In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Ever Merciful
We invoke Praise and Salutations upon the Noble Prophet (sa);
And upon his servant, the Promised Messiah (as)
With the Grace and Mercy of God
He is the Helper
O Allah! Grant us divine help with the Holy Spirit! For it is in Thy Name that we stand in the field of battle in defense of Islam, which is the Last and Perfect Law, and in defense of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), who is the Master and Chief of both worlds. O Our Lord! Grant us a manifest victory over our opponents even though we are weak and without knowledge. For if you do not help us on this day and if You do not turn the hearts of the people towards our speech, the name of Islam will be dishonored, and your indignation can never accept such a thing. If you do not make us victors in this debate of Islam and godlessness, the selection of our Beloved Khalifah (aba) who has appointed us to this task shall also come into question, and the indignation of Your Pure and Holy Being can never accept such a thing. O Our Lord! Help us not for our sake, but for the sake of those pure and holy names which You love. O Allah! Be our Protector and our Guide. Grant us knowledge and wisdom from Thyself and open our hearts and tongues so that they might flow of divine wisdom and silence the opposition in a manner they have never experienced before. Ameen Allahumma Ameen!
by Ayyaz Khan, Jamia UK
Ladies and Gentlemen, May the Peace and Blessings of God be upon you all! Today I will
speak against the motion that Shari’ah law negates human rights. However, before I begin, I have some very good news for human rights activists throughout the world and in particular for Maryam and Anne-Marrie. My dear friends, all these years, what you have understood to be Shari’ah law has no relationship whatsoever with the religion of Islam or Shari’ah. Indeed, the Shari’ah law as is presented by Maryam, Anne-Marrie and others like them is not Shari’ah law at all. In fact, Shari’ah law does not promote human rights injustices or misogyny, rather, it stands to protect the weaker segments of society and like a solid fortress, has been erected to shield humanity from the swords and spears of injustice.
There is no doubt that Shari’ah has been and still is being used throughout the world in “so called” Muslim states to perpetrate grave injustices against society. But I would like to clarify right from the outset that the actions of Iran or Afghanistan, for example, cannot be attributed to Islam or Shari’ah. Moreover, the statements and verdicts of the Islamic Shari’ah Council and other Judges and Imams, which are often quoted by Maryam and Anne-Marrie, and upon which they primarily base their arguments against Shari’ah, are not an authentic representation of Islam or a fundamental source by which the Shari’ah can be analysed and judged, especially when no such teachings are found in the original scripture to that effect.
Contrary to the commonly held belief and as Maryam stated in a recent debate at the House of Commons, Islamic Jurisprudence is not an authentic source either, because there are many different schools of thought, all of which interpret the Holy Qur’an, Sunnah and Ahadith differently. Therefore, when Maryam and Anne-Marrie speak of Shari’ah law, which Shari’ah law are they actually referring to? The Shari’ah law of the Hanafis, or the Shafa’is, the Hanbalis, or the Ithna ‘Asharis? Hence, when there are so many varying schools of thought, all of which propose their own interpretations, how do we truly determine the essence of Shari’ah?
Shari’ah law is primarily based on the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an is not only a holy
scripture which teaches humankind how to develop a living relationship with God, but it is a way of life, it is a code of conduct, it works towards nurturing and cultivating a society of peace and harmony, irrespective of religion and race. This is because it contains a universal teaching which is based on principles of human rights by which all people, irrespective of their persuasions can live together as one global society and one family – known as the family of humanity. Therefore, those fundamental principles of human rights as taught in the Holy Qur’an, are but another name for Shari’ah law. Then comes the Sunnah (practice of the Holy Prophet (sa) and then the Ahadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa)). As such, these are the three sources by which a person may judge the Islamic Shari’ah.
Anything beyond this does not hold any value. Because, if tomorrow, someone stands up in the name of Islam and says that Islam promotes genocide, does this automatically mean Islam actually teaches this? Of course not! Therefore, Maryam and Anne-Marrie owe Islam at least this much courtesy that before they pass a statement on Islam, they should closely study these three sources and not base their arguments on the actions of so-called Muslim states or judges of Shari’ah councils, and Imams, which unfortunately, attribute absolutely false concepts to the Holy Qur’an. Indeed, before launching an entire human rights campaign against the Shari’ah and asserting that Islam promotes misogyny, I trust that the academic integrity of people like Maryam and AnneMarrie, compels them to at least first study the Holy Qur’an from beginning to end. For if they had truly studied the Holy Qur’an in its entirety, they would have surely discovered that all of the objections they level against the Shari’ah are no where to be found in the Holy Qur’an.
The Holy Qur’an is replete of injunctions which promote human rights. It promotes human values and affords humankind dignity and honour which the west only recently gave to its citizens.
It is ironic that Maryam and Anne-Marrie refer to Islam as a misogynistic religion, but Islam afforded such rights to women 14 centuries ago, which the west has only granted in the last century or two. So let’s get our perspective straight right from the outset.
Response to Common Allegations
Now, Maryam and Anne-Marrie often present various examples of human rights violations
apparently condoned by the Shari’ah which I would like to briefly take up here.
