The Quran Does Not Oppress Women, Sharia-Based Islam Does

The Quran Does Not Oppress Women, Sharia-Based Islam Does

[Published on World Religion News on 24 March 2016.
Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/the-quran-does-not-oppress-women-sharia-based-islam-does]

THE MISTREATMENT OF ISLAMIC WOMEN SHOULD BE BLAMED ON SHARIA LAW, NOT THE QURAN

The campaign theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is a pledge for accelerating gender parity. This requires action on all fronts, including efforts that create greater awareness of existing untenable faith-or-culture-based gender inequities and appropriate reforms to address them. This article is an attempt to highlight the ways Sharia-based Islam oppresses women.

Like many Muslims, Patheos-MuslimahinProgress blogger Nancy Qualis-Shehata would contend that Islam does not oppress women. However, the key question is: What Islam does she refer to? Certainly this is not the Islam that Muslims generally practice. She errs on three counts. First, she unquestioningly places the husband as the head of a family and as the maintainer and protector of his wife, ignoring the contextual nature of the Quran and its essentially egalitarian worldview. Second, she defends unequal inheritance distribution between descendants of different gender, again ignoring the context-specific nature of the relevant Quranic passages and giving precedence to the male patriarchal position. Third, she blames the oppression of women in Muslim countries on cultural practices and not on Sharia-based practiced Islam.

The Sharia Law that governs traditional Islam is rooted in the legal opinions established by a group of Muslim jurists during about 150 to 250 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and is a varied sort according to different schools of thought. The majority – some 65 percent – of Muslims are Sunnis and they generally follow Hanafi and Shafii laws. There are more than six thousand Sharia laws in each of the Hanafi and Shafii Law books. Another point we need to note is that this Law draws on the Quran in a miniscule way that is rigid and non-contextual. Its main source is the Hadith literature, which is overtly and overwhelmingly biased against women. This trickles down to a widespread perception, especially in the non-Muslim world, that Islam is misogynistic and it oppresses women. This is terribly at odds with the compassionate and egalitarian teachings of the Quran.

Saudi Arabia typically and rigidly applies the Sunni Sharia Law, and has vigorously promoted its brand of Wahhabi Islam throughout the Muslim world. This ideology treats women in a particularly demeaning manner. In recent days, the problems the Saudi women face in traveling and driving independently without male escorts have received media attention. But there are other serious Sharia-related human rights violations against women that are endemic throughout much of the Muslim World. Below we provide a checklist of such violations, drawing, in part, on an earlier published article of ours.

THE SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN OCCURS IN AREAS OF FAMILY MATTERS AND IN OTHER BROADER AREAS AND INCLUDES IN THE FORMER AREA

  • Disqualifying women to serve as guardians in conducting marriages and considering a woman’s witness for a marriage as half of that of a man
  • Sanctifying child marriage
  • Unconditionally allowing polygyny up to four wives at a time
  • Giving unilateral and instantaneous divorce rights to husbands and imposing difficulties on wives to exercise their divorce rights
  • Distorting remarriage provisions victimizing divorced wives
  • Providing for little or no financial support to divorced wives
  • Allowing believers to have sexual relation with war captives or slave girls
  • Using child custody rights favoring husbands
  • Using inheritance laws favoring male descendants

THE SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN IN THE OTHER AREAS INCLUDES

  • Applying the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery, which often goes against women as the offense gets much more easily detected in the case of women;
  • Barring Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, while allowing Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women;
  • Exempting parents from murder charges for killing their children and condoning honor killings;
  • Giving unequal authority to women to testify and denying women’s testimony in hudud cases such as adultery, apostasy, murder, theft, injury, defamation, and drinking cases;
  • Disqualifying women to lead the Muslim ummah and to head the government; and
  • Allowing a rapist to get indemnified by offering the raped woman an amount equivalent to just the marriage dowry, in case his rape is condoned for some reason.

SHARIA OPPRESSION OF WOMEN THROUGH FAMILY LAWS

For conducting marriage services, Sharia not only disqualifies women to serve as guardians, but in requiring two witnesses for marriage, it also considers a woman’s witness as half of that of a man. The latter provision is made apparently keeping in view the Quranic provision for witnesses in the context-specific case of financial transactions. However, this discrimination against women is no longer justified in the modern age when women are almost as educated and qualified as men.

Sharia sanctifies child marriage. This it does by taking recourse to an alleged Hadith that the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated this marriage when she was nine. 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 couple attains 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 at a time without any restrictions. However, the Quran, on the other hand, has talked about and permitted polygyny only in the context of orphan girls (4:3-6, 127), while talking about providing justice to them, and permits polygyny subject to certain clear restrictions. The two basic restrictions are financial capability of the husband to support more than one wife and his ability to do justice to more than one wife. The Quran requires one to postpone marriage until one is financially solvent (24:33). The Quran cautions against multiple marriages, saying that however much one wishes, one is hardly able to do justice to multiple wives (4:129).

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 tyrannical to an aggrieved wife, who has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of his refusal to divorce. These Sharia provisions flagrantly violate the Quran’s directions that a wife has rights over her husband similar to those of her husband over her (2:228), 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), 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 are in complete defiance of the Quran’s clear directions on divorce. The Quran requires two witnesses (65:2) and a well-defined 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).

Sharia 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 despicable 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 system is counter to the very spirit of the Quran’s clear 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 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. Then husbands are absolved of their duty to see where they go and how they live. 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).

A 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.” Wahhabi ideologue Zakir Naik gives a similar interpretation of this Quranic passage as does Abul Ala Mawdudi. 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). It does not befit a human being to enslave another human being. The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly and strongly 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 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. 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).

In the area of inheritance, as discussed more elaborately in another article of ours, 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 makes 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 conditions for women have 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 most Muslim countries are also signatories, also oblige them to move toward removing all forms of discrimination against women, including in the inheritance case.

SHARIA RULES IN OTHER AREAS OPPRESSING WOMEN

Although the Quran does not prescribe it, Sharia applies the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery. Although this punishment is equally applicable to both men and women, it often goes against women since the offence gets much more easily detected in the case of women.

Sharia permits Muslim men to have marital relationship with women of the Ahle al-Kitab (the people of the Book traditionally interpreted as Christians and Jews), but does not extend the same option to Muslim women to wed non-Muslim men. This it does by narrowly interpreting the Quran’s verse 5:5, which is addressed to men. However, as Professor Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University rightly contends, this Quranic verse, like other verses, is addressed to men simply because of the custom of the time. The Quran’s direction applies equally to both men and women.

This Sharia restriction on women often leads to honor killings of Muslim women by their parents, when their daughters seek to marry non-Muslim men. Sharia condones honor killings, as there is a Sharia provision that parents are not liable for punishment for murders of their children. Also, Sharia allows the family of the victim to pardon the killer in exchange for blood money, or even nothing – Sharia allows only boys to receive the blood money, not girls. Note also that the family often pardons the killer, who is the member of the same family, as it does not want to lose another additional member of the same family.

Note also that Sharia applies its narrow interpretation even to the marriage of a Muslim woman with a Muslim man and considers their marriage dissolved when he is declared an apostate. This was applied to the Cairo University professor Nasr Abu Zayd, when the Egyptian clergy declared him an apostate, which led the couple to seek exile abroad and leave the country.

Sharia does not recognize testimonies from women in hudud cases such as adultery, apostasy, murder, theft, injury, defamation, and drinking cases, not even along with a male witness. Nor are women judges considered eligible for conducting hudud cases under Sharia. This is a gross discrimination against women in ensuring justice in society.

Under Sharia, it is forbidden for women to lead the ummah or to head a government. This despite the Quran’s mention of rule by the Queen of Sheba (23:27) and rule by many Muslim women in different Muslim countries.

If for some reason the crime of rape by a male person is condoned, the rapist is required under Sharia to give as compensation to the raped woman an amount that is equivalent to just the marriage dowry. This is a punishment that flagrantly dehumanizes women.

Conclusion

Sharia-based traditional Islam routinely and ruthlessly oppresses women in numerous ways. Sharia not simply violates the Quran’s compassionate and egalitarian message, but is also incompatible with the very norms of human decency and human rights.

Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and the author of 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. His website is: http://quranonly.com. Follow Abdur Rab at twitter.

Hasan Mahmud is a Member of the Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and the author of 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/.

“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” [Noble Quran 2:228]

For more, see http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/the-quran-does-not-oppress-women-sharia-based-islam-does

 

 

 

7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity With Muslims Isn’t Right

7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity

With Muslims Isn’t Right

By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud

[Published on World Religion News, 20 January 2016. Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/7-reasons-why-wearing-the-hijab-to-express-solidarity-with-muslims-isnt-right]

FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS ABDUR RAB AND HASAN MAHMUD GIVE SEVEN REASONS NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN WORLD HIJAB DAY.

Ruth Graham’s recent Atlantic article highlights the point that “it was her theology – not her hijab – that got her [Professor Larycia Hawkins] in trouble with the evangelical college.” Her only offense was that, as a Christian, she believes that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, as Pope Francis says, and that she stands in solidarity with her Muslim neighbors.

Like Hanna Yusuf and Nusrat Qadir, many Muslim women do not feel they’re oppressed when they wear the hijab. But the real problem is that many of them are deluded to believe that they wear it because Islam so demands.

World Hijab Day is a hideous political agenda. It’s a day when Muslim women – even non-Muslim women – are asked to wear the hijab in solidarity with the hijab-wearing Muslim women. As Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa demonstrate in their recent Washington Post article, the hijab has no basis in Islam and that it’s a well-funded political ploy of conservative Muslims “to dominate modern Muslim societies.”

We, as committed Muslims liberated from the roots of a conservative Bangladeshi religious background, believe in freedom of religion or culture and in universally recognized human rights. We’ve no problem whatsoever with the hijab if it simply and purely represents the personal choice of the wearer. However, we’re strongly opposed to wearing it as an act of solidarity for Muslim women. Here’s why.

First and foremost, wearing the hijab as an act of solidarity for Muslim women is tantamount to siding with Muslims who disingenuously promote this dress as a religious requirement – even as a political agenda. Neither the Quran nor the Hadith mandates the hijab as an essential Islamic dress. The hijab now usually refers to the headscarf, but is sometimes used in an inclusive sense also to include the niqab or burqa (full-body veil with eyes uncovered or covered).

The Quran requires women to guard their modesty, covering their private parts and bosoms, and not to display their beauty except what is ordinarily apparent and not to strike their feet so as to reveal their hidden beauty except to some specified close relatives (24:31). Here the expression “what is ordinarily apparent” is usually taken to mean the face, hands, and feet. It can also mean the head or hair. Note another directive of the Quran:

33:59 O Prophet, advise your wives, your daughters, and the women of believers to draw their outer garments (jalabib) over themselves. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not troubled.

This verse asks women to wear outer garments (jalabib; sing., jilbab) so that they are recognized and not troubled. This implies that the dress needs to be dignified and decent-looking so that it is more likely to inspire respect rather than undue gestures on the part of onlookers. Ironically, however, conservative Muslims misinterpret this verse to mean that the hair, the face, and the eyes also need to be covered by the jilbab.

The Quran urges both men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty (24:30-31). The veil supporters seem to ignore the implication of these verses: If women needed to cover their faces and hair, then this verse would have become irrelevant. Verse 24:31 asks Muslim women to draw their khemar over their neck, which does not mean the hijab that traditional women wear. In fact, the Quran nowhere mentions the hijab as clothing, but mentions it as a curtain or barrier that was applied solely to the Prophet’s wives to keep a safe and dignified distance from the believers who came to his house that was also used as a mosque. The believers were asked to communicate to his wives behind a hijab (33:53).

The Hadith provides conflicting messages about whether a full-face veil is required for women. Only some Hadith from Bukhari, Abou Dawd, and Muslim are cited below.

  1. When the verse on the veil [33:57] had been revealed, women started covering their faces (Bukhari, Vol. 6, #282), but before all others except the Prophet (Ibid, Vol. 5, #32).
  2. When Companion al-Fadl was staring at the beautiful face of a woman, the Prophet moved his face away, but did not ask the woman to cover her face (Ibid, Vol. 8, #247).
  3. The Prophet said that when women grow in age, they should not display anything except their face and hands (Abou Dawd, #4092.
  4. If a man wants to marry a woman, he can see her face in secret (Ibid, #2077).
  5. The full-face veil was applicable only for the Prophet’s wives (Bukhari, Vol. 1, #148, Vol 6, #10 and #313, Vol. 8, 257; Muslim, Book 26, #5397).

Second, requiring Muslim women to dress in some specified way, as John L. Esposito notes in one of his books, is often seen as a reflection of men controlling women – “a symbol of women’s inferior status.” Many Muslim scholars also do not consider the veil to be an essential Islamic dress. As the Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who titles her article as “As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values,” reports, the famous Egyptian jurist, judge, and feminist reformer Qasim Amin, who wrote a trailblazer book The Liberation of Women (in Arabic) in 1899, “critiqued and repudiated the veil.” She also notes in the same article, “The Moroccan academic [late] Fatima Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil (1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975).”

These Muslim scholars and others such as (late) Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, Qassim al-Ghamidi and Tariq Ramadan have declared the niqab or burqa as not required by Islam. Even the conservative scholar Zakir Naik persuasively argues that the face veil is not obligatory for Muslim women. Strikingly, Pakistan’s conservative religious consultative body, the Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan (CII) also rules that women are not required to cover their faces, hands, or feet under Islamic Sharia law.

Third, historically, as the noted scholar of comparative religion Reza Aslan notes in one of his books (p.66), “The veil [in the sense of a clothing cover] was neither compulsory nor widely adopted until generations after Muhammad’s death, when a large body of male scriptural and legal scholars began using their religious and political authority to regain the dominance they had lost in society as a result of the Prophet’s egalitarian reforms.” The Quran forbids the Prophet Muhammad, at some point, to consider marrying any woman even though her beauty was pleasing to him (33:52). This makes it clear that women at that time could display at least their faces and hair.

Also, in the 1940s to 1960s, women in the eastern Mediterranean Arab countries, led by Egypt, did not dress in the traditional veils worn by their mothers and grandmothers. Then as Harvard divinity professor Leila Ahmed finds, to her surprise, as recounted in her 2011 book, the veils made a comeback in all forms and styles since late twentieth century – a development that has significantly to do with Saudi Arabia’s aggressive promotion of its ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam.

Fourth, even though the veil is widely viewed as a symbol of modesty and an invitation to men to treat women respectfully rather than as sex objects, it is no sure protection against sexual harassment. As Ro Waseem cites in a New Statesman article, according to a study done in Egypt in 2008, 72.5 percent of the victims surveyed reported being sexually harassed when they were, in fact, wearing the hijab. A recent Guardian report by a Tehran Bureau correspondent shows that the hijab has made sexual harassment rather worse in Iran. Still another report by an American Muslim woman says, “my most dangerous travel experiences of unwanted advances occurred in the most conservative Muslim societies that observe the strictest dress codes, even though I was covered.” All this evidence strongly suggests that the veil does not necessarily serve its avowed purpose.

In fact, the strict dress code has done little to curb clandestine sexual crimes. A study aired in a Saudi TV channel reveals a startling finding: some 23 percent of Saudi children are victims of incest by their own relatives and some 46 percent of youths in Riyadh are homosexuals, a crime in Saudi Arabia. In addition, in this modern tech world, adult males and females can easily engage online in illicit sexual activity over Skype.

Fifth, in today’s world, while many Muslim women wear the veil, many more do not do so. This cannot be taken as proof that those who do not wear it are any less religious and righteous than their hijab-wearing counterparts. The Turkish women had long rejected the hijab and other veils as backward-looking in a secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk. The ban on the full-face niqab and burqa still stays, but that on headscarves was subsequently lifted, except for the judiciary, military and police. The Iranian women use headscarves, not full-face veils. Syria has instituted the full-face niqab ban from universities since July 2010 as part of its secular tradition. Of late, even the Saudi authority has embraced some veil reform. In 2013, it inducted women members to its supreme consultative body, the unelected, 150-member, previously male-only Shura Council, allowing them to wear the veil keeping both the face and the hands uncovered (as in the photo at the top). In landmark municipal elections toward the end of last year, women have been allowed, for the first time, to vote and contest, where women are seen with veils without the face cover. Also, importantly, Muslim women performing hajj or umrah are not required to wear full-face veils.

Sixth, there is a growing recognition that full-face veils may pose a grave security threat. As reported by BBC in June last year, Nigerian Boko Haram militants used face veils to kill more than 20 people in Chad. Daniel Pipes cites many examples where full-face veils (niqabs or burqas) were used to camouflage identity while committing crimes, which include jewelry thefts in London, Canada, and India and bank robberies in London, Philadelphia, and Bosnia. During the 2007 seize of the pro-Taliban Red Mosque, one of its leaders Maulana Abdul Aziz was caught while trying to flee in the guise of a burqa-clad woman. The Muslim extremist perpetrators of 2005 London bombings wore veils as facemasks.

