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  Hysteria over Shariah Must End

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Obedient Angel

Join date : 2011-04-30
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PostSubject: Hysteria over Shariah Must End    Hysteria over Shariah Must End Icon_minitimeThu Apr 04, 2013 3:10 am

 Hysteria over Shariah Must End UnderstandingSharahLaw

Understanding Shariah Law

By: Wajahat Ali and Mathew Duss

In the past year, a group of conservative pundits and analysts have identified Shariah, or Islamic religious law, as a growing threat to the United States. These pundits and analysts argue that the steady adoption of Shariah’s tenets is a strategy extremists are using to transform the United States into an Islamic state.

A number of state and national politicians have adopted this interpretation and 13 states are now considering the adoption of legislation forbidding Shariah. A bill in the Tennessee State Senate, for example, would make adherence to Shariah punishable by 15 years in jail. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for “a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.”

The fullest articulation of this “Sharia threat” argument, though, is in the September 2010 report “Sharia: The Threat to America,” published by the conservative Center for Security Policy. The authors claim that their report is “concerned with the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time: the legal-political-military doctrine known within Islam as ‘Shariah.’” The report, according to its authors, is “designed to provide a comprehensive and articulate ‘second opinion’ on the official characterizations and assessments of this threat as put forth by the United States government.”

The report, and the broader argument, is plagued by a significant contradiction. In the CSP report’s introduction, the authors admit that Islamic moderates contest more conservative interpretations of Shariah:
Sharia is the crucial fault line of Islam’s internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates… whose members embrace the Enlightenment’s veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. On this side of the divide, Sharia is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.

The authors later assert, however, that there is “ultimately but one shariah. It is totalitarian in character, incompatible with our Constitution and a threat to freedom here and around the world.”

The initial concession that Muslims interpret Shariah in different ways is accurate and of course contradicts the later assertion that Sharia is totalitarian in nature.

Any observant Muslim would consider him or herself a Shariah adherent. It is impossible to find a Muslim who practices any ritual and does not believe himself or herself to be complying with Shariah.

But by defining Shariah itself as the problem, and then asserting the authenticity of only the most extreme interpretations of Shariah, the authors are effectively arguing that the internecine struggle within Islam should be ceded to extremists. They also cast suspicion upon all observant Muslims.

It’s important to understand that adopting such a flawed analysis would direct limited resources away from actual threats to the United States and bolster an anti-Muslim narrative that Islamist extremist groups find useful in recruiting.

It would also target and potentially alienate our best allies in the effort against radicalization: our fellow Americans who are Muslim. According to the “Sharia threat” argument, all Muslims who practice any aspect of their faith are inherently suspect since Shariah is primarily concerned with correct religious practice.

This brief will explain what Shariah really is and demonstrate how a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Shariah—put forth in the CSP report and taken up by others—will both harm America’s national security interests and threaten our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

What is Shariah?
The CSP report defines Shariah as a “legal-political-military doctrine.” But a Muslim would not recognize this definition—let alone a scholar of Islam and Muslim tradition. Muslim communities continue to internally debate how to practice Islam in the modern world even as they look to its general precepts as a guide to correct living and religious practice.

Most academics studying Islam and Muslim societies give a broad definition of Shariah. This reflects Muslim scholars struggling for centuries over how best to understand and practice their faith.

But these specialists do agree on the following:

Shariah is not static. Its interpretations and applications have changed and continue to change over time.
There is no one thing called Shariah. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Shariah in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Shariah. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries aimed toward justice, fairness, and mercy.
Shariah is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance such as prayer and fasting, and not with national laws.
Any observant Muslim would consider him or herself a Shariah adherent. It is impossible to find a Muslim who practices any ritual and does not believe himself or herself to be complying with Shariah. Defining Shariah as a threat, therefore, is the same thing as saying that all observant Muslims are a threat.

The CSP report authors—none of whom has any credentials in the study of Islam— concede this point in several places. In the introduction they say, “Shariah is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.” Yet the rest of the report contradicts this point.

The authors, in attempting to show that Shariah is a threat, construct a static, ahistorical, and unscholarly interpretation of Sharia that is divorced from traditional understandings and commentaries of the source texts.
The “Sharia threat” argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.

The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18- 21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional— ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.