Firstly it is alleged that the Shari’ah promotes stoning to death for apostasy, blasphemy and adultery, and the public hanging of homosexuals. This is a complete misstatement of the facts. There is not a single verse in the Holy Qur’an where the punishment of stoning has been prescribed for any crime whatsoever. Nor is such a punishment prescribed for homosexuals either.
With relation to a woman’s testimony being half. Once again, absolutely false. I challenge Maryam and Anne-Marrie to find me a single verse which states that “A woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s.” Rather, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that a woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man in chapter 24 of the Holy Qur’an. Now specifically regarding chapter 2 verse 283, which is misconstrued to imply this false notion. If Maryam and Anne-Marrie had read the Holy Qur’an fully they would know that only in matters of finance, if two men cannot be found as witnesses, it states that one man and two women should be called upon, so that “if” the first forgets the other may remind her. Now the statement, “If the first forgets the other may remind her” is a conditional clause. This verse does not command that two women must testify in order for the testimony to be accepted. So if the first woman does not forget, then the second part of the clause automatically ceases in its application and the second woman’s testimony is not required. This verse does not state that the first woman “will” forget because her memory is deficient or because “A woman’s character is not so good when concentration and attention is required,” as the Islamic Shari’ah Council unfortunately states (and this is one of Maryam’s favorite quotes by the way).
Rather, many women are far more capable then men! This provision to women is “only” in matters of finance, nothing else. The reason being that in the past, women were not involved in financial matters; and anyone, be it man or woman, if required to recall intricate details in an area which they are not too familiar with can easily forget. Only recently did women begin to play an active role in this area. Now, Anne-Marrie asserts that in family law a woman’s testimony is worth half. Absolutely incorrect. There is a clear example in the Ahadith where the Holy Prophet (sa) accepted, without question, the sole testimony of a single lady in an issue specifically relating to family law.
Then, at another occasion, the Holy Prophet (sa) had a man punished for raping a poor woman in Madinah, merely on the basis of the victim’s sole testimony. This Hadith also clarifies the issue often presented in the media that rape victims are forced to prison in so-called Muslim states and then compelled to marry the offenders. This is absolute ignorance, barbarity and injustice, and has nothing to do with the religion of Islam or the Holy Prophet (sa).
Then it is alleged that the Shari’ah allows forced marriages. Once again, wrong! The Holy Qur’an clearly states, “O Ye who believe it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will.” (4:20) Moreover, there is a Hadith which states that the consent of the bride is absolutely necessary in the case of marriage. At one occasion when a girl was forced into marriage by her father, the Holy Prophet (sa) issued a separation order as per the wish of the girl.
Then it is alleged that the Shari’ah permits men to unilaterally divorce their wives but women have to ask permission from their husbands and beg an Imam for their freedom or present justifications which are often hard to prove. Yet again, absolutely false. Once a lady came to the Holy Prophet (sa) and said that she would like a divorce merely because she did not feel inclined to her husband, and the Holy Prophet (sa) immediately issued a verdict of separation. Who says that a woman has to beg an Imam? Who says, she must provide justifications? The mere fact that she desires a separation is enough! This is her right in Islam! In the U.K., women were not permitted to divorce until the 1800s and even then in extremely limited circumstances.
Now comes the issue of a woman’s inheritance. It is asserted that in Shari’ah law, a woman receives half the share of inheritance as compared to men. Before I answer this, I ask when was it that women in the west were permitted to inherit wealth at all? Islam endowed this right to women 14 centuries ago, light-years ahead of any modern law. Islam permitted women to own property and inherit wealth at a time when women themselves were inherited by men violently against their will. And today, “modern” thinkers raise objections against Islam and the Shari’ah without giving it a second thought. What a grave injustice indeed. The reason men receive a double share is because they are legally made responsible by the Holy Qur’an to provide for the women and children. The wife receives a dowery from the husband, which she has the right to spend solely on herself. She can work and choose not to spend a penny on the family. She might have a bank balance of millions of pounds, but the husband has no right in Islam to demand that she spend that wealth on family maintenance. This responsibility is solely placed on the shoulders of men. Therefore, man’s share of inheritance is not greater than women due to discrimination. It is greater due to the proportionally greater financial responsibility placed on men by the Shari’ah. The husband receives an extra portion of inheritance, but even of that, the wife ultimately shares this portion, because the husband is obliged to spend that wealth on his wife and children. So, I now ask – is this a law which discriminates against women? Or is it a law which guarantees the financial stability ofwomen first and then men!
Then, it is alleged that Islam does not permit women to acquire an education. Once again, false! In the Holy Qur’an, where God teaches humankind to pray for an increase in their knowledge, no distinction has been made between man and woman. Perhaps Maryam and Anne-Marrie overlooked the Hadith that “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslimman and Muslim woman.” It seems they also missed that Hadith where the Holy Prophet (sa) said that Muslims should learn half their faith from his wife ‘A’ishah. So not only does Islam promote education for women, it promotes that they should actively teach it to others.
