RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Monday, October 27, 2008

Interview : Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (4)

Can you explain Sharia?

The word "Sharia" is the term given to define the collectivity of laws that Muslims govern themselves by. And there is a presumption that these laws recognize all of the specific laws mentioned in the Quran and in the practice of the prophet, and do not conflict with that. So any law, anything studied in the Quran or the hadith, is definitely [Sharia]. The idea is that it is divinely legislated, that the creator also has legislated certain things for us.
But in the community of Muslims, it was recognized very early on that the Quran and the hadith do not speak to all issues. And there are many issues which are not necessarily addressed in the Quran and the hadith, that the Quran is silent on. ... There is a recognition in the [science] of Islamic jurisprudence that there are issues which have to be obtained by analogy, by consensus, and other [subsidiary] sources of jurisprudence. But as long as they don't conflict with the Quran and hadith of the prophet, it's considered to be, quote, unquote, "Sharia."

The flexibility built in there, you know, the using of your own common sense, is that what allows different places to apply Sharia differently?

Well, I wouldn't phrase it quite that way. The correct phrasing would be that when people think about Islamic law, there's a presumption that all of Islamic law is Quranic, or emanates from the Quran and the hadith. The point is, and the truth of the matter is, what really defines Islamic law [is] the sum total of Islamic law as has been practiced by Muslims throughout the last 14, 15 centuries ... . Generally, it emanates from the Quran and the hadith. The Quran and the hadith are a limiting factor and a shaping factor. But any body of laws that includes and embodies the specific commandments and prohibitions mentioned in the Quran and the hadith, that does not violate any of these things, has been considered as Sharia, as Islamic. And this allows a lot of variation of opinion, in things which the Quran and the hadith are relatively silent on as long as the principles are maintained, of justice, et cetera.

My understanding of [the Sharia] rules about punishment for matrimonial infidelity [is that] you have to have four eyewitnesses, or several eyewitnesses to the [act] in order to demand the death penalty. It's almost inconceivable to me that you could ever produce that kind of eyewitness or evidence. But we hear that these kinds of punishments are meted out fairly regularly. Is the law being followed the way it's set [out]?

You cannot judge a whole body of law by one instance of criminal law. When people think about Sharia law, they often think about the penalties for certain crimes. They don't think about the sum total of Islamic law and its jurisprudence, which means the underlying structure and philosophy and understanding of how you arrive at what we call the Islamically correct decision. You do not define Sharia law by just a couple of penalties. ...
Islamic law has a few penalties for certain crimes. But the rules of evidence, as you mentioned in the case of adultery, require either the free confession by the individual and/or the existence of four witnesses who are of sound mind and who fit the description of qualified witnesses, which is very rare to obtain.
Much of what we see when we hear of events that apply Sharia law, what we see in Nigeria, for instance, or even in Pakistan, is a desire by much of the people to see the general principles of justice followed. ... It is a desire by the people to see their system of laws be more equitable. It is a call for correction of the overall system of social justice, of economic justice, which the Quran calls for, and the example of the prophet calls for.
You see, Muslims have an ideal. Part of their ideal is to follow what they call the example of the prophet, the Sunna of the prophet. So at an individual level, a human being who wants to perfect himself or herself looks to the tradition of the prophet, his individual practice, and tries to emulate the prophet as much as possible.
There is also a collective subliminal ambition that Muslims have, that at a collective level, they also embody the ideals of the community that the prophet developed in Medina. So when Muslims today speak of the attempt to establish an Islamic state, what they are really saying is that they would like to have a community that lives in accordance with the ideals, the relationships, the social contract, which the prophet had developed in Medina with his companions and how they had this amongst each other. ...

In what ways do Western values, morals, and cultural practices, intrude upon, and [in what ways] are they at variance with Islamic ideals?

I think there are two aspects to this question, in the broader sense of the word. There is Western values regarding governance; Western values regarding separation of powers; Western notions regarding what the role of government is in society; Western notion in terms of democratic institutions and principles and ideas. And to a large extent, Muslims are very enamored of these systems, and would like to implement them in their own societies ... because these principles and norms are completely in sync with the principles of the Quran and the teachings of the prophet. Muslims would like very much to implement these norms within their societies.
When you come to speak about things like behavioral norms, gender relationships, or the kind of things that people will do, this is a separate issue. And there is another aspect of the West, and that is the attitude of the West towards the non-Western countries, in terms of trying to be presumptuous in telling them how they should even live their lives in ways that they are not accustomed to -- like modes of dress, for instance. In the 1930s, when the first shah of Iran forced his soldiers at bayonet point to force Iranian women to take off the chador, for instance.
People don't like to be told how to dress. This is a matter of personal individual conscience. Even we here in the West do not insist that our students in public schools wear uniforms. We give them that level of freedom. People do not like to be told how to do certain things in their personal lives.

What are the key differences between being a Muslim in America and being a Muslim in the Muslim world?
There are many aspects to that. There is the political aspect, the sociological aspect, the social and family aspect, the economic aspect. So there are many aspects to the to the difference between living in a Muslim country as a native especially, and living in this country. ...
If I were to look at maybe the broadest difference: there is a sense of freedom in the United States. So one practices one's faith in the United States as an act of deliberate choice. If you are not [doing so, it's] not so much because of social pressure. There may be a certain amount of social pressure. But at a certain point in one's life, one is relatively free to live one's life as one chooses in this country.
And that sense of freedom makes one's religiosity or the defining lines of one's religiosity much sharper. Religion is a much more personal thing here. It is also a deeper experience within the personal envelope. One is forced to attach oneself to one's religion in a personally deeper way in terms of the existential issues -- it has to be anchored on a much deeper existential foundation.
Another aspect about living in the United States is that one experiences a lot of negative media attention to one's Islamicity. And that has resulted, and can result in a reaction one way or the other by many people. Many Muslims feel in this country like the Christians did in Rome when they were fed to the lions. And here the lions are the media. We hope that perhaps things will change in the United States, as they did in Rome, as well.
Source : Frontline : Muslims

No comments: