There is a lot of talk in the media lately about Muslims, Islam, Syrian refugees, and perhaps most importantly, Sharia Law. I thought I had a really solid grip on the concept until I took a few hours and did some research. Here are my findings and some surrounding perspectives.
What is Shariah Law?
In a nutshell: Shariah Law is a set of rules, derived from the Quran, about how society should be managed, covering topics such as crime, punishment, marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. The Quran is a big book and some topics are dealt with repeatedly – and – contradict one another. The author of the book understood the potential for confusion and laid out a method for the faithful to figure out which verses take to take seriously and which to ignore. This technique is called “Abrogation”.
For the Christian readers, here’s an analogy: there are passages in the Bible that seem contradictory: The Old Testament, the record of the Mosaic Law, demands “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. In the New Testament, Jesus fulfills the lesser law and issues a higher law: “Turn the other cheek, love thy enemy, etc… ” It’s easy to see how one could feel that The Bible contradicts itself. Yet, a good Bible student will understand that the final analysis depends on the story line of the book and the purposes of each of the characters. You can’t just read the Bible – you have to know HOW to read The Bible. The Quran has a similar situation. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s close enough for now.
First things First:
Just as there are countless varieties of Christian sects and followers in the world, there are countless varieties and degrees of Muslims. For 1400 years, Muslim scholars have been debating and striving to determine the correct meaning of Abrogation. 1400 years later, they still haven’t quite nailed it down. I wouldn’t bet on it happening any time soon. And by soon, I mean, ever.
What I’ve learned so far:
There were several points of wisdom behind abrogation in early Islam. For centuries, human societies lived a certain kind of life: closer to beastly than human. Their situation could only be changed gradually. That required allowing certain things in the early stages of change and development, to be disallowed later. Later generations would not need the same measures because they would be in an already transformed society, in which they would not need to struggle against the rest of the world to follow Islam. As for the contingency itself, the scholars are agreed that in its early days, Islam was passing through special circumstances which required special rulings, accommodative of the prevailing situation. They were repealed once those very circumstances disappeared. Read more: http://islamicencyclopedia.org/public/index/topicDetail/id/48
Figuring out what needs to be Abrogated becomes tricky business. Some say that the Quran is written in chronological order, with the more peaceful verses being toward the beginning, and the more violent ones toward the end of the book. A chronological view of Abrogation would then favor the more violent verses. However….
But not all verses in the Qur’an have the same weight in assessment. Unlike the Old or New Testaments, the Qur’an is not organized by chronology but rather by size of chapters. Even within chapters, chronology can be confused. In sura (chapter) 2, for example, God revealed verses 193, 216, and 217 to Muhammad shortly after he arrived in Medina. God only revealed verses 190, 191, and 192 six years later. This complicates interpretation, all the more when some verses appear to contradict. Read more: http://www.meforum.org/1754/peace-or-jihad-abrogation-in-islam
In some instances, Sharia Law leads to some barbaric, horrific things, which explains the anxiety people feel when they hear reports of places in Europe where Muslims have taken over and instituted Sharia Law, creating “no-go” zones. These are purported places where non Muslims risk their own lives to enter, due to the barbaric nature of the Sharia adherents. These reports were created by a self-styled, self proclaimed “terrorism expert” employed by Fox News, who outright exaggerated and fabricated stories about these “no go” zones: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/nogozones.asp
Here’s a map of the world showing the current satuation of Sharia Law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_of_sharia_law_by_country
…shari’a is interpreted and instituted in various ways in different countries, especially in the present time when most governments of Muslim states combine fiqh with national customs and the influence of modern common law systems. The existence of so many different “Muslim laws” introduces the first problem of instituting a system of shari’a in the Europe: How should nations decide which interpretation of sharia to implement? Even within Islamic family law, which is being contested at the present in the United Kingdom, countries differ in their application. Read more: http://www.euro-islam.info/key-issues/islamic-law/
The moral of the story so far:
- We all agree: Radical Extremist Islam is a huge problem.
- Radical Extremist Islam is not the faith of the mainstream Muslim. These are two different things. Learn to speak about them as separate things, and insist that everyone around you do the same.
- Sharia Law is a thing. Sometimes it’s a very bad thing, but that does not mean all of the time. Understanding Sharia depends upon understanding Abrogation, and Muslim scholars can’t even agree on it, much less, Donald Trump or some other jerk-off on Fox or CNN. There are shades of grey here that we MUST acknowledge. Just like any other religious edict, there is no official or uniform world wide implementation of it. Thus – to speak of “sharia law” as a singular thing is like using the word “sea food” to refer to one thing, when in reality, the term covers everything from cheap tuna fish to crab to caviar.
- This isn’t America’s first tango with a religion that tried to color outside of the lines of the law of the land. Mormons made the attempt with Polygamy back in the mid 1800’s. Mormons were informed that in America, we have a God that is greater than any God in the land – it’s called The Constitution Of The United States Of America. All other Gods are subject to it. It will be no different with Muslims.
- How much power would Radical Extremist Islamists have without Television or the Internet? These are the tools of terror. Terror is information, essentially. Be careful what messages you perpetuate, lest you become one who helps to spread terror. There is a fine line between sharing quality information, and being an unintentional perpetrator of terror. Figure it out. Don’t be afraid.
I believe in the religious apathy of most humans. There’s no reason to believe that every human who is born into a Muslim family adheres to the tenets of their religion better than any Christian or Jew does. I believe that most humans are the same, no matter what book is on their shelf: we just want to sleep well, eat well, get laid, have healthy kids, laugh a few times per day, drive a sweet ass car, and if possible, not disappoint one’s parents too much in the pursuit of all these things. If you really want to free the world from Sharia Law… if you are really convinced that your ideology is superior and that they should do like you do… make like Neil Young and just keep on rockin’ in the free world. Show a good example. Let people see your light. The Muslims you are afraid of have The Internet too. Let people see the fruits of your superior lifestyle and beliefs by seeing how happy and nice of a person you are. If you aren’t super happy in your own life, stop worrying about all of the other miserable people and get your own misery figured out first. Education and the free flow of information is the best cure for religious extremism. Google. Science. Books. Education. Neil Young.
Don’t get sucked into the fear game. Sure, there is SOME truth to all of the fear mongering about Sharia Law, but keep in mind it’s not a black – and – white issue. For damn sure: the main stream media (and certain politicians & pundits) are using grossly distorted ideas about Sharia Law to intimidate you and sell you their “cure”. As always – if you think I’ve got something wrong here and have better information from better sources, send it to me. I’ll look it over and if it’s legit, I’m happy to adjust my stance based on the latest evidence.