In reality, Shariah is personal religious law and moral guidance for the vast majority of Muslims. Muslim scholars historically agree on certain core values of Shariah, which are theological and ethical and not political. Moreover, these core values are in harmony with the core values at the heart of America.

Muslims consider an interpretation of Shariah to be valid so long as it protects and advocates for life, property, family, faith, and intellect. Muslim tradition overwhelmingly accepts differences of opinion outside these core values, which is why Shariah has survived for centuries as an ongoing series of conversations. Shariah has served Muslims who have lived in every society and in every corner of the planet, including many Americans who have lived in our country from before our independence down to the present day.

Recent statements from Muslim religious authorities, such as the 2004 Amman Message, show the dynamic, interpretive tradition of Islam in practice. In fact, the Amman Message is a Sharia-based condemnation of violence. So if CSP wants Muslims to reject Sharia they are effectively arguing Muslims should reject nonviolence.
The fact that the Amman Message is a Sharia-based document shows the problem with the “Sharia threat” argument: By criminalizing Sharia they also criminalize the Sharia-based message of nonviolence in the Amman document.

It is surprising that a group claiming to be invested in American national security would suggest that we make nonviolent engagement criminal.

Suspicion Based on Religious Misinterpretation

The CSP report’s contradictions can only be resolved through unconstitutional means. And the authors propose doing so with no sense of irony.

They argue that believing Muslims should have their free speech and freedom of religion rights restricted: “In keeping with Article VI of the Constitution, extend bans currently in effect that bar members of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan from holding positions of trust in federal, state, or local governments or the armed forces of the United States to those who espouse or support Shariah.”

The authors have already conceded that even mainstream Muslims espouse Sharia. So by the report’s own analysis, CSP are recommending that even mainstream American Muslims, who follow Sharia in their personal lives, be prohibited from serving in the government or the armed forces.

The authors cite Koran verses that “are interpreted under Shariah to mean that anyone who does not accept Islam is unacceptable in the eyes of Allah and that he will send them to Hell,” concluding, “When it is said that Shariah is a supremacist program, this is one of the bases for it.”

It is no secret that many Christians interpret their own faith to mean that non-Christians are destined for Hell. Is this too a form of supremacism?

Many advocates of the “Sharia threat” also refer to taqiyya, an Arabic word that means concealing one’s faith out of fear of death, to mean religiously justified lying. Not all Muslims subscribe to the theological concept of taqiyya, however. In fact, it is a minority opinion.

The charge of “taqqiya” is often deployed by “Sharia threat” advocates when confronted with evidence that refutes their thesis. Under this methodology one cannot trust any practicing Muslim. Even if a Muslim preaches and practices nonviolence the CSP authors would say that person is either not a true Muslim or is practicing taqiyya.

They have, in fact, used this tactic against Muslim-American leaders who advocate strong civic engagement. Responding to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf ’s assertion that the proposed Park 51 Islamic Center in New York would be a venue for interfaith dialogue, CSP’s Frank Gaffney wrote in The Washington Times: “To be sure, Imam Rauf is a skilled practitioner of the Shariah tradition of taqqiya, deception for the faith.”

While providing a mechanism for critics to ignore any disconfirming evidence, adopting such an interpretation of taqiyya would almost certainly result in every observant Muslim being branded a liar.

The authors of the CSP report are clearly aware of this, and they try to temper their conclusions: “This is not an argument for trusting or mistrusting someone in any particular instance,” they write. “It is, though, an argument for professionals to be aware of these facts, to realize that they are dealing with an enemy whose doctrine allows—and at times even requires—them not to disclose fully all that they know and deliberately to misstate that which they know to be the truth.”

In other words, all Muslims are suspect simply by virtue of being Muslims.

Biased Premises Lead to Bad Policy

The CSP report’s premise is that Shariah is the problem and that observance of Shariah results in extremism. The authors do not acknowledge that Shariah is something the extremists are attempting to claim.

This purposeful misconstruction of the security issues America faces ignores multiple data points and turns all Muslims into traitors. According to a report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 85 percent of all terrorist victims are Muslims. The Muslim community, therefore, has good reason to ally with American interests to defeat extremists. Those who assert the most extreme definition of Shariah agree with the extremists’ definitions of Islam and help create an environment of alienation and distrust—which serves extremist interests, not American interests.

