so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’, we discover political forces working behind an Islamic facade.  More often than not, the real manipulators and exploiters are not even Muslims themselves.

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