After France and Belgium have banned the full-face veil – France mostly in keeping with its secular tradition and Belgium for security reasons – a growing number of African countries are instituting the face veil ban for security concern. The countries include Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Niger, and Gabon. The latest African country to just join this club is Senegal. In addition, there are quite a few cities in some countries that ban the face veil in their particular areas.

Finally and importantly, the Quran’s directive to us to guard our modesty applies equally to both men and women (24:30-31). Its emphasis is on libas-ut-taqwa (clothing of moral uprightness) (7:26). Guarding modesty requires believers to maintain purity of attitude in mind, and decency of behavior with persons of the opposite sex. This is obviously more important than using a veil (burqa or hijab), which is not always found to be a good reflector of one’s decency of behavior with others. Surely, the hijab or any of its other variants does not qualify to be labeled as an essential Islamic dress, and there is hardly any valid reason for one to feel obliged to stand in solidarity with those who don this dress.

Asra Q. Nomani asks instead: Do not wear a headscarf in “solidarity” with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with “honor.” Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.

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/.

Read more at World Religion News: “7 Reasons Why Wearing the Hijab to Express Solidarity With Muslims Isn’t Right” http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=22920

 

Why the Sharia Law Is So Dangerous for Our World

Why the Sharia Law Is So Dangerous for Our World
By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud

[Appears on World Religion News, October 8, 2015; Link: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/why-the-sharia-law-is-so-dangerous-for-our-world]

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.

Conclusion

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/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Did the Recent Facebook Hadith Debate Go?

How Did the Recent Facebook Hadith Debate Go?
By Abdur Rab and Farouk A. Peru

Novel and first of its kind, this was a debate between the Quranists and the Hadith believers (Hadithists) organized by the Facebook Liberal Muslims United (LMU) group (Fareed Firani was the Convenor) on August 8, 2015. For this the LMU group deserves our commendation. The Hadithist team was represented by Zeeshan Khan (Captain), Muhammad Zubair Khan, and Sheikh Rehan bin Umer, and the Quranist team by Jasmina Richards (Captain), Farouk A. Peru, and Abdur Rab. The moderators were ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy (Chairman), ‪Barbara Brown Knoll, Anatul Fateh, and ‪Addie Roose. Four Hadiths were selected for the event – two chosen by each of the competing teams. The debate was scheduled to close on the same day. But it remained unfinished and extended to another day on August 15, 2015. On that day, however, without any prior notice, the Hadithists team mysteriously absconded. The Chairman and moderators of the debate declared a walkover win for the Quranists. The Chairman asked the Quranists to present their closing statement, which they did. With this, the debate came to an abrupt, unceremonious end. Interested readers may read the proceedings of the debate here. As the Quranists’ movement has been gaining ground in recent decades, the responses the Quranists offered in this debate should be of particular interest to the readers. Here we reproduce the relevant parts of the debate.

The debate got off to a poor start with some procedural matter and wrangling over the size of the opening statement that the Hadithist team could use as the selected proposing team. Though the statement was much too long compared to what is usually permitted under the Chatham House Rules being followed, Mr. Zeeshan Khan was allowed to post his at least 15-page opening statement, which he did in 15 parts (His statement can be read on the debate link as given above). Then he asked us to respond to the questions he raised in the statement. But the Chairman ruled that we were not required to respond to the opening statement according to the Chatham House Rules. His points were though touched off and responded to, in part, in our opening statement and, more fully, in our closing statement, which will be posted here at the end.

This was the opening statement, with slight editing, that was presented by our team captain Ms. Jasmina Richards, following the one by Mr. Zeeshan Khan:

“Chair, I’m probably going to be hauled over the coals as I was given an opening statement by my team, which I have chosen to dump and instead just speak straight from my heart. The heart is after all where our sincerity lies, and the subject under discussion here today, is near and dear to all of us so requires sincerity. No calculated manipulated words designed to woo the crowd but rather cold hard logical facts.

“I’m 53 years old and until 2 years ago, when I crazily decided to join the Facebook community, I hadn’t heard the word kaffir, at least not being used in the context I am today experiencing. My only exposure to this word was in apartheid South Africa, where I grew up, and heard the blacks being addressed as kaffir (pronounced kaf-fur) and my Dad cautioning me against using this word, telling me it is a derogatory term and means “non-believer” and since I didn’t have insight into the person’s heart, I have no right to call him kaffir. Now it appears everyone who doesn’t brush their teeth the way the Prophet did, or use the bathroom the way the Prophet did or heaven forbid, follow the sexual escapades the way the Prophet did, is branded a kaffir.

“While growing up, the word sunnah for me, denoted the additional prayers I could choose to make or not to make with each of my Fard prayers.  Or my father showing me a miswak and explaining to me that in the time of my beloved Prophet there wasn’t toothpaste and toothbrushes so that is what the Prophet used.  So any secondary sources were used to garner insight into the history behind my religion.

“It is only when I joined the Facebook community that I came to learn that I couldn’t be a good pious Muslim without knowing, accepting and following hadith, since hadith is required to understand Quran. Now I was faced with a major problem, according to these people, I had wasted 51 years of my life believing I was being a good Muslim by following Quran, now I’m being told I had it all wrong, there is another more important set of books without which I cannot follow Quran. But that’s not what Allah tells me. Allah tells me his book is complete; there is no better hadith than Quran.

“Wait, they say I cannot learn how to pray, without hadith but I’ve prayed all my life and have never opened the book on prayer written by Bukhari. Here is how I learned, as a little girl of around 3-4 year old I would kneel in front of mom while she was in Ruku and ask her if I could help find whatever she was looking for. Then when she went into Sujood I would straddle her back and she would gently lift me and put me down as she came back into Kiyaam. Finally as I grew I started to mimic her actions, till eventually she explained to me that this was her way of connecting with her creator and so it was from her I learnt to pray.

“Chair, my respected opponents will try and convince us today that the Islam I and many others like me, practice is not Islam, that myself and many like myself who follow only what Allah ordains in Quran, are kaffir, they will further argue that Allah instructs us in Quran to obey the messenger. They are quite right, here are some of the verses:

Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware (of evil): if ye do turn back, know ye that it is Our Messenger’s duty to proclaim (the Message) in the clearest manner. (5: 92).

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination (4: 59).

Say: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance (24: 54).

And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, Allâh shall admit him in the Gardens underneath which rivers flow (4:13).

And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has won a great success (33:71).

And we sent no messenger, but that he should be obeyed by the leave of Allâh (4:64).

“Chair, note how every one of these verses first says obey Allah, then “and his messenger.” It is quite obvious that the instruction is to obey the messenger with regards to the message he brings which ultimately is the Quran. This intention of the instruction to obey the messenger is made even more glaringly obvious when Allah says, “And we sent no messenger, but that he should be obeyed by the leave of Allah.” It would be a major catastrophic fruit salad if we tried to obey ALL the messengers by following their dress code, bathroom habits, hygiene habits and sexual habits.

“It is my contention that our beloved Prophet was sent to a 7th century group of people, who had very specific needs relevant to their times. Our Prophet took the guidance given to him via Quran and practically implemented practices to accommodate those needs. To try and fit those practices into a 21st century is ludicrous, to say the least.

“Instead what we should be doing is trying to understand how the guidance of the Quran can be implemented in today’s society.

“I am Muslim and I follow the Quran.

“Thank You.”

At this point, the Chairman asked Mr. Zeeshan Khan to move his motion. Instead, ignoring the Chairman’s ruling on opening statements, he questioned our opening statement and asked, “How can one perform Salat, Fast, Hajj from Quran only?” One of us, Farouk A. Peru, pointed out to the Chairman that Mr. Zeeshan Khan was unnecessarily wasting time, questing our opening statement. Abdur Rab pointed out that he should move his motion only with one of their chosen Hadiths. After insisting on his question for some more time, Mr. Zeeshan Khan then moved his first Hadith motion as follows:

“The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, “Cleanliness is half of faith and Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scale, and Subhan Allah [Glory be to Allah] and Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fill up what is between the heavens and the earth, and prayer is a light, and charity is proof [of one’s faith] and patience is a brightness and the Qur’an is a proof on your behalf or against you.”

Source: Muslim no. 223 – [Sahih]

“Mr. Chairman, As our friends, the Hadith rejecters, will always propagate a notion that Hadith contradicts Quran’s clear teaching, therefore [it] must be banned, so, I would dare to ask my opponents to show us a verse of Quran to which above Hadith contradicts. Thanks.”

With the Chairman’s permission, Abdur Rab then provided the substantive refutation of this Hadith thus:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The following is my response to this hadith in the light of the Quran.

“First and foremost, a hadith need not directly contradict the Quran in order for it to be false. It can be a non sequitur.

“This hadith is a typical hodgepodge of fragmentary pieces of advice found in the hadith literature as a whole. But this sort of advice often misses the wholesome advice of the Quran. Some specific points are noted as follows.

  1. It speaks of cleanliness as one half of faith itself as if the other half is faith in God and all the things the Quran talks about. But this is an absurd assertion.
  2. It says God’s praise and glorification fill up what is between the heavens and the earth. But it fails to note that all living beings, including birds, praise and glorify God and all knows its salat (24:41).
  3. Salat is translated as prayer and shown as a light or nur. But the Quran uses the term “nur” for God Himself and for the Quran itself. By emphasizing salat as a nur, the hadith diverts Muslims’ attention to a ritual as the only virtuous thing for Muslims to perform. But salat is not explained. The Quran says all living beings know and perform salat (24:41). God says all living beings prostrate before God (13:15). Do we then know how all living beings perform salat and prostrate before God? The conventional salat traditional Muslims understand and perform has some inherent problems: such as recitation per se, utterances that are inconsistent with the very spirit of prayer, and it’s delinking from human behavior and actions.
  4. Again to say that charity is proof of one’s faith is to overemphasize its importance. We know that faith consists in belief in God and all things God talks about. Why just restrict it to charity? The conventional understanding in Hadith-based traditional Islam is that zakat is 2.5% of one’s assets or income. However, the Quran has a broader meaning of zakat and sadaqa.
  5. What does the hadith mean by saying patience is a brightness? The Quran asks believers to seek help through patience and salat: “O ye who believe! Seek help through perseverance and prayer (salat). Verily God is with the perseverant. (2:153, see also 2:45-46 and 3:26). So the Quran’s message on this is clear and wholesome. The hadith adds no meaningful message.
  6. And again saying that the Quran is a proof for or against you is practically saying nothing. What does this really mean? Proof of what? Is the Quran going to testify in favor of us or against us? Isn’t it a bizarre claim?

With the Chair’s permission, Mr. Zeeshan Khan then presented his response thus:

“I found it very interesting to know of a Hadith rejecter that Hadith does not have to clearly contradict Quran. This issue is, we have a disagreement over an important issue which involves religion. The only way to reach a conclusion is ask the book of Allah and if our opponents believe that it (Hadith) does not have to contradict Quran then question arises, why one would reject Hadith?

“Respected brother also leveled allegations of hadith being fake and irrelevant and in his own words, “typical hodgepodge of fragmentary pieces of advice” needs more discussion, which involve if hadith/sunna is an authority which was somehow ignored. Respondent is clearly playing with words and trying to give them meaning which suits his opinion.

“By no means this Hadith contradicts Quran, in fact it further explains the importance of cleanliness and other rituals which were repeatedly discussed in Quran. Here r few of verses which encourage same idea as being propagated in hadith.

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al Baqarah 2:222)

“Do not stand [for prayer] within it – ever. A mosque founded on righteousness from the first day is more worthy for you to stand in. Within it are men who love to purify themselves; and Allaah loves those who purify themselves.” [Quran 9: 108]

“O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of Janaabah (major impurity), then purify yourselves.” [Quran 5: 6]

“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allaah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.”” [Quran 2: 222]

“None touch it except the purified.” [Quran 79: 56]

“So remember Me; I will remember you.” [Quran 2:152]

“Whoever fears Allah, Allaah will find a way out for him (from every difficulty) and He will provide for him from sources that he could never have imagined.” [Quran 65:2]

“For Muslim men and Muslim women, and believing men and believing women, and obedient men and obedient women, and truthful men and truthful women, and patient men and patient women, and men with humility and women with humility, and for men who give charity and women who give charity, and men who fast and women who fast, and chaste men and chaste women, and for men who remember God much and women who remember God much,- for them, God has prepared forgiveness and great reward.” [Quran 33:35]

“Those who believe, and whose hearts find reassurance in the remembrance of God, will undoubtedly have their hearts assured by the remembrance of God.” [Al-Ra’d 28]

“This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who have Taqwa; who believe in the unseen, and who establish Salah, and spend out of what we have provided for them.” (Surah Baqarah 2: 2-3)

“The believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin good and forbid evil, and they establish Salah, and give Zakah, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them, and surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Surah Tawba 9: 71)

“Truly, those who believe and do righteous deeds, and perform Salah, and give Zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Baqarah 2:277)

“I would again request to show us A verse which nullifies this hadith.

“Brother also spoke about NUR and criticized this word to be taken for Salat. I ask my brother, doesn’t prayer show us a way? Way to Allah? Way can only be clear when there is enough LIGHT to recognize truth from falsehood and Salat is that light which helps one to differentiate good from bad.”

The Chair then asked us to respond with our supplementary response. Farouk A. Peru then came with his response as follows:

“With respect to Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s point “If the Hadith does not have to contradict Quran then question arises, why one would reject Hadith?”, my response is: “Unfortunately my esteemed colleague fails to understand the ‘burden of proof’ is on HIS PARTY, the Sunnis. It is they who need to show that the Prophet actually uttered through words. Mere not contradicting the spirit of the Quran does not validate a hadith.

“Zeeshan Khan said, “Brother also spoke about NUR and criticized this word to be taken for Salat. I ask my brother, doesn’t prayers show u a way? way to Allah? Way can only be clear when there is enough LIGHT to recognize truth from falsehood and Salat is that light which helps one to differentiate good from bad.” My response to this point is: “Again, this is not the point. The point is that the precise language of the Quran, spoken by a divine author does not need a human to supplement its concepts. It calls Allah himself as noor (24/35) thus outlaying its metaphysics. Calling ‘salat’ as noor simply skews that perfect metaphysics. This Hadith is suitable as hyperbole for folkloric Islam. It cannot be used to explain the Quran.”

The Chair then asked Mr. Zeeshan Khan to respond to our supplementary response. He then gave the following response:

With respect to our first point, my response is: “Our opponents are forgetting a fact that its Hadith rejecters who have challenged the authority which is unanimously accepted by ummah and that too for more than 1400 years. Therefore onus is on them to bring forth the evidence from Quran to discredit Hadith/Sunna.

“With respect to our second point, my response is: Indeed Quran speaks about Allah being NUR but my friend has not understood the verse properly. Namaz or Salat is from Allah and for Allah.”

With this, the debate was adjourned until London time 4 pm, August 15, 2015. When the debate resumed on the second day, our team was present, and we (represented by Jasmina Richards) moved our motion on our first chosen Hadith thus:

“It is the contention of this house, that Sahih Muslim hadith 21a contradicts Quran 2:256, 10:99; 50:45; 88:21-22, wherein Allah instructs no force is warranted in matters of faith, and that each individual apply choice to join or not to join any faith.”

“SAHIH MUSLIM 21a – It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said: “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.”

The Chair, however, decided in collaboration with all the moderators, that in the absence of the Hadithist team, the debate could not be continued. As noted at the beginning, the Chair then declared that we won the debate by a walkover and asked us to present our closing statement. Abdur Rab then submitted the closing statement as follows:

“Mr. ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy. My submission is in two parts as follows.

“Part !: Mr. Chairman, Thank you. Thank you for having conducted this debate with efficiency and sagacity.

“I’m honored and privileged to submit this closing statement. Through this closing statement, I also wish to thank our respected friend Zeeshan Khan and his colleagues for having participated in this peaceful debate or dialogue, which, I think is a great step forward for Muslims in their search for a common ground, and which is always preferable to militant confrontation. I thank them for not declaring us heretics (apostates or murtads), worthy of killing.

“Mr. Chairman, I begin by briefly touching on Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s opening statement, even though we do not need to respond to it. We do think though – and our sympathizers also expect – that his main points or assertions should not go unaddressed and unchallenged.

“He has made the point that Muslims have accepted the authority of the Hadith as part of their guidance for more than 1400 years. He has not acknowledged the fact there has been strong and widespread opposition to the Hadith right from the early days of Islam, and even since the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself. The Quran itself refers to people who used to distort the words of God and claim that those were God’s revelation (2:78-79, 3:78). So it is not surprising, therefore, that there would be people coming later who would bring fabricated, spurious teachings and attribute them to our dear Prophet.