Adopting the CSP’s analysis—and the hysteria over the “Sharia threat” that it is clearly intended to provoke—will prevent us from working with our natural allies and weaken our ability to protect ourselves. The war against extremism cannot be labeled as a war against Islam. Taking such a civilizational, apocalyptic view could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Further, we actually allow extremists to operate more freely without a clear identification of the threat and a consistent and constitutionally defensible system for recognizing and tracking extremists.

It is important to recognize that Muslims are in an ongoing conversation to define what their faith will look like. They have engaged in that conversation for centuries. But the challenge of faith and modernity is not unique to Muslims, and we cannot single them out for their beliefs.

Finally, it’s important to note that even if the most extreme interpretation of Shariah were the correct one, there is no evidence that the U.S. legal system is in any danger of adopting tenets of Shariah.

To put this in perspective, the extreme Christian right in America has been trying for decades to inscribe its view of America as a “Christian nation” into our laws. They have repeatedly failed in a country in which more than three-quarters of people identify as Christians.

It’s extremely unlikely that an extreme faction of American Muslims, a faith community that constitutes approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population, would have more success. We need to both respect constitutional freedoms and understand that the Constitution and our courts guarantee a separation between church and state.

The “Sharia threat” argument is so irresponsible as to almost demand a comic response, were it not for the disastrous consequences of adopting it. It’s important that its claims be interrogated rigorously, in order to understand that they should not be taken seriously.


What is Shariah and Why Does it Matter?

By: Sheikh Abdul Rahman Khan

In the past year or so, one of the hottest topics in America is Shari’ah. There are those who spend tremendous amounts of human and financial resources to create the fear that Shari’ah is about to cause “destruction of the national existence of the United States,” a force for “destroying Western civilization from within…” The fear of the man in the street about Shari’ah is understandable when politicians talk glibly about Shari’ah as “an infiltration … into all of our operating systems in our country as well as across Western civilization.” And now the presidential hopefuls make Shari’ah one of their top campaign issues. Gingrich, in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said Shari’ah is “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”

As a result of this propaganda and fear-mongering, many Americans are led to believe that American Muslims should not be trusted and that Islam does not belong in America. Shari’ah has become an ominous term and currently as many as two-dozen states have passed or proposed legislation to prohibit the application of Shari’ah. Those various laws aim to make talking openly about Shari’ah unlawful. Making wudhu (ablution) or offering salat (prayer) in a public place could result in being fined or jailed. This Islamophobic campaign raises serious questions and concerns that Muslims simply cannot ignore.

First, those who wave the red flag about “creeping shari’ah” know, or should know, that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution establishes that the Constitution and all laws and treaties made pursuant to the Constitution shall be “the supreme law of the land.” Secondly, there are two clauses, referred to as the “religion clauses” in the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” And the Free Exercise Clause adds, “… or prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] thereof…” According to these two clauses, Congress cannot establish a national religion and the government cannot act in any way which gives preference to one religion over another.

Those who propagate the nonsense that shari’ah is infiltrating all the operating systems in the U.S., are concerned, as is writer James Zumwalt, a retired Marine infantry office who now heads a security firm, that, “…our Constitution is under serious attack from a foreign body of law that seeks to erode its very foundation.” Yet they seem unconcerned with a very real danger: that state legislation which they promote — banning Shari’ah and the Islamic practices which are part and parcel of it — is in effect prohibiting the free exercise of religion. That is, without debate, an erosion of Constitutional rights and guarantees.

Many who fan the flames of fear and suspicion about Islam and Muslims forward the idea that Islam is a cult. As Muslims, we believe that Islam, surrender to God Almighty, is as old as humanity and it culminated 1400 years ago in the advent of Muhammad, peace be upon him. Allah SWT says in the Qur’an, “He (Allah) has ordained for you the same religion (Islam) which He ordained for Noah, and that which We have inspired in you (O Muhammad), and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, namely that you should establish religion and make no divisions in it. Intolerable for the disbelievers is that to which you (O Muhammad) call them. Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills, and guides unto Himself he who turns to Him in repentance and in obedience” (Qur’an 42:13).