Then, it is falsely asserted that the Holy Qur’an legalizes domestic violence. How very wrong indeed! No where in the Holy Qur’an has God taught that men should abuse their wives. Quite the contrary, the Holy Qur’an states, “Cohabit with your wives in kindness.” (4:20) Then God states, “Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:188) Just as garments protect us and cover our weaknesses, so too should a husband and wife protect each other. Then, the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “The best of you are the ones who treat their wives best. And I am the best in the treatment of my wives” (Tirmidhi) and he never once raised a finger against his wives all his life, and would say, “Do not beat your wives, nor revile them.” (Abu Dawud) Then he said, “Women are like glass so handle them softly and delicately.”
Then it is alleged that Islam allows marital rape and that a husband automatically receives child custody irrespective of the child’s well-being. This is also absolute false, and has no basis in Islamic sources.
So my friends, Shariah law is not at all misogynistic or barbaric. I have presented examples from the authentic sources of Islam which establish that the objections which have been attributed to Islam by Maryam and Anne-Marrie are incorrect. However, the question which naturally comes to mind is that in light of these clear-cut facts, why have these objections been raised by our friends? Is it a blatant misstatement of facts or perhaps a lack of study? As Islam teaches, I give them the benefit of the doubt – perhaps they just didn’t know. And like I mentioned earlier, please do not quote the Shari’ah Council or refer to acts of barbarity in Iran, because as I have elaborated, this is no source by which to judge Islam.
Why Just Highlight Shari’ah Law
However, let’s put Shari’ah law to one side for a moment. I have often heard the argument
that even if Shari’ah law is being misused, the fact remains that ultimately, Shari’ah law is a means by which human rights atrocities are being committed, therefore it should be done away with. However, this logic is flawed because secular laws have been equally misused in the past. Two of the most destructive wars in the history of humankind were geo-political wars, not religious, i.e., World War 1 and 2, with over 15 million and 60 million deaths. Then, China and the USSR which were two famous atheist states of that time continued mass brutality and persecution with over 50 million deaths. Maryam states that even in the 21st century stonings take place in Muslim states, but my dear friends, we have torture camps in the 21st century which are operated by democratic states.
Therefore, is it fair to state that atheism and democracy promotes mass brutality and torture? Of course not! Just how this cannot be a representation of democratic values or atheism, so too the unjust actions of Muslim states cannot be a true representation of Shari’ah. So any system, be it religious or non-religious can be used to perpetrate atrocities. If a drunk driver crashes a car into a person and kills him, the driver is held responsible, not the vehicle.
But who says that Islam is not compatible with liberal democracy and pluralist societies?
The fact is that an Islamic government is actually a secular government. The reason being that secularism is founded on the basis of absolute justice, which is enjoyed by all peoples irrespective of background or faith and where religion is separate from the state. This is exactly what the Holy Qur’an teaches as well. It states, “There is no compulsion in religion.” If Islam permitted for religious law to be imposed by force, this would be an injustice upon those non-Muslims who do not believe in the Islamic law, or even upon Muslims of different sects who do not wish to follow this law. This is why, when the Holy Prophet (sa) was unanimously elected the political leader of Madinah (a society comprising of Jews, Muslims and pagans) he would always ask whether the disputant parties would like to be judged according to the law of Islam, the law of the Torah, or
merely by arbitration. This my friends, is the pinnacle of absolute justice, where history shows that a Jew could file a complaint against a Muslim, and justice would be served by the Holy Prophet (sa).
There seems to be a fear that criminal law can be imposed by force. For example, regarding punishments for stealing, etc? These are generally matters of legislation that the state has a right to control. Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the 4th Successor of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community states that, “Religion does not need to be the predominant legislative authority in the political affairs of a state.” And he aptly points out that if this were permitted, then all religions would have the right to impose their religious laws on non-believers, which is against principles of absolute justice. By the Grace of God, we have a wonderful legal system in place in the U.K., founded on principles of justice. This country has become a safe-haven for people of all faiths. Why would we need to change a perfectly just legal system? As I have already mentioned, and I repeat again, any secular law, including the UK, founded on principles of absolute justice are but another name for Shari’ah law. And it is precisely for this reason that in a true Islamic state, every single citizen, irrespective of religion is equally deserving of human rights and social support, with even a non-Muslim elected as Head of State!
In the end, I would like to say that many might think that the Islam I have presented today is
different than what seems to be prevalent throughout the world. I have presented today that picture of Islam taught by the Founder of the Ahmdiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as). This is not a new Islam, but the very same Islam which was brought by the Prophet Muhammad (sa), 14 centuries ago, who was a valiant General of Human Rights. If we wish to change the world for the better we must join together to defend the world from those people who are responsible for destroying the peace. Raising vile objections against a religion, which is being hijacked, and drawing cartoons which hurt the sensitivities of billions will not do the world any good in establishing peace. It will only increase tensions and create gaps between different people.
Today, the world needs bridges not gaps. It needs the good people of the world to unite to defend the world from a common enemy – the enemy of injustice, inequity, misunderstanding and intolerance. It is this human rights campaign which we invite you to join us in – this is true Islam.
May God richly bless you all!
Source: Debate at UCL, Against the Motion that Shari’ah Law Negates Human Rights 8th December 2011