By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
After my training of six years to be a physician, as a lung and critical care specialist, I needed to serve in a small village in an under privileged area, to become a naturalized resident in USA. Five years later, when I became eligible for USA citizenship, it was no small achievement, in my view, though insignificant it may appear in retrospect, now.
There is no denying that a lot of effort, planning and dreaming had gone into it.
About a million people become citizens of USA every year. The day I and my wife became USA citizens, in 2000, we took an oath:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Now, as good Muslims, are we supposed to forget it, ignore it, trivialize it or honor it as a binding promise and contract?
May be we should ignore it, as USA is not a Muslim majority country and at times we do not agree with the foreign policy of USA? But, did we think about it, when we so anxiously took the oath of allegiance and celebrated it as a life time achievement? Of course not!
I look at the peace and justice the country is providing me and my family. My three sons were born in USA, before I and my wife became citizens and so they became citizens before us, a privilege that would have been denied to us in many of the so called Muslim countries.
Being in USA, gives me the freedom to express myself, in writing, in blogs and in Twitter, even if I am critical of Christianity or USA’s foreign policy.
The same cannot be said for the country of my birth, where as an Ahmadi, if I say Salam, the Muslim greeting to anyone in public, I could be put in jail for three years, according to a draconian law in Pakistan, the notorious Ordinance XX of 1984.[i]
So, do I want “Shariah” or the Constitution of USA?
The answer is ridiculously obvious.
I have to honor my oath of allegiance. It is not only my moral duty, but also a religious one. The Holy Quran reminds me in several places to honor my promises and pledges and I quote four here:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West, but truly righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and spends his money for love of Him, on the kindred and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and those who ask for charity, and for ransoming the captives; and who observes Prayer and pays the Zakat; and those who fulfill their promise when they have made one. (Al Quran 2:178)
And be not like unto her who, after having made it strong, breaks her yarn into pieces. You make your oaths a means of deceit between you, for fear lest one people become more powerful than another. Surely, Allah tries you therewith, and on the Day of Resurrection He will make clear to you that wherein you differed. (Al Quran 16:93)
Relate the story of Ishmael as mentioned in the Book. He was indeed strict in keeping his promise. And he was a Messenger, a Prophet. (Al Quran 19:55)
Surely, success does come to the believers, Who are humble in their Prayers, And who shun all that which is vain, … And who are watchful of their trusts and their covenants. (Al Quran 23:2-9)
So, keeping my promises is my Shariah, my religion. Additionally, there is a well known Hadith, “Love of your country (patriotism) is a part of your faith.”
I joined Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, when I was in my medical school, in King Edward Medical College, in 1984. Many of my close relatives are still Sunni Muslims and when some of the zealot Sunni Muslims aspire for Shariah Law in one or the other Muslim country, I know, where they are coming from.
The zealot Muslims suggest that the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was the political leader in Madinah and therefore they want to pursue Shariah Law in their respective countries.
But, they conveniently forget that he ruled according to the Covenant of Madinah, rather than Shariah, among the different groups in Madinah.
They also conveniently forget that he did not prescribe a political system and each of the four righteous Khulafa, after him, came to office, through some what different procedures.
They also forget that unlike the Holy Quran, God did not choose to preserve the “Muslim political system” and it soon degenerated into kingship.
They also conveniently forget that the Holy Quran does not prescribe a political system or a theocracy, but, it does high light principles of religious freedom, justice, and consultation with those who are ruled. These and additional core principles should go into the development of any political system, which fulfills the need of the time.
The Holy Quran tells us:
There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al Quran 2:257)
Indeed, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Al Quran 4:59)
O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Al Quran 5:9)
And those who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what We have provided for them. (Al Quran 42:39)
The zealots conveniently forget that the Prophet himself said to acquire knowledge, even if one has to go to China.
So, we have no choice, but to benefit from the human experiences, in the sphere of political science, both in the Muslim and the non-Muslim world.
Just like science has progressed in the last 1400 years, so has the understanding of political, judicial and financial systems. As the Muslims cannot afford to throw away science and technology, all the other human learning of the last 1400 years cannot be thrown away in a zeal to pursue “Islam.”
The Holy Quran is certainly the literal word of God and the Holy Prophet is certainly the last Law bringing Prophet.
But, we have to understand and interpret their teachings in the present day context and not in the context of seventh century Arabia.
We now live in a Global village with its varied considerations.
In this day and age the Quranic perspective and the judgment of the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad is that Separation of Mosque-Church and State, is the only recipe for peace and security.[ii] [iii] This is wisdom and Islam, rest is being penny wise and pound foolish or living in fool’s paradise.
I do not like the foreign policy of USA, when it, at times, kills innocent people in drone attacks and labels it as collateral damage. Lately, France, Germany and Spain are unhappy with USA as it was spying on phone communications in Europe. In other words my country, USA is no angel.
But, when I look at the foreign policy of other countries, I find that there is no utopia and the world is not black and white. When I look at Saudi Arabia, I find the rule by one royal family, completely defies the egalitarian principles of Islam. I look at their foreign policy and I am dismayed by their recent role in Syria. I do not approve of discriminatory practices of West Pakistan against East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
I do not approve that USA does not allow polygamy, while same sex marriage is allowed. There are countless single mothers and millions of fatherless children, with numerous psychological setbacks for these children, as a result of broken homes. They could certainly benefit from a father figure in their homes.
Islam is a religion of middle course. I do not have to take extreme positions of being “for,” America or “against,” America. I can have a more nuanced position, a middle course. I can be patriotic, serve my fellow citizens in my profession and otherwise and where I think my country has gone on a wrong track, to work through the civic process to gradually rectify the wrong. Slavery was not abolished in USA, for several decades after the Declaration of Independence, despite the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”
Nevertheless, we have seen, “gradual perfection of our union,” to borrow words from President Barack Obama and now race relations have tremendously improved in USA.
I recently happened to read the preamble of constitution of Ireland; it starts off with the following lines:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ,
Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation.
Now, if Trinity is strange, as all the Jews, Muslims, Unitarian Christians, Jehovah Witnesses and agnostics and atheists think, then Ireland has certainly started on the wrong foot.
The Constitution of USA does not commit any such folly. It may not be perfect, but, I think it is the best among the constitutions in vogue in the world and it has 225 years of successfully history behind it.
So, I have a framed copy of the Constitution hanging in my medical office and that is the only wall hanging in my office, for the last twelve years. Let me also share another content of my office. I always have a copy of the Holy Quran on one of my desks, in my office, with English translation by Sir Zafrulla Khan.
Utopia is not possible. We cannot have a perfect world or a perfect country. But, I find USA to be the best country to live in. So, I continue to be patriotic and love my country and will continue to honor my oath of allegiance.