Calling Islam a cult brings to mind associations of fanaticism and strangeness. Yet, today almost one out of five people, or 20% of the world population, belong to the Islamic faith. Describing Islam as a cult also suggests a rejecting of mainstream America and its tenets of citizenship. Muslims, however, have been living in the U.S. for decades as law-abiding citizens. If any Muslim American claims that he is not obligated to follow the U.S. Constitution, he is exposing his ignorance of Islam. Muslim scholars view citizenship as a covenant between the citizen and the state in which he resides. According to this view, the covenant guarantees the citizen’s security in the state and he or she, in turn, is obliged to obey the laws of the land. The Qur’an commands Muslims with regard to covenants: “And fulfill every covenant. Verily, you will be held accountable with regard to the covenants” (Qur’an, 17:34). Sheikh Salman al-Oudah, a Saudi scholar has written, “[Islamic] scholars have stated that those who enter non-Muslim countries have to adhere to their respective laws and regulations even if they entered those countries illegally; and they have no excuse for breaking those laws, since they were entrusted to abide by those laws upon entry into those countries…As long as [a Muslim] agrees to live in a non-Muslim country, he is never to rebel against the people living in his choice of residence, even it seems too hard for him to endure.”

Shari’ah is often equated by Islamophobes with the stoning of adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves. But Shari’ah is the total and comprehensive system of deen (religion, way of life) with all the beliefs, rituals, and practices that relate to human existence; the fixed punishments are but one integral part of this system. In fact, of the 6,236 verses in the Qur’an, only 10 verses relate to the hudud punishments. These punishments are to be applied only after a genuine Islamic society has been established, one founded on Islamic principles so that the practice of religion and spirituality can flourish; so that the social, economic, and political environment is conducive to and protective of ethics and morals; and in which the survival needs of all citizens have been procured so that, for example, stealing out of necessity is no longer a motive for theft. There are many conditions stipulated for the application of a hudud punishment so as to avoid a strictly literalist applying of such punishments without regard to conditions and contexts and mitigating circumstances.

A prime example that demonstrates the suspension of hudud punishment in order to abide by the dictum of absolute justice is the time that the caliph Umar put a moratorium on the punishment for theft as there was a famine in the land. Another important point is that the fixed punishment is the last action in a process of seeking the best application of justice. In 2011 Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was interviewed about the hudud on Al-Jazeera and mentioned an agreed-upon rule of fiqh — let doubt suspend hudud. Illustrating the caution with which a hudud punishment is to be applied is the hadith related by Hakim and As-Suyuti, “Refrain from enforcing hudud on Muslims as much as you can. If you find a way out for a Muslim, let him (or her) go, as it is better for the imam (ruler) to wrongly forgive than to wrongly punish.” Unfortunately, many of the punishments that are carried out in Muslim countries in the name of Shari’ah are in fact violations of the Shari’ah itself.

The word shari’ah as used in the Qur’an holds the meaning of a straight way or a path: “Then We put you on the (straight) Way of Religion: so follow that (Way) and follow not the desires of those who know not” (Qur’an 45:18). The root meaning of shari’ah is a watering place or a path to a watering place. Allah SWT alone is the source of truth and the only One who determines it as He alone has created the entire creation and the only One who knows its secrets. We as human beings may exercise our intellects to their fullest capacity, but without His Guidance, we will overlook and misunderstand much, as we are very limited by our human and individual capacities as well as by the conditions of our environment. On the other hand, Allah SWT transcends time and space has the ultimate knowledge of all things. He says in the Qur’an, “Does He who created not know while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?” (Qur’an 67:14). The truth has been communicated to us through His prophets and messengers and through revealed Scriptures: “Then We revealed the Book to you (O Muhammad!) with Truth, confirming the Book that was revealed before, and protecting and guarding over it. Judge, then, in the affairs of men in accordance with the Law that Allah has revealed, and do not follow their desires in disregard of the Truth which has come to you. For each of you We have appointed a Shari’ah and a way of life” (Qur’an 5:48).

So each nation has had prescribed for them a shari’ah, as Qatadah (RAA) has said, “The Taurah has its Shari’ah, the Injil has its Shari’ah and The Quran has its Shari’ah. Allah SWT makes whatever He wishes lawful and whatever He wishes unlawful as a test to see to obeys from the one who disobeys but the core of belief is one: Tawheed; the Oneness of Allah SWT.”