“I am grateful to Professor Aisha Musa for personally helping me prepare this statement. Her landmark work “Hadith as Scripture: Discussions on the Authority of Prophetic Traditions in Islam,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, explores the earliest extant discussions on the authority of the Hadith in Islam and compares them with contemporary debates. She vividly shows that Muslim scholar al-Shafii (d. 204 AH/820 CE) himself noted and acknowledged in his “Kitab Jima al-Ilm” and “Risala” that there was much opposition to the Hadith during his time, which he struggled to deal with. Even predating al-Shafii, such opposition is found in a text that Muslim tradition holds to be a letter from the Kharijite Abd Allah Ibn Ibad to the Caliph Abd al-Malik in 76 AH/695 CE. Its importance as a challenge to the authority of the Hadith remains undented. A key passage of this letter criticizes the Kufans for taking “Hadiths” for their religion abandoning the Quran. “They believed in a book which was not from God, written by the hands of men; they then attributed it to the Messenger of God.” (Cf., Musa, p. 38.)

“Both al-Shafii and Ibn Qutayba (d. 276 AH) refer to the opponents of the Hadith as Ahl al-Kalam and indicate that the objection to Prophetic reports was widespread. Al-Shafi’i states that so many people presented so many arguments to him that he could not exactly remember who said what. Ibn Qutayba makes it clear in his introduction that the opponents of the Hadith had written books containing scathing criticisms of the proponents of the Hadith. Unfortunately, these books have been lost to humanity. (Cf., Musa, p. 21)

“Professor Musa also mentions another important work dealing with Hadith controversies in early Islam: “Taqyid al-Ilm” by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d. 463 AH/1071 CE). This work importantly shows that the Prophet both disapproved Hadith writing and approved Hadith writing, but subject to the important proviso that it agreed with the Quran. It also mentions Caliph Umar as a central figure who opposed the use of the Hadith as a competing source of religious guidance and refers to him as saying that following more than one source of religious guidance is what brought the people who received previous scriptures to ruin (Cf., Musa, p. 74). Al-Baghdadi’s book also contains reports of other prominent companions that show the same concern. Ibn Masud in particular chastises a man who brought him a Hadith book, citing the opening verses of Surah Yusuf, 12:1-3, where the Quran is referred to as the book from where one learns wisdom. (Ibid, p. 74). Other sources such as “al-Tabaqat al-Kubra” of Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sa’d (d. 230 AH/845 CE) and “Musannaf” of ‘Abd al-Razzak al-Sanani (d. 211 AH/827 CE) also report Umar’s opposition to the use of Hadith and his destruction of collections of them (Musa, pp. 21-28).

“Mr. Chairman, I recount these early accounts to demonstrate that the challenge to the acceptance of the Hadith as a parallel source of Islam was much more pronounced in early Islam than ever thought. This challenge has continued throughout history. Mutazilites, who represented one of the earliest rationalist Muslim theological schools, and are the later Ahl al-Kalam, also viewed the transmission of the Prophetic sunnah as not sufficiently reliable. The Hadith, according to them, was mere “guesswork and conjecture [… and] the Quran was complete and perfect, and did not require the Hadith or any other book to supplement or complement it.” At one time in history, the Mutazilites were a dominant group. The trend of opposition to the Hadith reemerged in the late nineteenth century in the Indian sub-continent as part of a reformist program in Islam. In Egypt also, the anti-Hadith movement was touched off by the turn of the twentieth century by an article by Muhammad Taufiq Sidqi titled ‘al-Islam huwa ul-Qur’an Wahdahu’ (‘Islam is the Qur’an Alone’ that appeared in the Egyptian journal al-Manar.” Then in the Indo-Pak sub-continent a number of prominent Muslim scholars emerged in the twentieth century to lead a vigorous anti-Hadith movement, which spread worldwide and is continuing in a more vocal way today. This demonstrates the significance of the contemporary Quran-Only movement as a real and growing force in Islam.

“Musa’s research also demonstrates that opposition to the Hadith as an authoritative scriptural source of law and guidance has not been influenced by Western, orientalist ideas about Islam, but is very much an Islamic development from within – “an inherently Muslim response to inherently Muslim concerns” (Musa, pp. 1, 3). This fact also refutes Mr. Zeeshan Khan’s allegation that modern Hadith criticism is an outgrowth of Orientalists’ writings. Modern Hadith criticism and rejection essentially reflects the same concerns of the Hadith critics of early Islam.

“Mr. Chairman, ‪Sanmuga Thavamoorthy. Here is the second part. A second major observation of Zeeshan Khan is that the Hadith is a second kind of Divine revelation. But this is not a new observation. It is al-Shafii who first elevated the status of Hadith to the status of Divine revelation. Our respected friend takes great pains to prove with the Quran that the Hadith is a kind of wahy ghayr matlu (unrecited revelation), while the Quran is wahy matlu (recited revelation). However, this claim must be unfounded, since it raises the very pertinent question that if this second kind were Divine revelation then why the Prophet himself or his close companions did not take any measures to record and preserve this second kind or the Hadith, as he did in the case of the Quran. Why the compilations of Bukhari and his ilk came more than two centuries after the Prophet’s death and why the Sunnis have collections different from the Shias?

“In fact the Quran itself uses the term “Hadith” in a number of places and warns believers not to believe in any Hadith other than the Quran (45:6, 31:6, 39:23, 6:114). The Quran declares, “Such are the revelations (ayats) of Allah, which We recount to you in truth, then in what Hadith will they believe after Allah and His revelations (45:6, see also 7:185 and 77:50)? We can see the import of this message also in another verse: “Shall I seek other than God as a source of law and judgment when He is the One who has sent down the Book to you in detail?” (6:114).

“Also, “What is wrong with you? How do you judge? Do you have another book which you study?” (68:35-36). The verse 39:23 refers to the Quran itself as Ahsanul Hadith (the best Hadith). These verses decisively rule out the need for another book, the Hadith.

“Our respected friend also uses the much cited Quranic verse “Obey Allah, obey the Messenger” to argue his defense of the Hadith. He also throws a challenge to us if we can show whether the Quran tells us to follow the Quran alone. However, modern Hadith rejecters like us, like our predecessors, have effectively demonstrated that the key requirement for following the Messenger is to follow the very message he has brought and delivered to us, i.e., the Quran, which characterizes itself as an explanation of everything (16:89), easy, straightforward (44:58, 54:17, 22, 32, 40, 39:28), and detailed, self-explained (39:27, 12:111, 6:114). In fact, the Quran refers to the Sayings of the Messenger as the revelation (69:40-43).

“The Prophet himself emphasized, “I follow naught except what is revealed to me” (6:50; 46:9) and God advised him and us to do the same (6:155; 45:6; see also 7:3). Also, he was asked to admonish his people only with the Quran (50:45). [Also, as we have noted above, other verses caution us against believing in anything other than God’s revelation (7:185, 45:6, 6:114, 68:35-36).] So if we just follow the Quran, we really follow him as well. And it is also noteworthy that the Prophet used to recite the Quran to people around him (62:2; 75:16-19). He did not need to explain it to them, as he was barred from doing that; the burden of explanation was on God Himself (75:18-19). […] Note also that the Prophet was specifically urged by God to judge only by the Quran, and not follow any personal desires (6:114; 4:105; 5:48-49). And the Quran also unequivocally proclaims that those who do not judge by what has been revealed from God are disbelievers (kafirs) (5:44), wrongdoers (jalims) (5:45), or rebellious (fasiqs) (5:49). This clearly means that the Quran alone should be used as the basis of religious law in Islam.” (Excerpted from my book “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Undestanding,” pp. 211-212.)

“The case for following our Prophet as an example should be like following all prophets as examples. The Quran specifically refers to Abraham as an example to follow (60:4-6), a model (16:120) and one whose millat (ways) God asked Muhammad (and indirectly us) to follow (16:123). So, please tell us how should we follow Abraham? Following his Hadith?

“Two key arguments of the early Hadith rejecters are that (1) the Quran itself is an explanation of everything (16:89) and that (2) wisdom mentioned along with the Quran is found in the Quran itself – in its rulings. We find echoes of such arguments in also contemporary discussions of the opponents of the Hadith.

“Finally, we need to say something about the contradictory, blasphemous, and absurd reports falsely attributed to our Prophet. We may ask our respected friend whether he would like to share and like his wife to share their private life with us. We shudder to think how Muslims believe that the Prophet’s illustrious wives, whom the Quran itself describes as mothers to believers, narrated the outrageous accounts of their private lives with the Prophet. And how does the Hadith portray the Prophet as a sex maniac going to all his nine wives at the same night and that he possessed the power of 30 men? The Hadith not only insults our Prophet and his wives, but also goes to the other extreme by declaring him as a Semi-God, without whom this universe would not have come into existence, and who is the only prophet who will intercede on behalf of the believers, even though the Quran declares him as a man like us and urges us not to differentiate between the prophets.

“Mr. Chairman, the Hadith also corrupts our deen in numerous other ways. The four Hadiths we have discussed last Saturday and today are just a miniscule sample of reports that distort the message contained in the Quran. It’s not possible here to recount all the problems with the Hadith. So-called science and methodology of the Hadith our friend has referred to is just a big joke. My book shows a long list of areas where the Hadith corrupts our deen. It has helped Muslims divide into sects and madhhabs, despite God’s clear directive against it (3:103, 105). It provides misguidance in religious practices such as salat, fasting, and hajj; demonizes women; encourages intolerance, violence and terror; perpetuates archaic, cruel punishments (punishments such as stoning the adulterer and the adulteress to death and harsh punishments up to death for blasphemy and apostasy); justifies slavery and slavery-like practices; justifies sex with war captives without marriage; justifies child marriage and perpetuates other unfair family laws, including barring the divorced wife to remarry her husband unless and until she marries another person and that person divorces her; throttles freedom of religion and speech; and discourages independent, rational thinking, scientific inquiry, and modernity. It’s the Hadith that has held us back over 1400 years. Isn’t it a prophecy of our Prophet come true that our ummah has forsaken the Quran (25:30)? Isn’t now the time to reject the Hadith and return to and rally around the Quran alone?

“Born and raised as an orthodox Sunni Muslim, I’ve changed and become a Quranist, not due to any influence from the Orientalists. Why can’t you, my friend?

“I will end here, Mr. Chairman, without boring our readers further. Thank you, thank my colleagues Jasmina Richards and Farouk A. Peru, thank the moderators and organizers of this debate, especially Fareed Firani, and thank all readers. May Allah bless us and guide us all!”

After this Chairman, Mr. Sanmuga Thavamoorthy, thanked Abdur Rab for “an eloquent closing statement indeed.” Moderator Ms. Addie Roose remarked, “The professionalism displayed is remarkable. It does show that Muslims can discuss without animosity, rancor and ill feelings.” Moderator Ms. Barbara Brown Knoll said, “Sorry to those waiting for some interesting debate today.” Moderator Mr. Anatul Fateh commented, “The comments so far posted were thought-provoking. I am sorry only that the debate now closes without more of the same.” At this point, the Chairman thanked all concerned and declared the debate closed.

Concluding Remarks

We, the Quranists, welcomed this wonderful opportunity to confront our Hadith-following friends in a friendly encounter – more so because this is precisely the way Muslims should go to settle their in-house differences, not by resorting to any violent methods. The debate, we believe, went fairly well on the first day. However, we were terribly disappointed when our opponents chose not to turn up on the second day without any prior notice. Courtesy demanded an apology from them for not turning up. But why should they care? Do we really qualify as Muslims to be treated well by them? What a pity!

Abdur Rab, Ph.D. (Harvard), is a retired public policy analyst and author, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier editions.

Farouk A. Peru is a Ph.D. Candidate in theology and religion (King’s College, London). A Quranist Muslim who sees hadiths as a reflection of Arab culture of the time.

 

The Message

The Message

Just imagine you’re in a wilderness, not knowing where to go;
Just imagine a Message descends on you from nowhere;
You do not know wherefrom it came, you do not know who it came through.
Grab it, engage with it, and study it;
Maybe you’ll benefit.

Just see if it stands on its own,
Just see if it makes sense to you,
Brings Hope in a state of Hopelessness,
And brings Light in a state of Darkness.

It’s come through one pure of heart capable of receiving it (50:37),
Who’s on the straight path (36:4, 43:43),
Of great moral character (68:4),
Endowed with love (19:96), a light-giving Lamp (33:46),
A Mercy of the Universe (9:61, 21:107),
A Messenger of God (36:3, 33:40), a receiver of Divine wahy (42:52),
And a faithful assimilator & deliverer of the Divine writ (5:67, 13:40).

This Message is a Book full of wisdom (10:1),
Straightforward and easy to learn (39:28, 44:58),
Most comprehensive (16:89; 39:27; 12:111; 10:37; 6:114),
Most profound and cogent (5:15), encourages rational approach (2:44, 76),
Requires the reader to ponder its verses with understanding (38:29).

This is the Truth (2:2, 18:29, 41:42) from One Who is True (4:87, 122),
Who represents Truth by Himself (18:44, 24:25).
It’s come to guide people to peace & straight path (5:16, 17:9, 6:126),
A Guiding Light for humankind (42:52),
A Furqan (Criterion) to distinguish right from wrong (25:1),
And a Universal Message to prevail (9:33, 38:87, 48:28).

It’s come to civilize us and make us wise (62:2).
An amazing Message; the more you ponder, the more you learn!
No exaggeration! No superfluousness! No incoherence!
A real Beauty, a real Wonder!
I’m struck with awe and wonder!

(The references are from the Quran)

 

 

How the Sharia Law Particularly Victimizes Women

How the Sharia Law Particularly Victimizes Women
                                                          By Abdur Rab and Hasan Mahmud 

Introduction

There are a few general things to note about the Sharia Law. First, this Law overwhelmingly influences traditional Islam as practiced by most Muslims. Second, contrary to popular perception, the Sharia Law is not really Divine Law. Its origin is traceable to a body of normative principles historically understood and developed by a group of Muslim jurists during the 8th-10th centuries, i.e., about 150 to 250 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. There is, however, no unified body of the Sharia Law, as different schools of jurisprudence have applied different interpretations. The vast majority – some eighty percent – of Muslims are Sunnis and they generally follow Hanafi and Shafii laws. There are more than six thousand Sharia laws in each of the Hanafi and Shafii Law books. In this paper, we will concern ourselves with these laws as they relate to the treatment of women. Third, the Sharia Law draws on the Quran only in small part, and that also in a rigid, out-of-date way. Its main source, among a total of more than eleven, is the Hadith literature, which, ironically, is overtly and overwhelmingly biased against women. It is due to the application of the Sharia Law that there is a widespread perception, especially in the non-Muslim world, that Islam promotes misogyny. However, as we will see below, the Sharia Law is a gulf apart from the core teachings of Islam as professed by the Quran.

Sharia (Aka Shariah, Shari’a) literally means “a moral path.” However, as Professor Abdullahi An-Naim of Emory University rightly observes, “two factors account for much of the confusion about the role of Sharia in the modern context: a lack of appreciation of the critical role of human agency in the conception and development of Sharia and a grossly exaggerated sense of the application of Sharia as a comprehensive, self-contained and immutable normative system in the pre-colonial period.” The Sharia Law is a largely man-made phenomenon that came to light in the Middle Age. The laws are made through FIQH, which literally means “Human Understanding.” Hence, as Professor An-Naim further notes, “the first several generations of Muslims could not have known and applied Shari’a as it came to be accepted by the majority of Muslims for the last one thousand years.”

Saudi Arabia is perhaps the closest country example where the Sunni Sharia Law is most rigidly applied and where women are particularly discriminated against. Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily apply the Hanbali Law. Hanbali is the most conservative of the four Sunni schools and the forerunner of the Wahhabi-Salafi movement. The Saudi authorities have vigorously promoted this brand of Islam throughout the world. Eminent Islamic Law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA has provided, in one of his books, a vivid description of how the Wahhabi ideology has caused a great distortion in Islam. This ideology treats women in a particularly degrading manner. In recent days, the problems the Saudi women face in moving and driving freely and independently without male escorts have received media spotlight. But there are other serious Sharia-related human rights violations against women that are endemic throughout the Muslim World. Below we provide a checklist of such violations.

HOW THE SHARIA LAW PARTICULARLY VICTIMIZES WOMEN

The Sharia Law severely discriminates against women mainly due to its predominant reliance on the Hadith. Though there are some passages in the Hadith, which display respect for women, these are overwhelmingly overshadowed by other texts that portray women in a particularly bad light. Some examples of such texts are that the Prophet saw that women constituted the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Bukhhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, #124), that women are more deficient than men in intelligence and religion (ibid, Vol. 1, Book 6, #301), that women represent a bad omen (ibid, volume 7, book 62, #31) and an affliction more harmful than anything else for men (ibid, volume 7, book 62, #33), and that women are ungrateful to their husbands (ibid, Vol. 7, Book 62, #125; Vol. 1, Book 2, #28). Similar texts are also in other Hadith books, including Muslim, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i. In one of his books, Abou El Fadl cites several Hadith texts reported in Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Nasai, Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, and Ibn Hibban that make God’s grace for a wife contingent on the husband’s pleasure and thus make wives virtually slaves to their husbands. Such texts are unreliable and problematic against the moral teachings of the Quran, according to which, men and women equally qualify for God’s grace, and according to which, the conception of the marital relationship presupposes mutual love, compassion, and cooperation. Below we provide a checklist of Sharia rules that discriminate against women.

