Why the Sharia Law Is So Dangerous for Our World
By our affiliates Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud
Originally published at World Religion News, October 8, 2015
Human oppression is part of the human legacy. Sadly, it’s often the State that acquiesces in, or even willfully partners with, such oppression. And all too often, such oppression is legitimized in the name of God, especially in faith-based states such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan.
Almost everyday, the world is witnessing overt acts of violent extremism being committed by extremist groups in various parts of the world – acts that take the forms of suicide bombing, killing, arson, and plunder. Such acts as well as those that are often being perpetrated coldly without being much noticed by the world under the umbrella of some faith laws insidiously inflict enormous human suffering and destroy untold human lives.
Such faith laws are those of so-called Islamic Sharia (Aka Shariah, Shari’a), a term used to mean “a noble path according to Islam.” Although many of its legal provisions are quite well meaning for society, many others are found to be seriously problematic and dangerous for our world.
Indeed, the Sharia Law is what has driven the self-styled Islamic State – IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh – to commit horrific atrocities and abuses of basic human rights. In taking over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, the IS terrorists have brutally carried out public beheadings of foreign hostages and displaced and killed untold numbers of Christians and Yazidis. Their victims also include large numbers of Muslims who they consider to be apostates or who have resisted or refused to acknowledge their view of Islam. The IS members also carry out suicide bombings and other terrorist operations in other countries. Their recent operations have claimed many lives at a tourist beach resort in Tunisia and include the killing and injuring of even Muslim worshippers in mosques in Kuwait, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Nigerian Boko Haram, the Somalian al-Shabaab, and other splinter groups are also committing horrendous crimes against humanity in various countries.
Sharia’s draconian and most ridiculous laws that grab media headlines relate to laws about jihad, blasphemy and apostasy, and laws that put the adulterer and the adulteress to death by stoning, punish the thief by cutting his or her limbs, and punish religious and political dissent by physical lashes and imprisonment. However, these laws are an affront to human conscience as well as to universally recognized human rights. And importantly, these laws completely violate clear directives of the Quran.
Sharia jihad laws are in complete defiance of the clear directions of the Quran as follows:
2:256 There is no room for compulsion and coercion in religion.
2:190 Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not initiate aggression, for God does not love aggression.
In Islam, human persecution and terror (fitna) is strongly denounced (2:191, 217) and human life is held to be the most sacrosanct (5:32).
5:32 If any kills a person – unless for murder and mischief in the earth – it is as though he has killed the whole of humankind, and if any saves a person, it is as though he has saved the whole of humankind.
The Sharia law that Muslims can wage jihad against non-Muslims until they pay zijiya (a poll tax) has been dismissed as untenable in the modern context by Muslim scholars such as Khalid Abou El Fadl who contend that it was only a historically understood system of tax on alien groups; it is not a theologically mandated valid tax on non-Muslims.
Blasphemy and apostasy laws are being applied in various countries, most commonly in the Middle East and North Africa. Other regions using such laws include, most notably, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Malaysia. As Alastair Lichten reports, “The blasphemy law is routinely used to persecute [Christians and] members of the Ahmadiyya Community – a Muslim sect considered to be apostates by many Muslims.” The apostasy or blasphemy conviction also incites widespread vigilante violence, which has led to the killing of many people in Pakistan. Bangladesh, which uses secular laws, has also seen in recent months brutal murders of several independent thinkers and bloggers by fundamentalist groups. Sharia blasphemy and apostasy laws not only offend human conscience and human rights, but they also flagrantly violate the Quran’s call for religious freedom and freedom of thought and speech as follows.
18:29 The Truth (has now come) from your Lord; let, then, him who wills believe (in it), and let him who wills reject (it).
10:99 If your Lord willed, all on earth would have believed. Will you then compel humankind to believe against their will?
73:10 Bear with them what they say, and leave them in a dignified manner.