Shari’ah, therefore, can be defined as the totality of all the guidance and directives that Allah SWT has presented to humanity in the Qur’an or taught by the Messenger (peace be upon him) through his sayings and actions. The Shari’ah thus includes beliefs, ibadah (worship) injunctions, enumeration of traits of good character as well as those of sin and evil, and codifications relating to human interactions including inheritance, contracts, witnesses, marriage and divorce, food and drink, clothing, crime and punishment, banking and business dealings, and much more. Frank Griffel, professor of Islamic Studies at Yale, points out that Shari’ah goes beyond what most Americans would consider “legal discourse, for it extends to matters concerning proprieties of clothing, conduct between spouses, filial piety, behavior at funerals, and other questions that Westerners would treat not as legal, but as moral issues or mere etiquette.” Put simply, “all normative discussions within Islam” center around Shari’ah

Just as water is vital to sustain biological life, Shari‘ah is vital to sustain the human soul. It is the path that leads to the source of optimal nourishment — of human energy and spiritual life. Shari’ah is the straight path by which we aim for nearness to Allah SWT. It is the system of ethical, legal, social, and spiritual proprieties that Allah has provided so that human beings can live together in peace and honor their obligations to God, to society, and to each other. Shari’ah is also the inspiration by which we can end our silence and answer in the best ways those who promote hate, intolerance, or discrimination.

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.“ (Qur’an 16:125).


What is Shariah for, and What Does it Aim to Do?

Dr. Khaled Abou El-Fadl

The law plays a central role in Islam and yet the law is also the least understood aspect of the Islamic faith by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Some even go as far as thinking that a Muslim who believes in Sharia law is by definition a fanatic or fundamentalist. Yet to accuse every Muslim who believes in Islamic law of fanaticism is akin to accusing every Jew who believes in Rabbinic or Talmudic law to be a fanatic as well. The truth is that so much hinges on the particular conception that one has of Islamic law and the interpretation that one follows.

Islamic law is derived from two distinct sources: the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (known as the Hadith and Sunnah). Traditions purporting to quote the Prophet verbatim are known as Hadith. The Sunnah, however, is a broader term; it refers to the Hadith as well as to narratives purporting to describe the conduct of the Prophet and his companions in a variety of settings and contexts.

In Islam, the Quran occupies a unique and singular status as the literal word of God transmitted by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad did nothing more than communicate word for word God’s revelation and Muslims preserved the text and transmitted it in its original form and language to subsequent generations. Muslims believe that God warranted and promised to guard the text of the Quran from any possible alterations, revisions, deletions, or redactions, and therefore, while Muslims may disagree about the meaning and import of the revelation, there is a broad consensus among Muslims on the integrity of the text. At times the Quran addresses itself to the Prophet, specifically, but on other occasions the Quran speaks to all Muslims or to humanity at large. In different contexts, the Quran will address Jews or Christians or the polytheists. After the Quran, most Muslims consider the Sunnah of the Prophet as the second most authoritative source of Islam. Although the Quran and Sunnah are considered the two primary sources of Islamic theology and law, there are material differences between them.

The Quran is primarily concerned with ethics and morality; the Sunnah, however, contains everything ranging from enunciations of moral principles, to detailed prescriptions on various matters of personal and social conduct, to parables and historical narratives. Not all of the Sunnah can easily translate into a set of straightforward normative commands, and therefore, Muslim jurists argued that parts of the Sunnah are intended as legislative and binding, while other parts are simply descriptive and for the most part, not binding. Most importantly, the huge body of literature that embodies the Sunnah is complex and generally inaccessible to the lay person. In order to systematically and comprehensively analyze what the Sunnah, as a whole, has to say on a particular topic requires a considerable amount of technical knowledge and training. In part, this is due to the fact that the Sunnah literature reflects a rather wide array of conflicting and competing ideological orientations and outlooks that exist in tension with each other. Selective and non-systematic approaches to the Sunnah produce determinations that are extremely imbalanced and that are highly skewed in favor of a particular ideological orientation or another. And yet, such selective and imbalanced treatments of the Sunnah are commonplace in the contemporary Muslim world. Nevertheless, it is important to note that many of the basic rituals of Islam were derived from the Sunnah traditions. In addition, the Sunnah helps in contextualizing the Quranic revelation, and also in understanding the historical framework and role of the Islamic message. Consequently, it is not possible to simply ignore this formidable oral tradition, or focus exclusively on the Quran, without doing serious damage to the structure of the Islamic religion as a whole.

