Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
If you are a Muslim and are reading this article, you were probably surprised or even appalled and shocked by the title and you want to forcefully tell me that you like and prefer cars, especially the newer and the trendy models.
When it comes to cars, cell phones, computers and other technology, we all understand that we have to submit to the scientific revolution in the West and look towards them or the manufacturing they have kick started in Japan, Korea and China.
But, when it comes to political and legal systems, most Muslims in many of the Muslim majority countries, want to lean towards Sharia Law, without even precisely defining what they mean by Sharia Law.
They may realize that they need foreign cars, phones, televisions, medicines even simple things like needles, but, when it comes to running the country and its laws, they seem to know and seem to have no reliance on others. They believe that Sharia Law is the magical wand they need in the legal and the political sphere!
A recent Pew Research Center survey of more than 38,000 Muslims around the world, in 2012 and 2013, in the 39 countries and territories surveyed, gave very revealing information.
In South Asia, high percentages in all the countries surveyed support making sharia the official law, including nearly universal support among Muslims in Afghanistan (99%). More than eight-in-ten Muslims in Pakistan (84%) and Bangladesh (82%) also hold this view. The percentage of Muslims who say they favor making Islamic law the official law in their country is nearly as high across the Southeast Asian countries surveyed (86% in Malaysia, 77% in Thailand and 72% in Indonesia).
They want windows operating system, by Microsoft, even if plagiarized, to work on their computers, but, could not care less that there are also more than 200 Law Schools in USA and what they teach. They do not care for the countless libraries that are filled with legal debates in the Western countries.
They want to benefit from the scientific revolution over the last few centuries in Europe and USA, but, could not care less for what political and legal debates have taken place in the Western world in the last few centuries.
When it comes to law, politics and economics, majority of the Muslims unknowingly want to revert back to the seventh century Arabia and completely ignore all the human learning, experience, struggle and scholarship since, as if that did not happen.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, advised the Muslims, “A word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim. He should seize it wherever he finds it,” (Tirmizi), but, when it comes to political, judicial and economic progress in the West, the Muslims have no predisposition to study it and benefit from it. Often they do not want to even acknowledge that there may be something worth while in the centuries of struggle and debate in the West.
Let us look at a graph of different countries and their blind love for the Sharia:
In sub-Saharan Africa, at least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they favor making sharia the official law of the land, including more than seven-in-ten in Niger (86%), Djibouti (82%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (74%) and Nigeria (71%).
Support for sharia as the official law of the land also is widespread among Muslims in the Middle East-North Africa region – especially in Iraq (91%) and the Palestinian territories (89%). Only in Lebanon does opinion lean in the opposite direction: 29% of Lebanese Muslims favor making sharia the law of the land, while 66% oppose it.
Support for making sharia the official legal code of the country is relatively weak across Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe, countries or regions, which have been under the influence of Europe or communist USSR. Fewer than half of Muslims in all the countries surveyed in these regions favor making sharia their country’s official law. Support for sharia as the law of the land is greatest in Russia (42%); respondents in Russia were asked if sharia should be made the official law in the country’s ethnic-Muslim republics. Elsewhere in Central Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe, about one-in-three or fewer say sharia should be made the law of the land, including just 10% in Kazakhstan and 8% in Azerbaijan.
I am not here to condemn the Sharia Law. There are beautiful guiding principles in the Sharia, for all spheres of life and many of the Western laws may have been borrowed from the Muslim tradition, but, understanding of Sharia Laws has not seen the evolutionary process under the scrutiny of human reason that the Western laws have gone through, in the last few centuries. Over the years, I have collected some materials about Islam’s contributions to the Western law and here I link a few examples, to ensure that I am presenting a fair and balanced record to the readers:
So, when the Muslims insist on Sharia Law and show disdain against the Western learning in the fields of law, political science and economics, it is as if they prefer camels over modern cars.
Their unbridled love for every thing that goes under the label of ‘Sharia Law’ is not coming from any deeper level of understanding, but, merely blind religious zeal. The Pew Forum survey also highlighted this fact:
The level of religious commitment makes a big difference in attitudes about the implementation of sharia. Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely than those who pray less frequently to favor Islamic law as the official law of the land. The difference is particularly large in Russia (+37 percentage points), Lebanon (+28), the Palestinian territories (+27), Tunisia (+25) and Kyrgyzstan (+24).
Many Muslims in their zeal for the Sharia Law, completely forget the religious freedom of the non-Muslims and for that matter for the Muslims themselves, is so frequently mentioned in the Holy Quran.
The belief that sharia should extend to non-Muslims is most widespread in the Middle East and North Africa, where at least four-in-ten Muslims in all countries except Iraq (38%) and Morocco (29%) hold this opinion. Egyptian Muslims (74%) are the most likely to say it should apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, while 58% in Jordan hold this view.
By contrast, Muslims in Southern and Eastern Europe who favor making sharia the official law of the land are among the least likely to say it should apply to all citizens in their country. Across the nations surveyed in the region, fewer than a third take this view. This includes 22% of Russian Muslims (who were asked about the applying sharia in their country’s ethnic Muslim republics).
The picture below highlights the breakdown of the Muslims in different countries on the issue of non-Muslims:
How can you be for Sharia and against religious freedom of others?
Muslim masses could know better, if the Muslim religious scholars and leaders were to give them better information. Most of us can remember the idiom, to a hammer every thing looks like a nail, when the religious leaders read the Quran and early Muslim history, they realize that there may a political recipe, a panacea to make them the political elite. They then very quickly white wash their true intentions with grandiose ideas of service to religion and service to humanity and lead the Muslim masses into their schizophrenic love with the Sharia Law. A few misinterpretation of a few verses of the Holy Quran by the leaders and we have the masses crying for Sharia, sometimes even in Europe, as if they prefer camels over the modern cars.
Growing up in Pakistan, I recall that all the opposition parties, nine of them all together, in late seventies, had started an agitation against a popular Prime Minister, Zulifqar Ali Bhutto, probably with Western financing, but, they were all demanding Sharia Law. This included all the left leaning political parties also, who had nothing to do with Sharia Law before or since. Once the Western money stopped flowing, after General Zia ul Haq took over power, the left leaning politicians’ zeal for Sharia Law quickly dissipated.
General Zia ul Haq also used Sharia Law to justify his dictatorship and introduced Blasphemy laws, which are still menacing the country. He actually raised the bar, by having the audacity to conduct a referendum on Islam. If you liked Islam and voted yes in the referendum, it implied a green signal for the rule of Zia ul Haq, without his name appearing any where on the ballot.
Similar stories have been repeated in almost every Muslim majority country, but, the love affair of the masses with the Sharia knows no abating, after all they love the religion of Islam and do not want to give it up in their personal lives and their relationship with God and become an easy target for political exploitation.
Until the Muslim masses are better educated about the benefits of enlightened political, legal and economic systems and how they relate with what was practiced as Sharia Law in medieval ages and in Mughal and Ottoman Empire, they will always have the propensity to go back to Sharia Law, as there are short sighted Muslim scholars or actual religious charlatans, leading the masses towards a nostalgic journey to seventh century Arabia, under the label of Sharia Law, the Quran and the Sunnah.
Until the Muslim masses are educated better they will continue to prefer camels over modern cars.