The Sharia-prescribed stoning to death punishment for adultery is not what the Quran dictates. The Quran prescribes a maximum of one hundred lashes, and that also after four witnesses confirm the criminal offense (24:2). The Quran also allows the convicts to be left alone if they repent and mend their conduct (4:15). The Quran also enjoins marriages of adulterous men with adulterous women (24:3,26). If stoning to death is an applicable punishment for adultery, then the question that arises is how can they get married after death? Modern Muslim scholars also consider another punishment brutal – that of cutting off the hands of the thief according to a traditional interpretation of a Quran verse (5:38). As suggested by contemporary Muslim scholar Edip Yuksel, a humane yet sufficiently humiliating punishment would be limb marking rather than limb cutting.
There are still many other Sharia laws that are not responsible for overt killings and persecution of human beings, but are responsible for hidden killings and persecution. These laws relate to problematic family laws such as child marriage, permission of unrestricted polygyny, use of war captives and slave girls as sex slaves, unfair child custody rights, instant and unilateral divorce of wives by husbands, distorted provisions for remarriage of divorced wives, inadequate support for divorced wives, and unequal inheritance of surviving family members.
Taking recourse to a widely cited Hadith that the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated this marriage when she was nine, Sharia sanctifies child marriage. However, citing historical evidence, Ridhwan ibn Muhammad Saleem of West London School of Islamic Studies provides a well-documented refutation of the above assertion about Aisha’s age at her marriage and suggests that Ayesha was over fifteen when her marriage with the Prophet was consummated. Other scholars such as T. O. Shanavas also explode the 6-9 year myth. The Quran advises marriage when the couples attain maturity to be able to provide sound judgment and consent for marriage (4:5-6). Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 by the United Nations, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, unless adulthood is set at a younger age by a particular country’s laws. The Convention calls for review by countries of ages set lower than 18.
Sharia allows polygyny up to four wives without any restrictions. However, the Quran, on the other hand, has talked about and permitted polygyny only in the context of orphan girls, while talking about providing justice to them, and permits it subject to financial capability of the husband to support more than one wife and his ability to do justice to more than one wife. The Quran in fact discourages one to take multiple wives cautioning that however much one tries, it is extremely difficult to do justice to more than one wife: You will not be able to do justice between (your) wives, however much you wish (4:129). The Quran requires one to postpone marriage until one is financially solvent (24:33).
4:3 If ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to more than one wife), then just one, or that you rightfully have. This will be more appropriate, that ye will not do injustice.
Another perplexing aspect of the Sharia Law is that it allows believers to have sexual relation with war captives or slave girls, which Sharia labels as “those that believers’ right hands possess.” Abul Ala Mawdudi gives a similar interpretation of this Quranic passage. Wahhabi ideologue Zakir Naik also supports this view. This view, however, blatantly ignores the Quranic directions that the believers should either demand ransom for freeing war captives or they should be released with generosity (47:4). The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly encourages manumission (90:12-13) and the marrying of freed slaves (4:25), and which forbids them to compel slave girls to prostitution without marriage (24:33). In 5:5, the Quran also vividly encourages us to seek chastity, not lewdness.
Sharia grants virtually unilateral power of divorce to the husband. It requires the wife seeking divorce to go to a court and take her husband’s consent. These restrictions often prove too forbidding and tyrannical to an aggrieved wife, as she has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of her husband’s refusal to divorce. These Sharia provisions are in direct conflict with the Quran’s directions that a wife should not be compelled to stay with her husband against her will (33:28, 4:19), and to her hurt (2:231), that a wife has rights similar to her husband (2:228), and that a husband needs to treat his wife in a compassionate manner (2:228, 229, 231, 65:2).
Worse still, Sharia entitles a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously by uttering the word “talaq – I divorce you” three times and, importantly that also, without requiring any witness. The divorce is considered valid even if the husband may utter this in a fit of rage or when drunk and does not really mean it. However, these Sharia provisions flagrantly violate the Quran’s clear directions on divorce. The Quran requires two witnesses (65:2) and a well defined (about three-month) waiting period for divorce to be effective (2:228, 229, 231, 65:1, 4). In fact, the Quran even wants husbands who want to dissociate from their wives to wait four months to give them a chance to see if they would like to change their mind during this period (2:226).