Sharia Rules in Family Matters 

  1. Sharia considers women disqualified to serve as guardians to conduct marriages. Only men are qualified to perform this service.
  1. Sharia requires as witnesses for marriage two males or one male and two females in lieu of one man. This provision is made keeping in view the Quranic provision for witnesses in the context-specific case of financial transactions. However, this discrimination against women is no longer justified in the modern age when women are almost as educated and qualified as men.
  1. Child marriage is sanctified under Sharia, presuming that the Prophet Muhammad married Ayesha when she was a six-year old child. However, modern scholars contest this assertion about Ayesha’s age when the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage with her took place. Also, child marriage is not consistent with the Quran’s advice in dealing with orphans, which mandates that marriage require sound, responsible judgment on the part of both the bride and the bridegroom (4:5-6). This Quranic direction effectively precludes child marriage. The Sharia adherents use the Quran’s verse 65:4 to justify child marriage, since this verse talks about the waiting period of a divorced wife who may not be having menstruation. However, this verse does not necessarily mean a pre-puberty child. As modern medical science shows, there may be various reasons, medical or genetic, other than pregnancy that can explain amenorrhea (i.e., a delay or stoppage of menstrual period) in adult women. So amenorrhea cannot be cited as a definitive case for child marriage. Furthermore, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 by the United Nations (in force with effect from September 2, 1990), 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.
  2. Sharia provides virtually unilateral power of divorce to the husband. It provides only very limited power of divorce to a wife who is required generally to go to a court to seek divorce. Furthermore, Sharia requires explicit consent of the husband for the divorce. Such restrictions on a wife intending to divorce her husband – go to a court and take the husband’s consent – prove too forbidding for an aggrieved wife. The husband is often reluctant to divorce his wife. This is tyrannical to the wife, as she has to tolerate unbearable torture of her husband in the face of his continuing 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).
  3. Worse still, Sharia entitles a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously by uttering the word “talaq – I divorce you” three times and 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 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).
  1. The Sharia Law stipulates that once the divorce of a wife becomes effective at the end of the iddat period, the divorce becomes irrevocable and the divorced wife cannot go back to her husband, or remarry him, unless and until the divorced wife marries another person and until that husband divorces her. Sharia makes physical intimacy a condition for this marriage, even though the Quran allows a husband to divorce his wife before touching her – see 33:49. The requirement of marriage of a divorced wife with another person as a condition for her to think of returning to her husband after her new husband divorces her is a notoriously despicable practice called halala or hilla and is prevalent in parts of the Muslim world. This condition is drawn on an untenable inference from a Quranic verse, but which is counter to the very worldview and egalitarian spirit of the Quran’s message. This condition stems from a misreading of the Quran verses 2:230 and 232 and some relevant Hadith texts. However, verse 232 urges believers to create no obstacles in the way of the divorced wife remarrying her husband, if the couple so wants. As elaborately explained by us elsewhere in an article and in a drama-video, the halala system not only misses and violates the Quran’s clear directions and egalitarian message on this, but it also exacts a terrible human cost in terms of enormous suffering inflicted on the couple willing to reunite.
  1. Under 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. Then husbands are absolved of their duty to see where they go and how they live. This does not appeal to humanity. 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).
  2. A dangerous aspect of the Sharia Law is that 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.
  1. One particularly inhuman Sharia rule is that the husband’s financial support to his wife is contingent on complete obedience from her. If, however, a wife turns out to be disobedient to her husband for some reason, she forfeits all of her husband’s financial support.
  2. Sharia displays a patriarchal bias in dealing with child custody rights. It allows mothers custody of her children generally up to the age of seven for sons and nine for daughters. There is, however, no uniformity about the ages of sons and daughters, up to which child custodial rules should apply. Also, a mother is deprived of her child custody rights if she does not pray and when she takes a mahram husband, even though the condition of “praying” does not apply to her husband. 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).
  3. 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 makes about this rule and ignoring the socioeconomic background in which this rule was made 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.

Sharia Rules in Other Areas Affecting Women

  1. Sharia prescribes for married persons the brutal punishment of stoning to death for adultery. Ibn Majah Hadith suggests in Vol. 3, #1944 that the Quran did have a verse prescribing the stoning punishment, but it did not get included in the Quran because the parchment that contained that verse was eaten by a goat. This story sounds ludicrous against the Quran’s claim that God Himself took the burden of guarding it from any corruption (15:9) and that He made it a book of complete guidance for humankind (16:89, 5:3). 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). Although the Sharia stoning punishment is equally applicable to both men and women, it often goes against women since the offence is much more easily detected in the case of women, either with a DNA test or when the women involved become pregnant (The Pakistan court did not accept the DNA test). 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?
  1. Sharia permits Muslim men to have marital relationship with women of the Ahle al-Kitab (the people of the Book traditionally interpreted as Christians and Jews), but does not extend the same option to Muslim women to wed non-Muslim men. This it does by narrowly interpreting the Quran’s verse 5:5, which is addressed to men. However, as Professor Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University rightly contends, this Quranic verse, like other verses, is addressed to men simply because of the custom of the time. The Quran’s direction applies equally to both men and women. The Sharia restriction on women often leads to honor killings of Muslim women by their parents, when their daughters seek to marry non-Muslim men. Sharia condones honor killings, as there is a Sharia provision that parents are not liable for punishment for murders of their children. Note also that Sharia applies its narrow interpretation even to the marriage of a Muslim woman with a Muslim man and considers their marriage dissolved when he is declared an apostate. This was applied to the Cairo University professor Nasr Abu Zayd, which led the couple to seek exile abroad and leave the country.
  2. Sharia does not recognize testimonies from women in hudud and adultery cases, including in drinking cases, not even along with a male witness. This is a gross discrimination against women in ensuring justice in society.
  3. Shari’a: the Islamic Law by Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi mentions that if there is a son of the murder victim of a family, then only he, not any daughter of the victim, can claim blood-money.
  4. Sharia considers the marriage of a non-Muslim man with a non-Muslim woman dissolved the moment she becomes a war captive to Muslims. This consequently allows a Muslim man to possess her and have sexual relation with her without marriage. This Sharia provision literally legitimizes the raping of female war captives. The Indian promoter of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology Dr. Zakir Naik also supports such a view by his strange interpretation of the Quran’s expression “those your right hand posseses” in 4:24, even though he also mentions that the Quran encourages freeing of slaves and marrying them. The raping of slave women is incompatible with the very spirit of the Quran’s message, which vividly encourages freeing of slaves (90:12-13) and marrying them (4:25) and forbids them to compel them to prostitution without marriage (24:33).
  5. Under the Sharia Law, women judges are not eligible for conducting hudud This Sharia rule is ostensibly based on a Hadith that says that women are more deficient in intelligence (that implies also judgment) and religion. The Quran nowhere suggests that women are inferior to men.
  6. Under Sharia, it is forbidden for women to lead the umma or to head a government, this despite the Quran’s mention of rule by the Queen of Sheba (23:27) and rule by many Muslim women in different Muslim countries.

Conclusion

The Sharia Law makes a travesty of true Islam by ruthlessly discriminating against women in numerous ways. This is not only against the very spirit of the Quran’s message about how we should treat women; it also belies the noble example of what we know in the Quran itself about how our Prophet treated them. Such Sharia rules are also incompatible with the very norms of human decency, etiquette, and human rights that are enshrined in various United Nations declarations. Because of its brutal features particularly affecting women, Sharia has made itself deeply misogynic. It cannot really be applied to any modern, civilized society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quranic Inheritance Law: The Case for a Gender-Neutral Understanding

The Quranic Inheritance Law: The Case for a Gender-Neutral Understanding
By Abdur Rab* and Hasan Mahmud**

  • ABSTRACT. This paper examines afresh the particular Quranic inheritance provision that the male heir should receive twice as much as the female counterpart. It reviews the important exceptions the Quran itself makes to this provision, which emphatically suggests that the stated discrimination against female heirs is not intrinsic to the very spirit of the Quran. Further, the paper reviews the contributions made in recent years by a number of Islamic scholars as well as the arguments put forward by the Feminists toward a gender-neutral reinterpretation of the Quranic Law. It briefly observes modern development trends where the female members of mostly nuclear families share responsibilities equally with their male partners. It concludes that the existing gender discrimination being continued in inheritance has little justification to be perpetuated. Finally, the paper also briefly looks at the record of progress (or lack of progress) made in some Muslim countries toward gender-neutral treatment in inheritance matters.

INTRODUCTION

The Quran’s guidance on the inheritance of wealth left by a deceased person begins with a general direction that all surviving close male and female relatives have definite shares in the inheritance, whether large or small (4:7). This is followed by a definite prescription that the decedent should leave a living will or bequest (waṣeyya) before death for his or her near relatives:

  • 2:180    It is prescribed for you that, should death approach any of you, if he leaves any assets, it is best that he leave a bequest for his parents and near relatives according to normal usage – a truthful obligation (haq) on the part of the righteous. (See also 2:181-182, 5:106-108)

However, the Quran leaves open the issue of how much one can bequeath to his or her surviving heirs.[1] Three other verses provide specific guidance on the distribution of the remaining wealth left by a decedent after accounting for any bequest made, any remaining debt of the decedent, and other expenses such as funeral-related expenses. The Quran specifies exact shares for a number of male and female heirs. The shares of other eligible heirs are determined either residually or by applying the rule that the male heir gets twice as much as the corresponding female heir. For the time, this prescribed inheritance law was a great advance from earlier times, when the inheritance was mostly limited to the male agnate relatives of the deceased (asabas) with preference for the nearest adult male. Women and minors were mostly deprived, and the surviving parents, and the husband and half-brothers and sisters from the mother’s side were also excluded from the inheritance. The three verses that set out the inheritance rules are as follows:

  • 4:11    God commands you, with respect to your children, that the male shall inherit the equivalent of the share of two females. If there are only females – two or more, then they should receive two-thirds of what he leaves; but if there is only one female, she is entitled to one-half. To each of his parents, one-sixth of what he leaves, if he has any children; but if he has no children, then his parents will inherit him, the mother receiving one-third. But if he has any brothers (or sisters), then his mother receives one-sixth. (The distribution in all cases) after any will he had made or any debt he had incurred [is taken care of]. Your parents and your children—you know not who of them is nearest to you in terms of benefit. A directive from God; God surely is All-Aware, Wise.
  • 4:12    In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, you get a fourth; all after payment of legacies and debts. In what you leave, their share is a fourth, if you leave no child; but if you leave a child, they get an eighth; all after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother and or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; all after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by God; and God is All-Aware, Most Forbearing.
  • 4:176 They ask you for a legal decision. Say: God directs (thus) about those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs. If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister but no child, she shall have half the inheritance. If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left no child, her brother takes her inheritance. If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance (between them); if there are brothers and sisters, (they share), the male having twice the share of the female. Thus does God make clear to you (His law), lest you err. And God has knowledge of all things.

The “provision for making a will before death provides a special opportunity for the dying person to correct any possible imbalance that he or she might foresee and perceive in the application of the specific inheritance rules and to accommodate special considerations for his or her near relatives who are disadvantaged or for other poor people he or she may have in mind. The law of inheritance prescribed by the Quran also provides for making a special accommodation for the needs of the poor, including poor relatives”[2] at the time of inheritance distribution:

  • 4:7-8   Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, whether it be little or much – a share ordained [by God]. And when at the time of distribution (of inheritance), relatives, orphans, and the needy are present, give them (out of the property) and speak to them kindly.”

The newly introduced Quranic rules of inheritance giving shares to wives, daughters, mothers, and, in some cases, sisters constituted definite reforms of the existing patriarchal system. Yet, from a modern point of view, the reforms did not go far enough. In this paper we focus particularly on the stated rule of the Inheritance Law that gives the male heirs twice as much as it gives to the corresponding female heirs. Since, the rules of this Law were drawn in a specific socio-historical context, we need to consider whether these rules need to change in a vastly different modern context.[3]

“The traditional Muslim rules of inheritance are derived from the basic structure set out in the Qur’an, which was then elaborated and systematised by the various madhhab[s], or schools of law, through jurisprudential methods and interpretations. Many modern Muslim nation-states have adapted these rules from one of the major Sunni or Shi‘ite schools of law, have combined rules from two or more different schools, or have created modern inheritance laws based loosely on traditional jurisprudence but suited for modern realities. Because human interpretations have played such a key role in shaping both the traditional inheritance rules and the modern codifications of inheritance laws, the standard articulation of these rules cannot be considered divinely revealed Shari‘a, but rather man-made fiqh.”[4]

The first thing to note about the traditional position on the inheritance issue is that it is not a unified position. There are some perceptible differences between the Sunni and Shia positions on how the bequests and distribution of inheritance shares are to be made. Both the Sunni and Shia schools of law limit the bequests to one third of the inheritance. However, for bequests to be made to any heir, the Sunni schools require consent of all other heirs, while the majority Jaafari Shia school does not require such consent. With regard to the distribution of inheritance shares among the heirs, there is an important difference in the Sunni and Jaafari school of Shia laws when the heir is only a daughter (or when the heirs are daughters). In Sunni schools, the daughter gets one half of the property, and the other half goes to the brothers of the deceased. In the case of two or more daughters, they get two thirds of the inheritance and the remaining one third goes to the brothers of the deceased. In the Jaafari school of Shia laws, the daughter gets (or the daughters get) the full property. There are other differences between the Sunni and Shia schools and among even the Sunni schools. But these are outside the purview of this paper.

FEATURES OF THE INHERITANCE LAW THAT REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION

The Quran-prescribed inheritance law provides for, with some exceptions, dividing the property left behind by a person on death according to the rule that the male heir gets twice as much as the corresponding female heir. This rule is required to be observed in the following cases:

  1. In the case of son(s) and daughter(s), when the deceased leaves behind children of mixed gender (4:11);
  2. In the case of parents, when the deceased has no surviving children but has surviving one parent or two parents (4:11);
  3. In the case of the surviving male or female spouse (4:12); and
  4. In the case when the deceased has no descendant or ascendant heirs, but has brothers and sisters (from the father’s side) (4:176).

Two important exceptions made to the above rule are worth noting

  • In the case when only parents (both or one) survive along with the deceased’s children, each parent gets one sixth of the inheritance; if only one parent survives, he or she gets one sixth. The rest goes to the children. (4:11)
  • In the case when the deceased has no descendant or ascendant heirs, but has a uterine brother or a sister (from the same mother with different fathers), each one equally shares one sixth of the inheritance; if they are more than two, they share equally in a third (4:12).[5]

Another exceptional, rather anomalous, case arises in a situation where a woman dies leaving behind her husband and both parents as the only heirs. In this case, the husband gets his one-half share, and if the mother gets her given share of 1/3rd (4:11), there is only 1/6th left for the father to share as a residuary. Here a strict literal interpretation of the verse position leads to an anomaly that, instead of the male getting twice as much as the corresponding female, yields an opposite result of the male getting half of what the female gets. This vividly illustrates the limitation of a strict literal interpretation of the inheritance rules in all cases.[6]

The exceptions made in the Inheritance Law suggest that the distinction made in general between male and female heirs giving the former double the share of the latter is not essentially inherent in the Quranic Law itself. The provision giving preference to the male over the female rather responds to the particular socio-economic milieu of the time when the husband took full socio-economic responsibility to support the wife and the family as a whole. If this situation changes, then there must be room for changes in the rules of the Inheritance Law. This is what we discuss below in more detail.

THE CASE FOR A GENDER-NEUTRAL UNDERSTANDING IN THE MODERN CONTEXT

On a close reading of the Quran’s provisions about the inheritance rights of the surviving relatives of a deceased person, one important conclusion that emerges is that the overall intention or direction of the Quran was to ameliorate the financial conditions of the decedent’s relatively weaker and more disadvantaged relatives, according them greater shares of his or her inheritable property. The direction is definitely egalitarian. The Inheritance Law, even in its existing textual content, provides ample scope for carrying out any desired reform by appropriately using the existing provisions of the directive for a living will and for distributing part of the property left by the decedent to the poor relatives and other deserving people. The Quran’s overall egalitarian approach or direction is worth more attention than the actual extent of such reforms indicated in the shares of the Inheritance Law, which were nonetheless quite remarkable in a seventh century context. What is important to note is that these reforms were grafted onto an existing predominantly patriarchal legal system.