When the Quran and Sunnah are considered together, they tell a complex story. They can be a source of profound intellectual and moral guidance and empowerment. However the opposite is also true if approached with inadequate intellectual and moral commitments which could contribute to a process of ethical and intellectual stagnation, if not deterioration. For instance, the Sunnah contains a large number of traditions that could be understood as very empowering to women, but it also contains an equally large number of traditions that could be understood as disfranchising or restraining of women. To engage the Sunnah on this subject, analyze it systematically, interpret it consistently with the Quran, and to read it in such a fashion that would promote, and not undermine, the ethical objectives of Islam calls for a well-informed and balanced intellectual and moral outlook.

Other than the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet, there were various methodologies used by jurists for producing legal rulings. Jurists used rule by analogy and principles such as equity and public interest in order to make the law responsive to changing circumstances and conditions. Importantly, what is called Islamic law is not contained in a single or few books. Islamic law is found in an enormous corpus of volumes that document the rulings and opinions of jurists over the span of many centuries. At one time, there were 130 schools of legal thought in the Islamic civilization but most of them became extinct for a variety of reasons. On any point of law, one will find many conflicting opinions about what the law of God requires or mandates. The Islamic legal tradition is expressed in works that deal with jurisprudential theory and legal maxims, legal opinions (fatawa), adjudications in actual cases, and encyclopedic volumes that note down the positive rulings of law (ahkam).

Islamic law covers a broad array of topics ranging from ritual practice to criminal law, personal status and family law, commercial and transactional law, international law, and constitutional law.

The question is: How does this substantial body of jurisprudence relate to Divinity or to God’s law? In what way can this tradition of juristic disputations, judgments, and opinions claim to be sacred or Divine law? These questions bring us to a crucial distinction that is central to the very logic of Islamic law. What is customarily referred to as Islamic law is actually separated into two distinct categories: Sharia and fiqh. Sharia is the eternal, immutable, and unchanging law, or Way of truth and justice. In essence, Sharia is the ideal law as it exists in the Divine realm. Thus human beings must strive and struggle to comprehend and apply Sharia law to the best of their abilities. In contrast, fiqh is the human law — it is the human attempt to reach and fulfill the eternal law as it exists according to the Will of God. Fiqh, unlike Sharia, is not eternal, immutable, or unchanging. By definition, fiqh is human and, therefore, subject to error, alterable, and contingent.

The moral and ethical objectives of the Quran play a central and pivotal role in the process of legal analysis. The point of the legal analysis is not to unthinkingly and blindly implement a set of technical rules, but to seek after the ultimate objectives of the Quran. All Quranic laws reinforce and promote moral and ethical objectives, such as racial and ethnic equality, freedom from compulsion in the conduct of human affairs, freedom of conscience, or the right of women to own property, and it is the duty of Muslims to apply themselves intellectually in order to comprehend and fulfill these objectives. These moral objectives are related to the obligation to seek Godliness in oneself and in society. Some of the specific rulings of the Quran came in response to particular problems that confronted the Muslim community at the time of the Prophet. These particular rulings are contingent on specific historical circumstances that might or might not exist in the modern age. At the time these rulings were revealed, they were intended to achieve particular moral objectives such as justice, equity, equality, mercy, compassion, benevolence, and so on. Therefore, it is imperative that Muslims study the moral objectives of the Quran, and treat the specific rulings as demonstrative examples of how Muslims should attempt to realize and achieve the Quranic morality in their lives.

At the most basic and fundamental level, we can ask: What is Sharia for and what does it aim to do? What are the ultimate objectives of the Sharia? Historically, legal schools of thought disagreed on many issues, but they agreed on the response to these questions. According to all the jurisprudential schools the purpose of the Sharia is to serve the best interests of human beings (tahqiq masalih al-ibad). Put differently, the objective of the law is not to put forward rules that humans are commanded to follow — as formalities decreed for their own sake or dissociated from their effects — but to achieve the ultimate moral and ethical objectives that represent the essence of Godliness on this earth.


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