The Sharia Law stipulates that once the divorce becomes irrevocable (after the waiting period), the divorced wife cannot go back to, or remarry, her husband unless and until she marries another person and until that husband divorces her. This halala or hilla system is prevalent in Bangladesh, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world, where the Sharia Law is rigidly enforced. However, as shown vividly by us in a short film and an article, this despicable halala or hilla system is counter to the very spirit of the Quran’s unambiguous directions and egalitarian message on the subject. The Quran urges believers to create no obstacles in the way of the divorced wife remarrying her husband (2:232), if the couple so wants. The halala system exacts a terrible human cost in terms of enormous suffering inflicted on the couple willing to reunite and has resulted in destroying many Muslim families.
Under the Sharia Law, wives divorced instantaneously get nothing for livelihood from their husbands, while those divorced normally get only three months’ provision from their husbands after divorce. The Quran, on the other hand, urges husbands not to take back anything that has been given to them (2:229) and to retain or release them in kindness, and not to hurt them (2:231).
Sharia displays a patriarchal bias in dealing with child custody rights. It allows mothers custody of her children generally up to the age of nine for sons and seven for daughters (Shafii Law allows the child to remain in mother’s custody until the child is able to choose between the two parents). A mother is deprived of her child custody rights if she does not pray or when she takes a mahram husband (i.e., a husband who is not lawful according to Sharia). The Quran allows separated or divorced couples to decide about child custody by mutual consultation, and it makes the husband squarely responsible for bearing the financial costs of children under mother’s custodial care, if he has financial capability (65:6-7). A dangerous aspect of the Sharia Law is that the divorced wife is barred from taking her children anywhere without the permission of their father. The cruelty of this aspect becomes evident when one observes the plight of many divorced Iranian immigrant mothers in Canada.
In the area of inheritance, as discussed more elaborately by us in our earlier article, Sharia rigidly applies, in most cases, the provision that the male heir should receive twice as much as the female counterpart, ignoring the spirit of the exceptions that the Quran itself grants about this rule and ignoring the socioeconomic background in which this rule was made in the first place in the seventh-century Arabia, when women were totally dependent on their husbands for financial and other support. As argued by many modern Islamic and feminist scholars, the socioeconomic condition for women has vastly changed in the modern context, when women are almost equally participating in contributing to the family income and welfare. Furthermore, the human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), to which all Muslim countries are also signatories, also oblige them to move toward removing all forms of discrimination against women, including in the inheritance case.
Other Sharia provisions include:
- Non-acceptance of testimonies from women in hudud, adultery and drinking cases;
- Ineligibility of women to serve as judges in hudud cases;
- Ineligibility of women to lead the umma or to head a government;
- Allowing a mass murderer to go unpunished if he or she repents;
- Allowing a rapist to get indemnified by offering the raped woman an amount equivalent to marriage dowry, in case if his rape is condoned for some reason;
- Non-acceptance of circumstantial evidence in hudud
All this despite numerous Quranic directives to us to uphold justice (4:58, 2:188, 4:135, 5:8).
4:135 O you who believe! Be firm in justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it is against your own selves, or your parents and kinsfolk, whether rich or poor.
On top of all this, Sharia is an institution for a dangerous political mission. Its mission is to create an Islamic State in the world that applies only its laws and imposes its religious injunctions on all Muslim citizens. This is, however, authoritarianism that is tyrannical and, most pertinently, also antithetical to the Quran’s directions for religious freedom and democratic principles.
In sum, many aspects of the Sharia Law are ridiculous and brutal by any conceivable standards. It violates the core teachings of Islam as well as the internationally accepted human rights. Furthermore, it is a nefarious tool for political and religious domination. It is precisely because of such concerns that this Law is so dangerous for our world.
Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and author, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier acclaimed editions. His articles on select Islamic topics have appeared on World Religion News, Aslan Media, and Oped News, and include one presented to a conference at Princeton University. Follow Abdur Rab at Twitter. His website is: http://quranonly.com/.
Hasan Mahmud is a Member, Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and author, Sharia Ki Bole, Amra Ki Kori (in Bangla) being translated into English as How Sharia-Ism Hijacked Islam forthcoming and three movie-dramas (the making of a fourth one is in progress) that highlight the problems with the Sharia Law. His website is: http://hasanmahmud.com/.