Another point to note, one that has been well emphasized by noted modernist scholar late Fazlur Rahman (1919-1988), is that Muslims need to pay attention to the major sociomoral objecives of the Quran, which are “the moral conduct of man and the establishment of an order of socioeconomic justice and essential human egalitarianism.”[7] With changing time and context, human perceptions of what constitute justice also change. Even though the Quran did not declare an outright ban on human slavery, no sane person would say today that we should have slavery in our modern society.

Also, since the inheritance rules are not an isolated aspect of family laws, possible further reforms of these rules need to be addressed as part of, and in conjunction with, overall family law reforms. While reforms on other fronts such as marriage, divorce, social and political rights, etc., have made appreciable progress in a number of Muslim countries in recent years, there is not much discernible progress in inheritance reform in these countries.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (1292-1350), a thirteenth century jurist and a great reformer of his time was much ahead of his time when he said, “Any rule that departs from justice to injustice, from kindness to harshness, from the common good to harm, or from rationality to absurdity cannot be part of [true] Shari’a.”[8] The modern family law reform agenda has progressed along two lines – one is the feminist movement within the Islamic tradition itself and the other is a logical extension of the progress in secular liberal ideas leading to widespread recognition and acceptance of human freedom, human rights, and gender equality. As a book edited by contemporary feminist scholar Ziba Mir-Hosseini et. al. aptly puts it, “Gender equality is a modern ideal, which has only recently, with the expansion of human rights and feminist discourses, become inherent to the generally accepted conceptions of justice.”[9] Mir-Hosseini continues, “Contemporary notions of justice informed by the ideals of human rights, equality and personal freedom depart substantially from those that underpin rulings in classical fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and established understandings of the Shari’a. This disjunction is a central problem that permeates debates and struggles for an egalitarian family law in Muslim countries.”[10]

Two recent reform pieces – one a book Women in the Shari’a and Our Society (1930) by Tunisian religious reform thinker al-Tahir al-Haddad (1899-1935) and the other an article “The Status of Women in Islam: A Modernist Interpretation” (1982) by Pakistani-American scholar Fazlur Rahman, both declared heretical by conservative clerics, lay the groundwork for an egalitarian family law. “[A]l-Haddad argues for legal equality for women in all areas, including in inheritance. According to him, the Qur’an’s assignment of a lesser share for women was due to the conditions of the time; it was a concession to the social order. But here again equality is the principle and when we look closely, we find that,”[11]

Islam did not allocate a lesser share to a woman compared to that of man as a principle applicable to all cases. It gave the same share to her in the case of parents inheriting from their dead son when there is a male child and if it involves blood siblings…[12]

Al-Haddad’s ideas helped shape a reformed Tunisian family law, codified in 1956. Fazlur Rahman’s ideas helped shape the feminist scholarship in Islam. As mentioned before, he based his argument on the Quran’s direction for immutable “moral principles, which show us how to establish a society on earth where all humans can be treated as equals as they are all equal in the eyes of God. This is at once the ‘challenge and the purpose of human existence, the trust – amana – that humanity accepted at creation.’”[13] Rahman contends “that the specific legal rules of the Qur’an are conditioned by the socio-historical background of their enactment and what is eternal therein is the social objectives or moral principles explicitly stated or strongly implied in that legislation. This would, then, clear the way for further legislation in the light of those social objectives or moral principles.”[14] He further notes that legal reform can only be effective in changing the status of women in Muslim contexts when there is an adequate basis for social change; otherwise its success will be limited, transitory or confined to certain social groups.[15]

Building on the work of these and other earlier Muslim thinkers such as Muhammad Abduh and Muhammad Iqbal, a whole new generation of progressive Muslim scholars such as Mohammad Arkoun, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Muhammad Shahrur, Nasr Abu Zayd, Amina Wadud, Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari, Abdolkarim Soroush, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, and the former leader of the Sisters in Islam Zainah Anwar reengages the Quran from a perspective that was sorely lacking in the classical Islamic scholarship. Their contributions inform, and lead to, a gender-neutral, feminist movement in Islam. They think that the moral teachings of the Quran do not really discriminate against women and that the “verses that assign greater rights to men […] reflect a patriarchal context in which men were dominant and solely responsible for supporting women.”[16] It is, therefore, imperative that the rules we apply serve the basic objectives of the law.

The traditional position on the inheritance rules makes a first major violation of the Quranic direction on bequests. While the Quran urges us to bequeath from the inheritance to parents and next of kin, the Sunni and Shia scholars limit such bequests to a maximum of one third of the inheritance and the Sunni scholars require consent of all heirs for such bequests to any heir. Also, as noted contemporary Syrian Muslim scholar Muhammad Shahrur, a strong critic of the traditional scholarship, questions the widespread belief that “no testament shall invalidate an heir’s right”, which, he points out, “basically disrespects a proper bequest and unfairly prioritizes strict inheritance rules.” He continues, the Quran, on the other hand, mandates and prioritizes such bequeathing before death, taking necessary testimony (2:180-182, 240; 5:106-108). He further points out that the Quran’s mandate for bequeathing before death is shown as imperative as performing other religious activities such as salat, fasting and pilgrimage.[17]

As Khaled Abou El Fadl aptly points out, the ultimate objective of the law is to ensure justice, mercy and compassion in society.[18] He rightly puts it, “men and women equally qualify for God’s grace and reward. The authority given to men over women is not because they are men but because, in a particular historical context, men financially provided for women. But if the circumstances change, and women share financial responsibility with men, authority must be equally shared between the two as well.”[19] “[T]he rules of law that apply to women”, as Abou El Fadl aptly notes, should not be regarded as “static and unchanging. The Islamic law has to keep changing forward to achieve the moral objectives expressed in the Qur’an. To achieve justice, there has to be a constant effort to achieve a more authentic proportionality between the duties and rights of Muslim women. So, for instance, if within the social dynamics of time, women carry a financial responsibility equal to [that of] men, it is more consistent with Shari’a to allow women an equal share to men in inheritance.”[20]

Muhammad Shahrur also rejects the rigidly defined inheritance rules given by the traditional scholars. He has come out with a groundbreaking interpretation of the Quranic laws, which also provides accommodation for treating males and females equally in respect of inheritance. He maintains that the Quran should be read and understood in relation to ever changing socio-cultural realities. He wants us to understand the Quranic laws in terms of what he calls “the theory of limits” (hudud), which means that the Quranic laws set limits within which societies with sociocultural diversity can set their own rules or laws. The theory of limits, according to Shahrur, allows flexibility in regulating various Quranic laws, including inheritance, according to sociocultural diversity. Thus the inheritance share of a male heir could vary within the upper limit of twice the female share and the female share could be higher than the lower limit of one half of the male share, this depending on the particular sociocultural context.[21]

In the modern age, women often need to work side by side with men to either support herself or to contribute to supporting the family. And it is also important to consider the fact that in many cases, even if women are qualified, they are unable to take any paying jobs on the top of taking proper care of their children and of the family as a whole. In such cases, it will only be in the fitness of things that we appropriately impute the nonmonetary contribution of the wife to the overall service for the family in monetary terms. If we do this, it might well be the case that the wife shoulders a larger share of the overall family responsibility than the husband. Thus whether wives work or not may not be the dominant issue. The dominant issue is how both husband and wife share the overall responsibility of maintaining and supporting the family as a whole. From this point of view, it is imperative that no distinction be made in the shares of inheritance between male and female heirs.

We also need to take into account the progress modern civilization has made toward recognition of genuine women’s rights and gender equality in all spheres of life. The modern idea of gender equality has become inherent to the global conceptions of justice and has gained recognition through the adoption by the United Nations of two historic instruments – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979. Most Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt, Iran and Pakistan, signed the UDHR. Saudi Arabia did not sign, objecting that it was not Sharia-compliant. “Since it came into force in 1981, [the] CEDAW has been ratified by all Muslim states except Iran, Qatar, Somalia and Sudan, though, in most cases, ratification has been subject to ‘Islamic reservations’—a notion that speaks of unresolved tensions between [the] CEDAW and Islamic legal theory.”[22]

Muslim countries now accord equal political rights, including equal voting rights, to men and women. Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where women had no political rights until just recently, even though women’s literacy rate is high at or above 70 percent. Women today do not lag much behind men in education[23] and their participation rates in the public workplace are quite respectable in many Muslim countries[24]. There are variations among Muslim countries. Egyptian women are well educated and hold responsible professional positions in virtually every sector. Algerian women comprise sixty percent of university students, seventy percent of lawyers and sixty percent of judges, and dominate the medical profession.[25] In other Muslim countries, women not only enjoy the voting right, but they can also run for political offices and become members of parliament. Several Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh have or had women as heads or deputy heads of government. Today, women in many Muslim countries work as engineers, doctors, scientists, teachers, and lawyers alongside their male colleagues.[26] As Reda Zaireg (translator Pascale el-Khouri) puts it, while discussing the Moroccan case, “Islamic law governing inheritance has been drawn taking into consideration the extended family model, which has now disappeared and been replaced with the nuclear family model. Moreover, men before had to meet the needs of the women of their clan, but nowadays they no longer have a monopoly over family finances.”[27] In such scenarios, the current discrimination between males and females in sharing inheritance would clearly appear out of date.

It is striking that the conservative segments of society still cling to the old ideas even when their well respected patron Abul Ala Mawdudi strongly favors, and calls for, updating the Sharia Law “through the interpretation of the principle of Islamic theology and law in the light of the changed conditions (ijtihad).”[28] As feminist leader Zainah Anwar aptly puts it:

  • For too long, Muslim women who demanded reform to discriminatory laws and practices have been told, “this is God’s law” and therefore not open to negotiation and change. […] Evidently, the problem is not with Islam. It is the position that men in authority take in order to preserve their privilege. […] To conflate patriarchal laws and practices is nothing more than tactical power play.[29]

THE CONSERVATIVE CLERICS’ DEFENSE OF THE STATUS QUO IS UNTENABLE

The conservative religious scholars have their own arguments to fiercely oppose any change in the Quran’s inheritance rules. They resist any change in inheritance rules on the ground that God’s word prevails for all times and all places. However, as we have seen above, many modernist Muslim scholars, including even their mentor Abul Ala Mawdudi, have refuted this argument saying that the Quran needs reinterpretation in the context of changing reality. Also, their argument is seriously flawed since they fail to recognize the vital difference between the moral objectives and principles of the Quran that should not change and those aspects that require constant updating to keep up with the moral intent of the Quran.

A second argument the traditional ulama use is that a woman inherits a half-share only in four cases, compared with more than thirty cases in which she inherits a more share. However, the irony of this argument is that it has virtually no teeth, since it is precisely these four cases that make up the most frequent cases in reality.

Also, there had been historical precedents of updating many Islamic laws during the times of the Prophet himself and Caliph Umar, which the ulama cannot deny.

PROGRESS OF INHERITANCE REFORM IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES: SOME EXAMPLES

Whatever little information is available suggests that[30] there has been very limited progress made in inheritance reform in Muslim countries, even though notable progress has been made in recent years in a number of countries in other aspects of family laws that address existing discrimination against women in marriage and divorce.[31] Progress on the inheritance front has been either blocked or stalled in most Muslim countries due to the official use of the Sharia Law in many countries, use of a dual legal system of both secular and Sharia laws, with the Sharia Law applied to deal with family matters, and stiff resistance from traditional Muslim clerics. “Many majority Muslim countries have a dual [legal] system in which the government is secular but Muslims can choose to bring familial and financial disputes to sharia courts. The exact jurisdiction of these courts varies from country to country, but usually includes marriage, divorce, inheritance, and guardianship.”[32] Sharia courts operating in the United Kingdom are allowed to settle cases brought to them by resident Muslims. The limited progress in inheritance reform seems due also, in part, to a lack of clarity in United Nations human rights agreements of the UDHR and the CEDAW with respect to addressing gender disparity in the Muslim inheritance law and shortcomings in their follow-up of implementation in different signatory-countries. Spotty progress in inheritance law reform in some countries is noted as follows. 

Turkey. Turkey remains a model for other Muslim countries. In 1926, Kemal Ataturk introduced sweeping reforms, replacing the Sharia Law with the Swiss civil code, and gave a status and rights to women equivalent to those of men. “Legal equality between the genders was instituted between 1926-1934 with changes in a multitude of rules and regulations. […] The equal rights provided by the Swiss Code covered the areas of […] marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance.”[33] Remarkably, the Turkish revolutionary reforms in family reforms came well in advance of the UN-adopted human rights agreements. There was a relative decline in the status of women after 2002 when a moderately religion-friendly government came into power. Some reforms in the family laws such as those relating to monogamy and child marriage got reversed in their implementation, especially in the rural areas. However, the Ataturk-time inheritance reforms remain intact. 

Somalia. Somalia is another example where the inheritance rules are completely gender-neutral. Male or female children, or grandchildren in the event of no surviving children, get equal shares. In the event of no surviving children and no surviving spouse, the surviving one parent inherits the whole estate and it is divided equally between both living parents. With a surviving spouse and both parents, the spouse gets one half and each parent gets one fourth. With children or grandchildren, each parent gets one sixth of the inheritance. With no children or grandchildren, the widow or the widower gets one half of the inheritance; with children or grandchildren, he or she gets one fourth. Similar equality is maintained also in the case of only surviving siblings, whether full or half.[34] 

Tunisia. Thanks to the ideas of the Tunisian reformist scholar al-Tahir al-Haddad, Tunisia became a frontliner in the Arab world in carrying out family law reforms. The reforms came through the promulgation of a Tunisian Code of Personal Status in 1956, which formed the basis for addressing gender discrimination in a wide array of areas such as access to justice, laws ensuring gender equality in marriage and divorce, freedom of movement, freedom from gender-based violence, and social, political and economic rights. However, even though a second wave of reforms was carried out in the 1990s under the influence of women activists, strikingly, the issue of unequal inheritance among male and female heirs still remains unaddressed.[35] Even though a new state constitution adopted in January last year enshrines gender equality, inheritance rules have remained as patriarchal as before under the Sharia-following Ennahda government. A new government defeating the Ennahda party has come into power in October last year, which paves the way for new legislation in the direction of ensuring equal inheritance rights for male and female heirs.

Morocco. Morocco started late in reforming family laws. A family code (Mudawana – Morocco Personal Status Code) adopted in 2004, though less ambitious than in the Tunisian case, was hailed by women’s rights groups as a big step forward. In 2011, “the country passed a new constitution guaranteeing gender equality. Even so, Moroccan women say that equality is still a long way off, and much of the old order remains untouched, including the inheritance law section of the family code.”[36] But there is a growing pressure for change. In the current situation of Morocco, men are no longer the head of the households; “women provide for the family or at least contribute in a significant manner.”

Indonesia. A country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia presents a fascinating case where efforts to push women-friendly reforms are having little impact due to the opposition from conservative forces. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Indonesia brought out a Kompilasi Hukum Islam (Compilation of Islamic Laws). During this compilation, the Government’s Religion Minister proposed to equalize inheritance between men and women to bring it into line with Indonesian adat, or customary law, and Southeast Asian social realities, and the progressive ideas of some Indonesian scholars. However, this proposal was nipped in the bud before it could be actually outlined in a formal draft due to resistance from the conservative clerics. One important piece of gender-neutral inheritance reform introduced by an Indonesian Supreme Court decision in 1994 was that a male or a female child of the decedent could exclude collaterals. The court made this landmark decision by interpreting “walad” in Quran’s verse 4:176 to mean both male and female children.[37] This was an important theological interpretation that can support future gender-neutral reform in Indonesia and also in other countries.

Even though Indonesian law code marginalizes women, it nevertheless embraces some women-friendly reforms in marriage and divorce areas. In 2003, the Religious Affairs Ministry formulated a document – The Counter Legal Draft of the Islamic Code of Law – based on a critical analysis of the existing law code. This document offers a promising future for gender-neutral reforms, putting emphasis on human rights, advocating gender equality, and voicing humanistic, pluralistic, and democratic views of Islam.[38]

Egypt. In a landmark development in 2000 and in a sharp break with the past, Egypt introduced some reforms in family laws, granting certain rights to women to divorce unilaterally.[39] A legislation in 2007 outlawed also female genital mutilation. Insofar as the inheritance issue is concerned, two noticeable changes were made in the Sharia Law. First, grandchildren, both male and female, are included as legitimate heirs up to one third of the inheritance. Second, the bequest has been made mandatory up to one third of the inheritance.[40]

Pakistan. An ordinance promulgated in 1961 by President Ayub Khan made some noticeable reforms in family laws relating to marriage and divorce such as banning child marriage, setting minimum marriageable ages for boys and girls, requiring marriage registration, and subjecting polygyny to certain conditions, including requiring first wife’s consent and authorization by an arbitration council. The only visible reform in the inheritance area was to recognize the inheritance rights of orphaned grandchildren. Gender-neutral reforms look a remote possibility in the current situation where politically powerful conservative forces are wielding a major influence, even though the government is a signatory to the CEDAW.

