Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The Supreme Court of USA during the time of President Obama made several decisions in favor of the Muslims, showing to the world that scales of justice are blind and don’t tilt towards the religion of the majority. But, within two years of election of President Trump, with his nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch and changing political climate, we have seen the court moving away from the highest standards of justice and all of us read headlines like Trump’s Travel Ban Is Upheld by Supreme Court – The New York Times and U.S. top court upholds Trump travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations.
If the Supreme Court of USA, comprising of nine Justices, who have life time appointment, no pressing financial worries, no higher status they can achieve and they have never been involved in bribery scandals, cannot always deliver justice, who can?
Does the Quran prescribe, how to set up a better court and a better set of Justices?
The Quran has given us ever lasting principles of justice. Let us take the example of sanctity of life. The holy Quran prescribed infinite value of each and every human life and mentioned that it is not a new observation, rather has been the case since the time of the Prophet Adam, Moses and all the Jewish prophets. The Quran says:
We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had triggered a genocide; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. (Al Quran 5:32/33)
Having described the sanctity of life the Quran goes on to prescribe the principles to enforce this in a society:
O ye who believe! equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you: the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one is granted any remission by one’s brother, then pursuing the matter for the realization of the blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handsome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. And whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment.
And there is life for you in the law of retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may enjoy security. (Al Quran 2:178-179/179-180)
And kill not the soul which Allah has forbidden save for just cause. And whoso is killed wrongfully, We have surely given his heir authority to demand retaliation, but let him not exceed the prescribed bounds in slaying; for therein he is helped by law. (Al Quran 17:33/34)
Proportionate punishment was prescribed in the Torah and quoted in the Quran:
And in Torah, We prescribed for them: A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and for other injuries equitable retaliation. And whoso waives the right thereto, it shall be an expiation for his sins; and whoso judges not by what Allah has sent down, these it is who are wrongdoers. (Al Quran 5:45/46)
The Quran did not believe in retaliation for the sake of retaliation, rather to set up a system of checks and balances and to cause reformation in the guilty. The Quran states:
And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers. (Al Quran 42:40/41)
The above principles have been almost universally recognized in each and every country of the world, regardless of religion today, 1400 years after the revelation of the Quran, except in the case of war. The humanity is still struggling with the concept of “Just War” and how to best implement the above principles.
Did the Quran prescribe, how to set up courts or judges, who would successfully deliver justice based on these principles?
I am afraid not!
The Quran did not say what kind of judicial system would be closest to upholding the above principles. Would it be something like the constitution of USA or what ever has been set under the theocracies of Saudi Arabia or Iran? The Quran is silent. The Quran, however, did say that Islam is a religion most true to human psychology and basic human nature and human conscience.
Pew Research Center in a recent poll found the varying support for the ‘Shariah Law’ in different Muslim majority countries.
Shariah Law or sharia is different things for different people. For the Islamophobes, it is bogeyman for fear mongering, to stir up support for the right wing agendas in the Western countries. For the religious parties in the Muslim majority countries it is get the vote out slogan, by appealing to the religious sentiments. For the Mullahs it is a tool to gain political influence and maintain their street power by controlling the mobs. For the average Muslim, who is religious in personal life but naive about the ways of politics and governance, it is an amorphous concept that is never well defined. It is perhaps his or her desire for utopia, for a better world with greater justice, prosperity and happiness. It is a dream like in America what has been described by the political leaders in their stump speeches as the “American Dream!”
According to a detailed survey of the Muslim populations by the Pew Research Center:
Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center. But many supporters of sharia say it should apply only to their country’s Muslim population.
Moreover, Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia: While most favor using religious law in family and property disputes, fewer support the application of severe punishments – such as whippings or cutting off hands – in criminal cases. The survey also shows that Muslims differ widely in how they interpret certain aspects of sharia, including whether divorce and family planning are morally acceptable.
Support for making sharia the official law of the land varies significantly across the six major regions included in the study. This in itself is proof enough that Shariah Law is not fundamental to Islam or a necessary part of faith or religion for the Muslims. The wide range of support for it in different countries from 8% to 99% shows it is not like 5 daily prayers for all Muslims or fasting in the month of Ramadan where one will find shared ideas among all Muslims all over the world. Shariah Law perhaps is a socio-cultural construct evoking different ideas and feelings among the masses of specific countries based on their history and life experiences.
In countries across South Asia, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region most favor making Sharia Law their country’s official legal code. By contrast, only a minority of Muslims across Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe want sharia to be the official law of the land.
If by ‘Shariah Law’ the Muslims mean upholding the principles of justice, discussed above then I am all for it. But, if by ‘Shariah Law,’ they mean some archaic set of laws or any specific political or justice system that is autocratic or theocratic, without transparency, openness to reason and logic and without checks and balances then I beg to differ.
There is no judicial system prescribed in the holy Quran. We will need to learn from all the systems all over the world and keep changing as the societies and circumstances change.
The holy Quran is the final guidance and a great blessing for all of humanity from God Almighty, Who is also All Knowing. He wants to guide us but not box us into fixed systems that become counter productive over time. So, He has left it to our wisdom to device judicial and political systems to best ensure the guiding principles that He has provided for our prosperity, survival and salvation.
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