What does the term ‘sharia’ mean for Muslims in Switzerland?

In the course of debates on Islam in Switzerland a lot of ‘semi-knowledge’ circulates in Switzerland. That is why the Imam of the Mahmud Mosque invited to clarify.


by Manual Risi

When one speaks about Islam in Switzerland the discussion about Sharia always creates heated debates. During the ‘minaret initiative’, which was approved by the Swiss electorate in 2009, the term ‘sharia’ was utilized by the right wing political scene to fire their campagne.

The term was used equaly for the discrimination of women and the draconic punishments on any breach of ‘sharia’ laws. Again and again our attention was drawn to a slow and steady undermining of Swiss laws by the sharia.

In order to clear matters, Imam Sadaqat Ahmad of the Mahmud Mosque in Zurich invited last Thursday for an information evening. Unter the title “Sharia and the laws of the land, is that possible?” the Imam held a lecture to explain to all those interested what sharia really means and how far these laws could be in conflict with the Swiss constitution.

Reformed Islam

As in the Christian faith also in Islam there are different streams. According to the groups the Koran is being interpreted differently. The Ahmadiyya Movement, to which the Mahmud Mosque in Zurich belongs, represents a reformed Islam. This stream was founded in 1889 by the Sunni Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in North India. Because of their liberal views the Ahmadiyyas do not have an easy task. In Pakistan for instance they are even prohibited to call themselves Muslims, because the Government there follows a fundamentalistic Islam, Imam Sadaqat Ahmad explained.

According to the Ahmadiyya Movement they are the only ones who interpret the Koran correctly. “It is written in the Koran that the humans will forget the real meaning of Islam. They will call themselves Muslims, but will not act accordingly” explained Ahmad. In this time the Mahdi, the Messiah would appear in this world to guide the Muslims to the right path. While other Islamic schools are still waiting for the Mahdi for the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement he has already appeared in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

“The Sharia is a basis for a peaceful society, but as the term has now received a ‘bad name’ some explanation is needed,” Mr. Ahmad started his explanations.

“Sharia” in Arabic means “the path”. It is an Islamic term which should guide the humans to their aim. “This aim is to worship Allah and to live according to His commandments”. In the Sharia basic elements of behavior are described, such as the prohibition of lies and of force. Ahmad does not deny that the Sharia also contains severe punishment. “These punishments are mentioned to encourage the population to refrain from wrongdoing”. In Switzerland however such punishments are not applicable, as Switzerland has its own laws.

Sadaqat Ahmad does not see any contradiction between sharia and the Swiss Constitution. According to the interpretation of the Ahmadiyya Movement it is the law of the land which has priority. “According to the Koran one has to accept the laws in the land where one resides.” In our case this is the Swiss Constitution. It was not at all an aim of Muslims here to undermine the locally valid laws and Constitution.

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