Bangladesh. Relative to its South Asian peers, Bangladesh’s achievement in recent about two decades in some social development indicators such as education and health has been spectacular, which, importantly, includes elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary school enrollments and near achievement of basic universal education.[41] The government’s stance since the time of the country’s liberation from Pakistan in 1971 has been essentially secular. Article 28 (2) of its constitution professes gender equality “in all spheres of the State and of public life.” The secular stance has been somewhat undermined, during the rules of two dictators in 1977 and 1988, when it embodies the declaration that the State is Islamic. Such a provision has given scope for the conservative ulama to weigh in on matters especially relating to family laws and inheritance.

The 1961 ordinance promulgated during the time when Bangladesh was part of undivided Pakistan, embraces certain family law reforms as mentioned above in the Pakistan case. However, in a stark contrast to Bangladesh’s advance on the social development front, the implementation of family law reforms has been rather very limited, due primarily to the influence of the conservative clerics, except in the case of the ban on child marriage. In the inheritance case, the only improvement is the inclusion of orphaned grandchildren as heirs. However, as a signatory to the CEDAW, the government is committed to establishing gender equality by removing all forms of existing discrimination against women. Recently the government proceeded to take some cautious steps towards gender-neutral inheritance, but stepped back in the face of strong resistance from the religious clerics. However, given the growing public opinion toward reform amid general socioeconomic development, the future seems to be on the side of reform.

SOME CONCLUDING REMARKS

Though the Quran generally provides for division of inherited property among surviving children and near relatives according to the rule that the male heir should get twice the share of the corresponding female heir, many modern scholars have convincingly demonstrated that this rule is now out of date. This rule is rooted in a socio-cultural environment where man is the only caretaker of the family. In today’s context, when women are equally sharing with men the burden of supporting a family both monetarily and non-monetarily, this unequal gender treatment is clearly untenable. The nonmonetary contribution of women to a family has long been overlooked. The spirit of the Quran was never meant to promote gender inequality. Its text contains important exceptions that accord equal treatment to the male and female heirs. The stated discrimination against female heirs was predicated solely on the premise that man is the sole breadwinner and supporter of the family. That premise is no longer applicable in the modern context. The adoption of 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) also underpins the case for establishing equal gender treatment in the inheritance case.

It should be stressed though that our recommendation for gender-neutral treatment in inheritance is meant to be a means to an end, not an end itself. The focus should be on removing existing unjust discrimination against women in the very spirit of the Quran, which envisions family relationship as one of love and compassion (30:21) and requires the husband to treat his wife in a humane manner even when he decides to divorce her (2:231). This reform should not be pushed in an authoritarian way. It should be carried out, in line with the recommendation of Fazlur Rahman, when social conditions and public opinion are conducive enough. It should be carried out, where appropriate, in combination with reforms in family laws covering marriage and divorce issues. This analysis, however, does not warrant extending the idea of gender equality to all cases, lest it generates unwelcome societal outcomes.

A number of Muslim countries have made noticeable progress in removing discrimination against women in family laws that relate mainly to marriage and divorce issues. However, progress in reform in the inheritance area remains muted and confined to only a very few countries. Addressing this issue of inheritance is still considered taboo and presents a formidable challenge in many Muslim countries due to continuation of the Sharia Law and in the face of fierce opposition from the conservative Muslim clerics. Yet, change is possible and change is taking place in some countries toward gender nondiscrimination, especially since many Muslim countries are signatories to the United Nations agreements and since the state constitutions of many of these countries have provisions that envisage gender-neutral treatment in all matters.
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*Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is a retired public policy analyst and the author of Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier editions, which were highly endorsed by eminent Muslim scholars. 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 https://twitter.com/AbdurRAB11.

**Hasan Mahmud is a Member of Advisory Body, World Muslim Congress, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and the author of Sharia Ki Bole, Amra Ki Kori (in Bangla) being translated into English as How Sharia Hijacked Islam (tentative title) forthcoming and three movie-dramas (the making of a fourth one is in progress, all in Bangla with English subtitles) that highlight the problems with the Sharia Law.
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REFERENCES

Alami, Aida, “Gender Inequality in Morocco Continues, Despite Amendments to Family Law,” New York Times, March 16, 2014.

Anonymous writer, untitled document on Islamic inheritance reform, January 3, 2007, available at INHERITANCE REFORM!!!!!!!!!!!.pdf.

Cammack, Mark, “Indonesian Islamic Inheritance Law: Testing the Boundaries of Doctrinal Reform,” Center for Asian Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, October 16, 2013.

Charrad, Mounira M., “Family Law Reforms in the Arab World: Tunisia and Morocco,” Report for the United Nations, 2012; available at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/docs/egm12/PAPER-CHARRAD.pdf.

Esposito, John L., What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, Oxford University Press, 2002.

………………….., The Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Fadl, Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, HarperSan Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2005.

Mahmud, Wahiduddin, M Niaz Asadullah, Antonio Savoia, “Commentary – Bangladesh’s Achievements in Social Development Indicators: Explaining the Puzzle,” Economic & Social Weekly, Vol. XLVIII, No. 44, November 2, 2013.

Mawdudi, Abul A’la, The Sick Nations of the Modern Age; available at http://islam24hours.yolasite.com/resources/the%20sick%20nations%20of%20the%20modern%20age.pdf.

Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, “Towards Gender Equality: Muslim Family Laws and the Shari‘ah,” undated: available at http://www.musawah.org/sites/default/files/Wanted-ZMH-EN.pdf.

……………………, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen and Christian Moe, (ed.), Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in Islamic Tradition, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2013.

Rab, Abdur, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

Rahman, Fazlur, Islam & Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London, Paperback Edition, 1984 (Original 1982).

Sumer, Aynur Uluatam and Ilknur Boray – ASA Board Members, Ataturk Society of America, Washington, D.C,, April 20, 2013, “Ataturk’s Reforms Empowered Turkish Women And Set Example For The Developing World: A Look At The Remarkable Transformation Of A Nation;” available at http://www.lightmillennium.org/ataturk/2013/asa-paper2.pdf.

Shahrur, Muhammad, The Qur’an, Morality and Critical Reason: The Essential Muhammad Shahrur, translation and edition by Andreas Christmann, Brill, Leiden, Boston, 2009, pp. 226-227; available at http://shahrour.org/wp-content/gallery/Books/booke.pdf.

Slackman, Michael, “A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women,” New York Times, May 26, 2007.

Schröter, Susanne (ed.), Gender and Islam in Southeast Asia, Brill, 2013; the article “Towards Justice in Marital Law” by Siti Musdah Mulia.

World Bank, World Bank Development Indicators.

Zaireg, Reda (translator Pascale el-Khouri), Al Monitor, February 9, 2014; available at http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2014/02/morocco-debate-inheritance-law-women.html#ixzz3QutoXZFx.
_____________________________________
End Notes

[1] The Hadith limits it to 1/3rd of the total estate, but this might be at odds with the normal or reasonable usage that the Quran mandates.

[2] Excerpted from Abdur Rab, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, p. 139.

[3] Applying the rule that the male heir receives twice the share of the female heir would yield different individual shares under different compositions of children. For example, when there are only one son and one daughter, the daughter receives 1/3rd and the son receives the remaining 2/3rds of the inheritance. In case the heirs are only three children, one son and two daughters, we could see that each daughter would get 1/4th and the son gets one half of the inheritance. In the case of two sons and three daughters, the formula that determines the individual shares is 2 times 2x + 3 times x = 1, where x is the individual female share. Solving the equation yields 1/7th of the inheritance for each daughter and 2/7ths of the inheritance for each son. If the surviving heirs are a widow or a widower, children, and one or both parents, we would estimate the respective shares by applying a little complicated formula, where the specified shares of the widow or widower and parents are first taken care of. The shares of the children are then residually determined. Also note that the sum of the stated shares of the Quran may in some cases exceed one, where the respected shares are proportionately reduced to make the sum equal to one. In cases, where the sum of the stated shares are short of one, the remainder is either distributed back to the heirs according to their respective shares or it goes to the state exchequer.

[4] Anonymous writer, untitled document on Islamic inheritance reform, January 3, 2007, available at INHERITANCE REFORM!!!!!!!!!!!.pdf.

[5] In case when the deceased has no descendant or ascendant heirs, but has two sisters, they share equally in a third of the inheritance (4:12). The verse 4:176 states that two or more sisters (from the same father’s side) share equally in two thirds of the inheritance. The verse 4:12 provision that two or more sisters share in a third of the inheritance relates to uterine sisters.

[6] This anomalous case has reportedly been settled by Caliph Umar in consultation with other learned companions by deciding that the father should be given 1/3rd and the mother 1/6th of the inheritance. But this overtly violates the Quranic provision that the mother should receive 1/3rd. A settlement that entitles both parents to equal shares would seem more in line with the provision that entitles them each to share 1/6th in case when the decedent has children (4:11). Another way to get away from the anomaly is to read the verse (4:11) situation to mean where the parents are the “only” surviving heirs, where the mother takes her 1/3rd stated share and the father gets the remaining two thirds.

[7] Rahman, Fazlur, Islam & Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London, Paperback Edition, 1984 (Original 1982), 14, 19; cited in Abdur Rab, Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, p. 7.

[8] Cited in Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen and Christian Moe, (ed.), Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in Islamic Tradition, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2013, p. 7.

[9] Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen and Christian Moe, (ed.), Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in Islamic Tradition, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2013, p. 1.

[10] Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, ibid, p. 7.

[11] Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, ibid, p. 18.

[12] Al-Haddad, al-Tahir, Women in the Shari’a and Our Society, p. 47; cited in Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, ibid, p. 18.

[13] Cited in Ziba Mir-Hosseini et.al., op. cit., p. 20.

[14] Cited in Ziba Mir-Hosseini et.al., op. cit., p. 24.

[15] Cited in Ziba Mir-Hosseini et.al., op. cit., p. 24.

[16] Esposito, John L., What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 90-91.

[17] Shahrur, Muhammad, The Qur’an, Morality and Critical Reason: The Essential Muhammad Shahrur, translation and edition by Andreas Christmann, Brill, Leiden, Boston, 2009, pp. 226-227; available at http://shahrour.org/wp-content/gallery/Books/booke.pdf.

[18] Fadl, Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, HarperSan Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2005, p.131

[19] Ibid, p. 268.

[20] Ibid, pp. 263-264.

[21] This theory is equally applicable in various areas such as criminal punishments (theft, murder, adultery), marriage (polygyny), divorce, inheritance, dress codes, and so on, “provided that legislators and mujtahids always stay strictly within the limits that Allah has laid out in the Book.” Cf., Muhammad Shahrur, op. cit., pp. 216, 145.

[22] Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “Towards Gender Equality: Muslim Family Laws and the Shari‘ah;” undated; available at http://www.musawah.org/sites/default/files/Wanted-ZMH-EN.pdf, p. 44.

[23] Consider the high (near 100%) ratios of female to male school enrollment in both primary and secondary schools in many Muslim countries in recent years (2010-2012) as complied by UNESCO, included in World Bank Development Indicators; available at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ENR.PRIM.FM.ZS

and http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ENR.SECO.FM.ZS.

[24] See the ILO–compiled female labor force participation rates (of ages 15+) as percentages of female population of the same age group, included in World Development Indicators; available at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS.

[25] Slackman, Michael, “A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women,” New York Times, May 26, 2007; available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1.

[26] For more, see John L. Esposito, The Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 149-152.

[27] Zaireg, Reda (translator Pascale el-Khouri), Al Monitor, February 9, 2014; available at http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2014/02/morocco-debate-inheritance-law-women.html#ixzz3QutoXZFx.

[28] Mawdudi, Abul A’la, The Sick Nations of the Modern Age; available at http://islam24hours.yolasite.com/resources/the%20sick%20nations%20of%20the%20modern%20age.pdf.

[29] Anwar, Zainah, “Barriers of Change,” New York Times, March 5, 2009; cited in John L. Esposito, The Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 151.

[30] The countries that are covered under Sharia Law include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, and Iraq, among others, also use laws that are deemed not antithetical to Sharia. Muslim countries with secular governments include Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Chad, Somalia, Senegal, and Bangladesh.

[31] Reforms in Muslim family laws relate mainly to marriage and divorce laws such as limitation of polygamy rights, expansion of the rights for women seeking divorce, including the right to financial compensation, expansion of the rights for women to participate in contracting their marriage and to stipulate conditions favorable to them in the marriage contract, raising of the minimum age for marriage for both spouses, prohibition of child marriage, and expansion of the rights of women to have custody over their older children.

[32] Johnson, Tony, and Mohammed Aly Sergie, “Islam: Governing under Sharia,” Council on Foreign Relations, July 25, 2014; available at http://www.cfr.org/religion/islam-governing-under-sharia/p8034

[33] Sumer, Aynur Uluatam and Ilknur Boray – ASA Board Members, Ataturk Society of America, Washington, D.C,, April 20, 2013, “Ataturk’s Reforms Empowered Turkish Women And Set Example For The Developing World: A look at the remarkable transformation of a Nation;” available at http://www.lightmillennium.org/ataturk/2013/asa-paper2.pdf.

[34] Esposito, John L., Women in Muslim Family Law, Second Edition, Syracuse University Press, 2001, p. 110.

[35] Charrad, Mounira M., “Family Law Reforms in the Arab World: Tunisia and Morocco,” Report for the United Nations, 2012; available at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/docs/egm12/PAPER-CHARRAD.pdf.

[36] Alami, Aida, “Gender Inequality in Morocco Continues, Despite Amendments to Family Law,” New York Times, March 16, 2014.

[37] Cammack, Mark, “Indonesian Islamic Inheritance Law: Testing the Boundaries of Doctrinal Reform,” Center for Asian Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, October 16, 2013.

[38] Schröter, Susanne (ed.), Gender and Islam in Southeast Asia, Brill, 2013; the article “Towards Justice in Marital Law” by Siti Musdah Mulia.

[39] See link: http://gabrielsawma.blogspot.ca/2011/09/islamic-women-divorce-laws-in-egypt.html.

[40] http://www.muslimpersonallaw.co.za/inheritancedocs/Isl%20Law%20of%20inheritance%20in%20Modern%20Muslim%20States.pdf.

[41] Mahmud, Wahiduddin, M Niaz Asadullah, Antonio Savoia, “Commentary – Bangladesh’s Achievements in Social Development Indicators: Explaining the Puzzle,” Economic & Social Weekly, Vol. XLVIII, No. 44, November 2, 2013.

An Awesome, In-depth Review of My Book by Our Friend Siraj Islam – a Must Read

Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding” is, in my opinion, one of the most enlightening books of our time on original, true Islam.

It is an independent, in-depth study of the Quran by a freelance researcher, a truth-seeker who is not prejudiced – neither by any of all those spurious, stereotyped, traditional Muslim interpretations nor by any so-called ‘pro-modern’ or ‘pro-western’ bias.

This book provides many invaluable insights and explores and shares some serious wisdom underlying the divine writ, often ignored or unnoticed by many.

Unfortunately, the current so-called Islam is a distorted religion severely polluted by medieval ignorance, irrational human interference, and misinterpretations by hadiths and traditions. This pseudo-Islam has little to do with the simple rational monotheism of original, genuine Islam, preached by all messengers and freshly delivered by Muhammad through the Quran. No doubt, rediscovering the genuine Islam as incorporated in the Quran is important for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and for people of various backgrounds, particularly in this time of great turmoil.

Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam” deals with some of the most important debates about Islam in modern time. The rich plethora of its contents becomes immediately obvious when we go through the headings of its chapters: The Latest Book of God: How Does It Read?; The Central Message of the Quran: The Road to Spiritual Progress; Spiritual Evolution and Conceptions of Heaven and Hell; The Real Meaning of Prayer in the Quranic Light; The Scope of Socioeconomic Welfare Spending in the Quranic Light; The Place of Tolerance, Pluralism, and Human Rights in Islam; What Makes Us Righteous?; Marriage, Divorce , the Status of Women, and the Treatment of Slaves; Implications of the Quran’s Message for the Economic System; The Hadith is Unreliable: Earlier Hadith Criticism and Theological and Historical Tests of Hadith Authority and Authenticity 197 Annex to Chapter X: Criteria for Hadith Evaluation; The Hadith is Unreliable: The Objective Test; Epilogue: The Rise of Religious Fanaticism and The Direction For True Islamic Revival.

The central focus of this work, however, is the spiritual message of the Quran that promotes faith in God’s oneness and high moral standards as it stands for kindness, tolerance, peaceful co-existence, equality, mutual cooperation, deterring from wrong doing, honesty, and service to all humanity.

