The spirit of the Shariah

The deal between the banned pro-Taliban group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammedi and Pakistani authorities to enforce Shariah via the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the Malakand area of Swat valley.....

Published: February 23, 2009 12:23 am

The deal between the banned pro-Taliban group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammedi (TNSM) and Pakistani authorities to enforce Shariah via the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the Malakand area of Swat valley has been met with a variety of responses,ranging from jubilation to dismay. Here,Islamic scholar Professor AKHTARUL WASEY explains the philosophy and practice of the Shariah.

What are the origins of Shariah?

Islamic Shariah stands for a compendium of Islamic Laws. Shariah is an Arabic word that means a stream of water where people come to quench their thirst. The Islamic Shariah has two fundamental sources: the Quran and Hadith,the sayings and guiding acts of the Prophet. The Quran says that Allah has sent His prophets to all peoples in different periods of time,to establish justice,equity and morality. Prophet Abraham was sent to the land that we know today as Iraq. To his prophetic chain belongs Moses,who was bestowed by God His book,the Torah,and His Law,which is called the Shariah of Moses. Likewise,Jesus was blessed by God with the Bible. In the last of the Abrahamic chain of prophets came Mohammad who was born in the Arabian city of Mecca. He was blessed with the divine word,the Quran and Islamic Shariah.

What are its tenets?

Shariah has the following core objectives:

•To ensure the well-being of all human beings irrespective of creed and faith.

•To establish rule of law before which all are equal.

•To propagate economic justice where money is kept in circulation to bridge the gulf between the rich and the poor.

•To ensure peace and security where life and limb,property and honour of all members are protected,and nobody gets away from the law.

How is Shariah implemented in different parts of the world?

Shariah has been practised throughout the history of Islam in different parts of the world. Of course,there have been variations in the way it is implemented depending on prevailing societal conditions. Some governments have implemented certain core principles of the Shariah and held back some others to create conditions favourable for their implementation,or applied local laws. For example,Turkey’s laws are not based on the Quran,while mullahs are in charge in Iran and the Quran is synonymous with the Constitution in Saudi Arabia.

To what extent has the Shariah influenced the Constitution of Pakistan?

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and it does have a number of laws that reflect Islamic traditions and teachings. In fact,part IX,article 227 of the Constitution of Pakistan clearly states: “All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.” However,the country has retained a large chunk of the penal code instituted by the British in India in 1860.

What is the Nizam-e-Adl?

Nizam-e-Adl means ‘system of justice’. There is a widespread misunderstanding that Shariah is synonymous with criminal laws. Certain instances have strengthened this misunderstanding. While Shariah encompasses all spheres of human life, criminal laws form only a part of it. Very few countries,like Saudi Arabia,practise the criminal code of the Shariah. It must be noted that all great Islamic jurists have condemned misuse of Shariah laws by those who wish to curb social,religious and gender equality and freedom. They have also provided legal arrangements for protection from such misuse.

Where do Indian Muslims stand on Shariah?

In pluralistic societies like India,almost all the Muslim leaders and organisations have supported the secular system of polity and governance. That’s why during the freedom struggle all the major Muslim leaders and religious scholars did not accept the two-nation theory.

The writer is Director,Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies and Head,Department of Islamic Studies,Jamia Millia Islamia

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