Editors note: The views expressed in this article are of the independent contributor, LUBP does not endorse them. LUBP does not condemn all Islamic laws to be evil. We believe in freedom of expression and open discussion.
Here is another glaring example of Sharia Law’s incompatibility with justice and its inadequacy for demands of the modern world. This incident is but the latest expression of reformation’s absence. But we know full well that those who hold extreme ideologies rarely shed their skins. The existence of a missionary zeal further exacerbates the matters. All laws need to be reviewed or else they become moribund. Hence a body of work that has not seen much revision or adaptation over last one thousand years is definitely not in rhyme with the current times. It needs to be challenged and revised. The Sharia industry has been built with strong fortifications, to the point that many Muslims are led to believe that Sharia law is divine. In this way the application of Sharia throughout history can be comparable to the business protection plans used by defense, tax preparers and other industries, where the involved matters are made so complicated that they are needed by the society. Islam teaches each individual to be accountable for his or her actions. We do not need a Sharia industry, and Islam certainly does not have clerical establishment built into it, nor is there a need for one.
If we want it to be able to address the challenges that confront Muslims in the present day modern world, Muslim jurisprudence indeed needs to be looked at with fresh eyes. An analysis of traditional Islamic jurisprudential logic leads me to conclude that a large part of its established legal framework is unacceptable from a modern perspective and a new jurisprudence is required. We need to adopt a reformist approach involving interpretive moves that are different than those of the conservatives. Jurist interpretations need to be examined with an open mind and rejected where necessary. In such cases we should anew turn to the Koran and to irrefutable traditions as our source of legal guidance and reformation. This reformation can be bypassed in opting for an exclusive focus on scripture. If it has to be made applicable in today’s world then we need to understand and reform it. We need to be able to distinguish between types of norms and sources of authority. Vague allusions to the ‘old jurists’ do not suffice as this approach is used to fuse different dialogues into what is then called ‘Islamic Law and allows the Mullahs to claim a sweeping authority for their particular views without clearing setting out and justifying the source for that authority. A liberal analysis is needed to determine how authoritative each doctrine is. Only after that questions of its applicability and adaptation to the modern times can be addressed.
Sharia law is also increasingly the instrument by which Political Islam seeks to control the Muslim world. Whilst the Sharia may have been inspired by the Holy Quran, it has developed and evolved through time and through the efforts of men. The Sharia should be open to analysis, research and criticism like any other system of law, practice and belief. Its divine inspiration should no more shield it from criticism than Christianity should have been spared criticism for burning heretics or massacring unbelievers. In liberal societies cultural relativism should not be the norm. What is needed is nothing less than the secularization of Islamic society, and the establishment of the idea that individual conscience must be our guide and the judge of personal, private conduct. But secularization cannot be imposed from outside by force. Attempts by America and its allies to impose democracy and human rights on the Islamic world will rightly be resisted as neo-colonialism and will simply drive more and more Muslims into the arms of the extremists.
All religious experience is influenced and shaped by socio-historically trained worldview of its adherents. We must not forget the human basis of religious knowledge. Hence religious experience is bound to vary with time, geography, and culture. Therefore Sharia as a variety of religious knowledge should also be subject to change, reduction, and addition. The interpretation of scriptures and traditions is human, fallible, and must evolve in tandem and exchange with other forms of knowledge as well as in step with human progress. Muslims remain caught up in the history. Even though the Quran and Sunnah remain formative and constitutive fundamentals of Sharia, the history is no longer normative. This frees us to choose or reject certain aspects of past practices and become engaged in a constantly evolving process of renewal, based on continual interpretation and re-interpretation of the meanings of the texts according to modern life, through intellectual and formative discussions.
Apologists for an unreformed Islam, under whose skirts the Islamic extremists hide, are playing with fire as terrorism continues to spread at an alarming rate.