If one wants to get the whole book in a nutshell, one needs to ponder on Rab’s answer to the vital question: ‘What makes the Quran’s core message spiritual?’ Here is his answer:  “What makes the Quran’s core message spiritual? … when we come across verses in the Quran such as those that say, for example, that the Quran’s inherent purpose is to purify or civilize humankind and make it wise (62:2), or that it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that are blind (22:46), or that turning to the East or the West is not righteousness (2:177), or that it is not the flesh or blood of sacrificed animals that reaches God (22:37), or that they think that they are deceiving God and believers; nay, they are deceiving none but themselves, but they do not realize (2:9), we cannot but conclude that the Quran’s central message for us is spiritual. We need to care about the inner meanings, the kernel and essence of things, not the outward and superficial structures and forms. We need to ask about the deeper, more fundamental, questions: Why are we here, what is the meaning and significance of our life’s existence, how can we make our life worth living, how can we make it more enriched and blissful? And so on. We need to concentrate on things that make for our real progress on earth in terms of piety, knowledge, creativity, benevolence, and real contentment and happiness.” pp. 25-26.

Many Muslims place excessive emphasis on certain rules and rituals. But they often fail to realize that these traditionally accepted forms of religious practice, even when not distorted, are only a small, superficial aspect of Islam. As a complete way of life in accordance with the natural laws, Islam is much more than that. Rab notes that the Quran prescribes several simple, relatively structured forms of worship that include salat (regular contact prayers with purpose to commemorate God), siam (fasting, abstinence programme), zakat/ sadaqa (spending in God’s way for social betterment) and hajj (pilgrimage). However, while going through a deeper interpretation of these practices, he argues that the Quran persistently lays stress on the rationality and simplicity about religion, while it calls to concentrate on the true, profound meaning of faith, which is more than mere rituals like formal prayers or fasting. Moreover, the Quran insists that the true religion, which should be based on knowledge and reasoning, is not actually rituals but submission to one God alone, expressed by all thoughts and actions in all aspects of life. It thus instructs its readers to make spirituality an essential, integral part of religion and to keep religious practice simple and free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and free from burden of complicated, extra rituals.

Rab notes that “It is misleading to limit the main obligatory religious duties only to five things and omit altogether so many other things of right conduct or righteousness, which have been mentioned and emphasized in the Quran. One cannot be a good Muslim without strictly observing such prescriptions of righteousness.”

The genuine Islam, according to Rab’s understanding, outlines a socio-economic order that is consistent with “the capitalist system with a socialistic overtone, i.e., with a safety-net system that adequately cares for the genuine needs of the poor and the dispossessed.” This Islam demands a socio-economic order with proper, obligatory taxation system (much more than the traditional fixed ‘zakat’) for fair distribution of wealth and social welfare, while stressing on the social responsibility of voluntary charity and caring for the deprived and the weak. While protecting conditional right to inheritance as well as conditional right to private ownership and enterprise and economic freedom, it discourages non-productive economy and asks humankind to be in harmony with nature in order to prevent wastage and environmental pollution.

Rab’s study also sheds light on the traditional Muslim confusion about the Quranic concept of ‘usury’ (riba). He observes that the Quran makes a clear distinction between ‘usury’ (riba) and ‘interest’, which are basically two very different concepts. Usury (riba) is forbidden because it exploits the needy. Interest (commercial or bank interest), on the other hand, is allowed because it is not exploitative as it is based on mutual profits, changing value of money and inflation. His observation is similar to Edip-Layth-Martha’s note on Quran 2:275: “The interest that the Quran prohibits is not the interest collected from money lent for businesses, but rather the money lent for consumption of necessities. When considered with its context, this prohibition is about usury. The Quran does not treat this subject in the context of business or trade, but in the context of the charity to the needy.” Rab argues that interest plays such a vital role in the modern trade and banking system that it is difficult to conceive a modern economy without interest in some form or other.

Rab makes some real contribution to the on-going debate ‘Islamic state or secularism?’.  He notes that, while rejecting all sorts of monarchy, oligarchy and dictatorship, the Quran promotes a political system, translatable in modern terms as parliamentary democracy, with consultation and representation in public affairs, where participation of all citizens is encouraged and facilitated. In this regard a state can get the best guidance to the right direction if it simply follows the general Quranic principle of inductive reasoning: ‘listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it’. 39:18. Thus, for decision making in political matters, a state should listen to every citizen in order to reach the best consensus out of all various opinions. Obviously, this full representation of all the members of a society – irrespective of race, religion, age, gender and socio-economic status – will then tend to spontaneously generate a fair political system: a parliamentary democracy with secularism, pluralism, equal human rights and justice for all.

Analysing various aspects of the issue, Rab puts strong emphasis on secularism. He observes: “One important requirement to safeguard and guarantee peaceful interreligious tolerance, pluralism, and basic human rights is that the state should be faith-neutral or secular. Emory University Professor and human rights activist Abdullahi An-Naim makes a powerful, ingenious case for a secular state by arguing that religious freedom itself, as mandated by the Quran, subsumes voluntary compliance on the part of individuals and rules out use of any coercive religious edict by the state. He also points out the abuses and dangers of religious edicts used by the state. … Secularism does not mean absence of, or animosity to, any religion. It simply works as a guarantor of freedom of religion to all faith followers. The same reasons why Muslim minorities in non-Muslim majority countries require full freedom to practice their religion are also applicable to non-Muslim minorities in Muslim majority countries.”

The Quran constantly declares a most clear message: Emancipate yourself and others from all forms of subjugation and exploitation – social, economic and political – and from all bondage – physical, mental and moral. This genuine, Quranic Islam, as perceived by Rab, upholds impartiality, justice and human rights. It unifies humanity by promoting gender and race equality; and stands against slavery, misogyny, patriarchy and all socio-economic inequality and injustice in a view to abolish them eventually. While standing for the oppressed, it pursues the golden-plated brazen rule of equivalence, i.e. right of retaliation within its limits, balanced with responsibility and forgiveness; and prescribes a legal Code – apparently in response to the specific needs of the time and place of its revelation – including a criminal justice system, which is flexible and which can transcend according to the guidance of reason. This genuine Islam promotes peace, while deterring the aggressive parties; insists that the entire world belongs to God and thus to all humanity; and offers far-reaching peace and co-operation among nations.

As expected from the name of the research itself, “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding”, Rab derives his inferences by using the Quran as the only religious source of Islam. While rejecting Hadith as a religious authority, he argues that Islam has been misinterpreted and distorted throughout the ages by hadiths and various other man-made so-called secondary and tertiary sources.

As a major contribution to the correct understanding of the Quran, this should be a must-read book for all who are interested in gaining a short-cut access to the introduction of genuine Islam.

WHAT DOES GOD’S CONCEPTION AS ONE AND UNIQUE SIGNIFY?

World Religion News

1 MAR 2015   POSTED BY ABDUR RAB, AUTHOR

FEATURED CONTRIBUTOR ABDUR RAB DISCUSSES  AS ONE AND UNIQUE AS WELL AS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THE UNIVERSE’S CREATOR.

Abstract: The conception of God as One and Unique speaks to His undiluted Individuality, Indivisibility, Independence, and Absoluteness. This conception is significant because it enables us to deduce some important implications for humankind such as that: (1) God is only our Supreme Lord worthy of worship and emulation; (2) God’s Independence means that He does not need anything from us, but it’s we who need spontaneously to worship Him, seeking His help and grace; (3) We as humans all stand before God on an equal footing, with an obligation not to create any discrimination amongst us, except on grounds of pure merit; and (4) As nothing works beyond the God-given Laws of Nature, we need to reevaluate our work and our prayer and rituals in a whole new light. God is best conceived of as Immanent in the universe. His conception as Omnipotent, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and All-Knowing should be understood in a way that is compatible with His given immutable Laws of Nature as well as with Free Will that He has bestowed upon His creatures out of His own Will.

The central message of the Quran to humankind – the most important and powerful one that sets Islam apart from most other religions – is the idea that God is One and Unique (Al-Ahad or Al-Wahid):

2:163 Your Ilah (God) is One; there is no Ilah but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. (Also see 13:16, 14:48, 38:65, 39:4, 40:16, 112:4)

Other expressions found in the Quran reinforce this concept of Tawhid:

Naught is as the likeness of God, as in 42:11, 112:4;
He neither begets nor is begotten, as in 112:3; and
He has no partners, as in 6:163, 7:190-198, 9:31.

The Quran strongly denounces the ideas that He has sons and daughters (2:116; 19:34-35; 6:100-101) and that He is the Trinity (5:73, 116). According to the Quran, Jesus was an illustrious prophet, not a Son of God as believed in Catholicism.

The ideas that God neither begets nor is begotten and that He does not have any partners convey the meanings of His undiluted Individuality, Indivisibility, and Independence. The idea that He is Independent is also explicitly affirmed in the Quran as Al-GhaniAl-Qayyum, or As-Samad (Al-Ghani, as in 2:263, 267, 3:97, 29:6, 31:12; Al-Qayyum, as in 2:225, 3:2, 20:111; and As-Samad, as in 112:2). One important lesson we can learn from this Independence of God idea is that we need God, but He does not need anything from us (35:15). We need to note this important message, which means that whatever we do is for our own benefit. It does not matter in any way to God.

3:97 If any reject faith, God is Independent of any of His creatures.

29:6 And whoever strives, strives only for his own soul (nafs), for God is fully Independent of anything in the universe. (See also 31:12)

It is important for us to translate this fundamental truth in our own behavior. Whatever good we do, we should do spontaneously, keeping our own interest in view in line with what our conscience dictates, and not because God wants us to do it. God does not really want anything from us.

Ironically, however, Muslims generally consider the Quran-prescribed actions and rituals as Ends in themselves to please God, rather than as Means to an End.

The Quran also mentions God as the Light (An-Nur) of the Heavens and the Earth (An-Nur ul-Smawati al-Ardi, as in 24:35):

24:35 God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. The metaphor of His Light is like a niche wherein is a lamp – the lamp is in a glass – the glass is as it were a shining star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil almost radiates light, though no fire has touched it. Light upon Light. God guides to His Light those whom He pleases.

This metaphor of light used for God would seem to suggest two things. First, it strengthens the idea of the Individuality of God as One. Light is spread throughout the universe and could hence lend itself to a pantheistic interpretation. But in the metaphor given in the verse above, this light is centralized in a lamp and further individualized in a glass, and possessing the special quality that its radiance does not depend on fire. These ideas thus effectively preclude any idea of pantheism. Second, light, according to modern physics, has the highest, unsurpassable velocity that does not change with the movement of observers. This special characteristic, as Muhammad Iqbal aptly notes, makes light the nearest object to the Absolute. Hence, this quality would also suggest the Absoluteness of God.[1] The Quran also explicitly mentions God as the Absolute (As-Samad, as in 112:2), which also vindicates God’s Oneness.

The Quran has its own compelling arguments in defense of the Oneness of God:

If there were other gods besides God, certainly they would have sought a way to the Most Powerful Lord (17:42); and
If there were more than one God, the universe would have been in utter chaos (21:22).

These arguments in turn inevitably lead to the conclusion that God as One and Unique must also be the Most Powerful and that He must also be the One Who is behind the order of the universe.

Most would view the second argument – the idea of God being behind the order of the universe – as implying that He is its Creator and Manager. The Quran and other Scriptures also talk of God as the Creator of the universe. However, in the light of development in modern scientific thought, especially in the light of the theory of evolution, we need to treat the Scriptural idea of creation in a figurative sense. God does not really create in the strictly literal sense. His creation of the universe should be understood in the same sense as can be applied to other texts in the Quran that speak of God doing various things such as those that say that He gives life and death (2:258), or that He feeds us (6:14), or that He sends winds, clouds and rain, and thereby brings forth fruits of all kinds (7:57). We know that these things happen when the forces or laws of Nature and human and other agents of God are in action in the universe. The creation idea thus needs to be understood in a way that makes it compatible with the idea of evolution that is also clearly set out in the Quran. The conception of God as a Creator is ruled out on the simple, compelling ground that it begs the question of an infinite regress – who created God, who created the creator of God, who created the creator of the creator of God, and so on. This infinite regress problem cannot simply be brushed aside or assumed away. Philosophers have done that and postulated various theories for the existence of God. But, unfortunately, all such theories are beset with serious problematic issues.

As I have argued elsewhere, “we should conceive [of God] as Immanent in the universe, which means that He is manifest in the very laws of nature and the actions of human and other agents. He has been involved or Immanent in the very process of evolution since the beginning that has brought about everything, or is bringing about, everything in the universe. The Quran reveals this idea, if we read into its relevant texts carefully. The Quran likes us to reflect on the causes that brought the universe and other things into existence and the laws that cause the alternation of the day and the night (3:190-191, 29:20). Recounting the routing of Goliath’s army by David’s one, the Quran states that if “He” does not repel some men by others, this earth would remain corrupt (2:251). Another verse reads, “You did not slay them, God slew them; and when you threw, it’s not you who threw, but God threw…” (8:17). […] All this illustrates how God acts through [Nature and] human agents. God acts through […] other living beings as well.”[2]

Note that this idea of the Immanence of God in the universe should not be taken in a pantheistic sense to mean that everything in the universe is godly or god. While God is everywhere and in everything and every being, nothing or no being is God. The Quran rules out pantheism with a single stroke of the pen: Naught is as the likeness of God (Quran, 42:11, 112:4).

Now we turn to the first argument of the Quran that God as One must also be the Most Powerful or the Supreme Lord to do away with the need for, or the existence of, other gods. The Supreme Lord idea easily lends itself to agreement with our common sense. He epitomizes in Himself the perfection of all conceivable qualities that are worthy of emulation. This is because less than perfect beings have no legitimate basis to command our worship and emulation. It makes a lot of sense for us to take Him as our best Ideal to follow. The Quran itself declares that God is always on the right course – sirat im-mustaqeem (11.56). Hence, to be righteous, we need to emulate and worship God, One Lord. This is the second important lesson we learn from the concept of Tawhid.

Since we should not recognize any living beings as our lords and since we should all serve One God, the idea of Tawhid also sends another powerful message that we, as servants of One God, are all equal in the eyes of God. We can excel one another only in terms of righteousness and not in any other criteria such as color, sex, race, religion, wealth, national, social or geographic origin, political or other opinion, birth or similar status. All men and women are equal in the eyes of God; only virtuousness determines who is nearer to Him (3:195; 4:124; 16:97; 33:35; 49:13). All the children of Adam – all men and women – deserve the same dignity (17:70). Thus a third important lesson we learn from the Islamic concept of Tawhid is that all human beings stand on the same equal footing as servants of God, which in turn means that we are morally obligated to treat all men and women equally.

This, of course, does not mean that we should not accord due respect to those who deserve respect because of their more respectable work and superior knowledge. In fact, following those who walk in the way of God implies the same thing as following God Himself. And not respecting those who are more respectable and knowledgeable than us really amounts to arrogance and disrespecting of God Himself. That is precisely the reason why God urges us to follow the prophets, and those who have authority or justification to be followed (4:59). We need to appreciate the qualities of, show due respect to, and bless and support, superior persons. Such appreciation, blessing, or support has a special spiritual significance. By extending such appreciation and support, we in the process enlist their blessing or support in return.

We turn now to considering the conception of God as the Omnipotent, which takes on various shades of meaning in the Quran such as: Al-Qadir (The Almighty, He Who is Capable of doing Everything as in 2:20, 3:189, 4:149, 6:65, 46:33, 75:40), Al-Aziz (The Almighty, The Honorable as in 2:129,209,220, 3:64:1589:4048:7, 58,21, 59:23), Al-Jabbar (The Irresistible, The Compeller as in 59:23), Al-Qawi (The Strong as in 8:52, 11:66, 22:40,74, 33:25, 42:1957:25), Al-Muqtadir (The All-Prevalent, The Dominant as in 18:45, 43:42, 54:42, 45)), and Al-Mutakabbir (The Majestic, The Supreme as in 59:23). The pertinent question we need to ask here is: Does Omnipotence mean that God could do anything and everything without any limits? If yes, that would imply that God is arbitrary and capricious. However, God could never be conceived of as One Who is arbitrary and capricious. God has His own self-imposed limitations. One such, albeit the most important, limitation is given by his own created fixed laws, the Laws of Nature that govern how all things work in the universe. God subjects Himself to such Laws, as He always acts rationally, which is reflected in the Quranic expression that there is no flaw in His creation or action (67:3-4) as well as in the statement that God never changes His Sunnah or Ways (35:43, 17:77).

Another limitation is given by the free options exercised by humankind and other living species. Various passages in the Quran unequivocally uphold the freedom of human choice: “The Truth (has now come) from your Lord; let then, him who wills believe (in it), and let him who wills reject (it)” (18:29); “You are responsible for your own selves” (5:105); and “Spend in God’s cause, let not your hands cause you to ruin” (2:195). A key passage of the Quran states that God does not change the condition of people until they change their own nafs or selves (13:11). Still another says that there is nothing for man except with effort (53:39, 20:15, 2:286). All this convincingly proves man’s ability to freely decide and do his action.[3] As Muhammad Iqbal beautifully puts it, “No doubt, the emergence of egos endowed with the power of spontaneous and hence unforeseen action is, in a sense, a limitation on the freedom of the all-inclusive Ego [i.e., God]. But this limitation is not externally imposed. It is borne out of His creative freedom whereby He has chosen finite egos to be participators of His life, power, and freedom.”[4]

The perception of God as All-Seeing (Al-Basir as in 2:96,110, 4:58, 134, 8:72, 17:1,18, 42:11, 27), All-Hearing (As-Sami as in 2:127,137,224, 256, 3:34, 4:58, 8:1749:1), and All-Knowing (Al-Hakim as in 2:32,129,209, 220,228,240, 31:2746:257:1, 66:2, or All-Aware (Al-Khabir as in 2:234, 271, 3:153,180, 6:18, 103, 17:3049:1359:18) also needs to be understood in a proper perspective. What needs to be recognized is that what is not visible cannot be seen also by God, although nothing is hidden from Him. Likewise, what is not audible is not amenable to hearing also by God. In other words, God sees only the visible and He hears only the audible. Thus God’s knowledge encompasses all that can be known and foreknown. It will be wrong to assume, as many do, that God knows all future events. Knowing all future events amounts to predetermination of all such events. But God does not predetermine all future events, for if He does, that would amount to negating free will to human beings. If He negates free will to human beings, he cannot legitimately hold them accountable for their actions. This very fact, as discussed above, acts as a limitation of God’s power. But this is a limitation chosen by God Himself. To quote Iqbal again, “The future certainly pre-exists in the organic whole of God’s creative life, but it pre-exists as an open possibility, not as a fixed order of events with definite outlines.”[5]

Finally – a fourth, albeit a very important, lesson we can draw from the unchanging character of the Laws of Nature is that – we are bound by these Laws just as God has bound Himself to such Laws out of His own volition and that it is because of these Laws that we know what works and what does not work for us. These Laws form the essential foundation of all scientific progress. At the same time exploring, and working in conformity with, these Laws, along with striving to reflect God’s attributes or qualities in our life, is the greatest salat or prayer we can perform. And importantly, the Laws also imply the extent or limit to which our prayer can work, since we cannot make God deviate an inch from His Laws. This suggests that there can be no miracles in the sense of defying the Laws of Nature.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Contrary to how most people seem to visualize God, there are various nuances attached to the Oneness and Uniqueness of God that provide some clarity to the conception of God and leads to various lessons we can draw. Keeping in view this new understanding of God, we need to see our work, our conduct with others, and our prayer and rituals in a whole new light. None can bypass God’s Laws, which are nothing but the Laws of Nature, which form the essential backbone of all scientific and human progress. We cannot expect to hear our prayers heard when such prayers go beyond what is possible within the ambit of God’s Laws. At the same time, we need to be aware of what we need to do for our own sake and we need to do such things out of our own spontaneity, not simply because God wants us to do them nor just believing that the doing of such things could only please Him.

____________________________________

[1] Iqbal, Muhammad, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Adam Publishers and Distributors, Delhi, 1997, p. 51 (also published earlier (in 1934) by the Oxford University Press).
[2] See author’s article “How God Exists: What Can We Glean from the Quran?” Available at https://www.academia.edu/2902541/How_God_Exists_What_Can_We_Glean_from_the_Quran.
[3] We should also note that the freedom of human choice could be constrained by hereditary and environmental factors, which are, so to say, God-given. For a synthesized view of Divine will and human freedom, see the author’s article here: http://www.aslanmedia.com/arts-culture/mideast-culture/9352-divine-will-and-human-freedom.
[4] Iqbal, Muhammad, op. cit., pp. 63-64.
[5] Ibid, p. 63.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.

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FEATURED CONTRIBUTOR ABDUR RAB

AUTHOR
Abdur Rab, Ph.D., is the author of Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, the third succeeding two earlier editions, which were highly endorsed by eminent Muslim scholars . Besides presenting a paper on “Reform in Finance: Riba vs. Interest in the Modern Economy” at the 42nd NAAIMS Conference, organized by and held at Princeton University on September 28, 2013 (available here), Abdur’s articles have appeared on Aslan Media and OpedNews, available here.

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A MUSLIM GUIDE TO SPENDING AS PRESCRIBED BY THE QURAN (Part 2)

This is Part 2 published on World Religion News on July 17, 2014 in a two-part series. Part 1 can be found here.

[Taken, with a slight adaptation, from a chapter in the author’s book Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding, 2014.]

THE SCOPE OF  IN GOD’S WAY: THE BROADER MEANING

Spending in God’s way means much more than is conventionally understood. A careful reading of the Quran does reveal that such spending should be from both income and wealth, that the amount we should spend should be a considerably higher proportion of our income and wealth than is currently being practiced, and that the purposes for which we should spend are much more varied than are usually thought.

The Quran urges us to spend out of our wealth and income or production (2:254; 6:141). Besides, we should use part of our income for our and our families’ current consumption, and save and invest part of our income for our future consumption, but we should not keep it idle or hoard it. Hoarding is bad for an economy. It deprives others; it curbs effective demand in the economy and holds back economic expansion, and if the hoarding is done in goods, it creates artificial scarcities and high prices of the hoarded goods. The Quran strongly condemns hoarding (3): 180).

Though everything prescribed in the Quran is  or obligatory for us, God specifically mentions  as fard for us, and mentions where such spending should go:

9:60 The alms (sadaqa) are for the poor, the needy, and those who administer them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled (to truth), and to free the slaves and the debtors, and for the cause of God, and (for) the wayfarers; an obligatory duty (fard) imposed by God. God is Knower, Most Wise.

Such spending is for those who are needy, and for those who are deprived, or poor (70:25), for parents, near relatives, orphans, wayfarers, and for those who ask (2:177), and for other causes of God, including that for freeing of captives or slaves, and for necessary reconciliation or rehabilitation of new converts to religion (2:177, 215; 8:41; 9:60; 24:22). Spending is also for those who are in need of help, but being involved in the cause of God, are unable to move about in the land, and who do not beg importunately (2:273). Likewise, we need also to spend for other noble causes such as for relieving the burden of those who are heavily laden with debt (9:60) and for miscellaneous other noble purposes, which can be termed as causes of God. As for the spending for the new converts, the Quran speaks well of the God-loving believers during the Prophet’s time, who were so generous to those who came to them for refuge that they gave preference to the refugees over themselves in helping them, even though they were poor (59:9).

God advises those of us who are affluent that we should not make such promises as not to help our relatives, poor people, and those who leave their homes for the cause of God; and we are urged to forgive them and ignore their faults (24:22). He loves those who spend not only when they are in affluence or ease, but also when they are in hardship (3:134). He admonishes us to give others what is good, and not what we regard as bad and do not want to receive for ourselves (2:267). God characterizes freeing of war captives or slaves, or marrying them as equal partners as very important righteous deeds. Spending for such purposes is likewise a great virtue in the sight of God (2:177; 9:60).

The current practice of zakat at a low proportion (21/2 percent) of one’s wealth (which includes the value of most of one’s assets (with some exceptions such as the family house) appears inadequate in light of the Quran, especially for high-income people, as well as from the point of view of the demands of society for a multiplicity of beneficial works (for God’s cause) on top of the provisions for the poor.

Concerning what to spend in God’s way and how much, the Quran explicitly states:

2:267 O ye who believe! Spend of the good things, which ye have earned, and of what We bring forth from the earth for you, and seek not the bad to spend thereof when ye would not take it for yourselves unless ye close your eyes.
2:219 They ask thee concerning what they should spend. Say: That which is in excess (of your needs).
25:67 And they, when they spend (in charity), are neither extravagant nor stingy; they keep a just (balance) between these (two limits).

In these verses, the Quran asks us to spend out of what we earn and produce (i.e., from our income and production), out of what we like for ourselves, and from that which is in excess of our needs. Our needs can be understood as those for our own consumption, including needs that accommodate provisions for savings and investments for our needed future consumption. “Need” is a subjective term and hence can be interpreted variously. The same is true of the term “stinginess”. In one of the above verses the Quran exhorts us not to be stingy in spending as well. When deciding about how much to spend in God’s way, individuals concerned need to make their decisions according to what they feel or think about their own needs and what they consider as stingy. Thus the amount of spending in God’s way should be in excess of our needs and a reasonable balance between extravagance and stinginess.

Two other verses of the Quran also shed more light on how much one should spend out of windfall income or wealth like the spoils of war and other gains:

8:1 They ask thee (O Muhammad) about the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war are for God and the Messenger.
8:41 And know: Of anything ye gain, a fifth is for God and His Messenger, relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, if ye do believe in God and in what We have revealed to Our servant.

The first of these verses relates to gains such as the war booties. Such gains wholly belong to “God and the Messenger,” which means that such gains should be distributed entirely for God’s cause – for meeting the needs of the poor and needy people and other welfare needs. The handling and distribution of these gains should be done and administered by the state or by state-sponsored appropriate public or private sector organizations (modern-day NGOs, for example). There may be other gains of the nature of what economists call “windfall gains”, the handling and distribution of which warrant similar treatment. Some examples of such gains are instant treasure troves found by some people, and real estates, bank deposits, and other assets left by deceased people who have no near relatives with any legitimate claim to such assets. Lottery earnings also fall in the category of windfall gains, which deserve to be heavily taxed by the state for welfare needs. Note, however, that the Quran strongly discourages us to indulge in games of chance (2:219; 5:90–91). Hence, in Muslim countries lotteries and gambling should not be allowed in the first place. However, if any citizens in these countries receive profits from lotteries overseas, such profits deserve to be highly taxed by the Muslim state.

The second verse (8:41) calls for spending or distribution of a fifth of other gains or income we earn for God’s cause and for near relatives, orphans, needy, wayfarers, etc. That implies that there should be a twenty percent tax on normal or regular gains or income for both the state and other welfare activities. These verses warrant drawing the following summarized implications concerning how much we should spend in God’s way:

• First, we should spend in excess of our needs, and choose an appropriate balance between extravagance and stinginess;
• Second, the excess over needs implies a more than proportionate ability to spend in relation to income and wealth of a person suggesting a need for progressive taxation for welfare needs;
• Third, windfall gains such as war booties and other gains of the essentially same nature should be spent entirely in God’s cause, and their distribution should be left at the discretion of the public authority, i.e. the state; and
• Fourth, we should spend in God’s way one fifth of our normal gains – income or wealth, which are gains other than windfall gains of the nature of war booties. This entitles the state to tax people’s normal income or wealth at the rate of 20 percent to meet the welfare needs of the state. (I owe this interpretation to Layth Al-Shaiban, manager of the website free-minds.org/ and co-author of Quran: A Reformist Translation).

These directions of the Quran highlight that the proportion of our income, wealth, or gains to be spent in God’s way should normally be a considerably higher fraction than the 2½ percent (of wealth), which is generally believed as the zakat amount. Note that such spending should go not only to the destitute and the needy but also to a multiplicity of noble causes, which we can lump together as God’s cause. A substantial chunk of such causes is best handled at the state level, while others may be left for private individuals. During our Prophet’s time, considerable resources in the forms of believing men and goods were mobilized for conducting war against the invading infidels.

9:41 Go forth (O ye who believe), equipped with light arms and heavy arms, and strive with your wealth and your lives in God’s cause. That is best for you if ye only knew.

Resources mobilized in the forms of men and goods used for purposes of defense are spending in God’s cause. There are many such needs that need to be met at the government or public sector level. The government should cater to such needs, and sadaqa or appropriate taxation should finance such needs. All those parts of government expenditure, which are meant for social welfare – feeding and rehabilitation of destitute people, provisions for unemployed workers, education, labor training, health and hospital services, and similar spending directed especially to amelioration of the conditions of the poor, and those which are meant for making available what economists call “public goods” that are best produced at the public sector level – are indeed instances of spending for God’s cause. Public goods are those goods and services, the production of which, if left to the private sector alone, is grossly neglected or inadequately met. Public goods are similar to what Muslim scholars recognize as acts or goods of public interest (muslaha), but they are not exactly the same. Some examples of public goods are social peace and security, defense against external aggression, administration of law and justice, promotion of social, cultural, and spiritual development, economic policymaking, and general public administration for miscellaneous government functions. All such state functions should count within the purview of God’s cause.

And in an impoverished developing economy, the state has a special role to play in promoting economic development, which indeed is the best way to alleviate poverty for the poor. For promoting economic development, considerable investment is needed in physical infrastructure (such as roads, highways, railways, waterways, ports, telecommunications, power and energy, information technology, etc.) as well as in human skills and education, technology and research. Promotion of such development is crucial for expanding employment opportunities, raising living standards, and, in the long run, for dealing with the problem of the poor.

It is clear that spending in God’s way covers a lot more things than are currently being covered by the zakat or sadaqa system. It matters little whether one calls itzakat or sadaqa. But this system is in need of major reform in light of the directions given in the Quran and in light of recent developments in the conception of functions of a modern state. Spending in God’s way then of individuals will comprise both the taxes they pay for benevolent works of the government at the government level and whatever they can afford to spend voluntarily at the private sector level on top of the taxes they pay. It should be recognized that what the government can or should do efficiently is inadequate to deal with the total problem of social inequity and to promote overall social welfare; and there is much still left to be done at the private sector or individual level. But limiting such benevolent and humanitarian spending to just 2½ percent of one’s wealth will be taking a very narrow view of spending in God’s way in light of the Quran. Such spending should not be limited to a proportion of just wealth alone as is generally understood in the case of zakat. The verses (2:267; 6:141) cited above clearly point to spending from earnings and production. Hence earnings or production could also be used as a base for such spending. And the proportion should be a flexible one depending on how much one can afford neither being too generous nor too stingy as directed in verse (25:67) cited above, taking into account what he or she has already paid to the government in the form of taxes for God’s cause.

The ultimate aim of the zakat or sadaqa system should be to eradicate poverty and help people get work opportunities and become self-reliant, and not to perpetuate a beggars’ class in society, which is not only degrading for them but also a nuisance in society.

To the extent possible and economically efficient, such spending should be handled at the state level. Many modern developed countries have well-planned public welfare and social security systems embodying unemployment benefits, and certain medical benefits, and administered at the state level in conjunction with enterprise level retirement, lay-off and medical insurance benefits, and it is not left to the whims of individuals to cater to such welfare needs. Social security systems existing in some of the developed countries essentially exhibit the basic principles of the sadaqa system that the Quran propounds. The concessional aid developed countries provide and what their sponsored multilateral development financing institutions give to the developing countries is also a kind of sadaqa at state level on the part of the rich countries to the poor ones.

Such aid should also be counted in the calculation for how much more resources the government should mobilize domestically to cater to the needs of the poor and for development and social welfare needs. The need for paying sadaqa at the individual level will last as long as the state cannot pay full attention to the problems of the helpless people. The state in many developing countries is almost invariably unable to take full care of the poor and the needy. Also considering that public sector welfare systems in developing countries are found to be almost always plagued by significant corruption as available evidence suggests, there remains considerable room for charities at the private sector (NGO) and individual levels. When a believing man or woman can afford to spend and perceives the need for such spending, it becomes incumbent on him or her to do it. That is as good as his/her prayer for his/her own spiritual advancement. And a significant part of such spending should be given to reputable international charitable organizations, and international and domestic NGOs (non-governmental organizations), which engage in development and social welfare activities, and which are known to be more efficient and less corrupt than the relevant government departments.

Another point to note in this regard is that the scope of such spending should also embrace interest-free or concessional lending, which the Quran calls qarz-hasana (beautiful lending) (2:245; 57:11, 18; 64:17; 5:12; 73:20). In modern days, some of this concessional financing function is being performed in developing countries by developed country aid agencies and multilateral development financing institutions. The Quranic message of interest-free loans is applicable only for disadvantaged borrowers, who deserve to be treated with a humanitarian approach. The Quran also encourages the lenders to remit interest on remaining loans and postpone or write off the original loans in cases where the borrowers are in difficulty to repay them (2:278-280). In cases, which deserve humanitarian considerations, loans should indeed be extended free of interest, and where appropriate, such loans should be given as grants or alms, which is sadaqa in the Quranic terminology.

CONCLUSION

Spending in God’s way should be understood in a much broader sense than the generally understood zakat system. It involves considerable spending on the part of a modern state for a variety of functions financed through a well-devised taxation system, besides charitable spending at the private sector (NGO) and individual levels. The best kind of spending in God’s way is helping others stand on their own feet. To help another person in a way, which makes him or her look for help all the time, is inherently ill motivated and is like that of those who like to be seen by men and is of no intrinsic virtue to them (2:264). From this point of view, the modern state should take appropriate measures to promote investment and development to increase opportunities for gainful employment of unemployed people, along with crafting a well-devised social welfare and security system. At the individual level, such efforts should include saving, investment, and work that would help build infrastructure and industries for employment-generating development, along with their humanitarian spending in deserving cases.