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How divine are Shariah laws?


By Mozammel H. Khan writes from Toronto

Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convener of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.



On September 11, 2005, the Premier of Ontario, Canada's largest province, emphatically declared: "Ontario will reject the use of Shariah law and will move to prohibit all religious-based tribunals to settle family disputes such as divorce." Shariah Court in Toronto, Canada, was the first legal one in Western soil because of political Islam's global ploy that the West was unaware of. His announcement came after hundreds of demonstrators around the world protested a proposal to let Ontario residents use Islamic law for settling family disputes.

In fact, the fight between the proponents and opponents of the introduction of Shariah law in Ontario, Canada, has been going on since 2003 when a group of Islamic clerics led by a Pakistani-born lawyer who set up a so-called "Darul Kada" (House of Justice) in Ontario and subsequently appealed to the Ontario government to give Darul Kada the arbitration power to settle the disputed among the Muslims. The word Shariah means "the path to a watering hole." To its proponents it denotes an Islamic way of life.


It is indeed a matter of great pride for the secularist Bangladeshi Muslims that the theological fight against the introduction of Shariah law was largely led by the Muslim Canadian Congress with its Director of Shariah Law, a Bangladesh born scholar, who

conducted extensive research to portray, to the Muslims and non-Muslims alike, around the globe that very little of what is termed as Shariah is divine order. The name of this humble man is Hasan Mahmud who resides in the outskirts of Toronto.


Hasan Mahmud participated in scores of global TV and radio debates and international conferences, the most recent of which was conducted over the phones by the  Voice of America on January 18 against  Jamaaat-e-Islami's Assistant Secretary General Mr.

Kamruzzaman, scoring important points over his opponents who are bent on introducing Shariah law, in any society they rule or reside.


His numerous citations from the authentic documents Manu scripted by learned Islamic theologians from across the globe have dispelled many of the myths of Shariah and have,

in fact, glorified the great religion, where the Holy Qur'an is believed to reign over any other directives or declarations. A few very common and detrimental anomalies, as cited by Hasan Mahmud through his tenacious research on the Shariah law which most of

the common people fallaciously perceive as directives from the Qur'an, in the Shariah law as compiled by the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation under the title Bidhibaddha Islami Ain (BIA, Islamic laws) could be summarized as follows:



The Shariah laws clearly do not place men and women on level ground in seeking justice, acting as witness, in inheritance and divorce. According to BIA, a husband can instantly divorce his wife where witness is not a pre-requisite.  


On the contrary, the Qur'an in Sura Baqarah in Verses 228-229 and Sura Talaqh Verses 1-2, clearly states: "When ye do divorce women, divorce them at their prescribed period and count (accurately) their prescribed period (that delays finality of divorce for at least two months) and take for witnesses two persons from among you."


Likewise, Article 576, Volume 2 of BIA cites: "Women's witness is not acceptable in hudud (killing, robbery, adultery, etc) and kisas (eye for and eye, etc) cases." This is in direct violation of verse 283 of surah Baqarah where it is affirmed: "conceal not

evidences, for whoever conceals it, his heart is tainted."


Regarding dispensing justice for killing of human beings, BIA in its Article 56, Volume 1, attests: "If a Mulsim kills a non-Muslim and non-Muslim kills a Muslim, in either case, the killer must be given the capital punishment." However, Articles 914c and 64 of

the third volume of BIA claims: "If the head of state kills anyone or if anyone kills his son, daughter or grandchildren, then the killers must not be given the capital punishment."


On the other hand, the Penal Law of Islam on page 149 declares: "In an Islamic state, no Muslim should be given capital punishment for killing a non-Muslim." Bukhari in Hadith 283 of Volume 4 supports the above dictum when it says: "A Muslim must not be given

capital punishment for killing a non-believer."


In contrast, the Qur'an is very explicit in its declaration in Verse 33 of Sura Bani Israel where it was revealed: "Nor take life -- which God has made sacred -- except for just cause" and Verse 178 of Sura Baqarah which states: "The law of equality is

prescribed to you in case of murder." No exception has been granted in the Qur'an so far as the punishment for taking an innocent human life is concerned.


One very despicable phenomenon that is mostly prevalent in Bangladesh that a few clerics very often declare a Muslim as murtad (some who has renounced his

Faith) citing the violation of specific Shariah law by the victim and promulgate a unilateral death sentence to him. It is obvious that a person himself can only

Renounce his own faith. It is like committing suicide. No one from outside can shoulder that responsibility.


The Qur'an in this case clearly indicated in Sura Nisaa, Verse 94: "And say not to any one who offers you a salutation: thou art none of a believer!" Verse 137 of Sura Nisaa went further by declaring: "Surely those who believe then reject faith, then believe again and again reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief, God will not forgive them nor guide them."

This verse clearly directs the believer neither to proclaim any one murtad nor to take the law in one's own hand to deal with the so-called murtad.



The Qur'an is one out of at least ten sources of Shariah law and it deals with only a very little segment of it. However, the Qur'an itself in Verse 9 of Sura Hijr describes itself as a "book of advice," and as such, each verse of it may not be deemed to be a directive.


The Qur'an deals with only five areas, where as the Shafi and the Hanafi books alone contain more than six thousand laws. The laws illustrated by five Madhhab (school of thoughts) are numerous and in many cases they contradict each other. The existence of different school of thoughts itself amplifies that there are hardly any universality in them. In fact, Shariah law has, in many instances, tarnished the universalism of the Qur'an by indulging itself in contradictory interpretations.


Moreover, Sura Gashiya's verses 21, 22 of the Qur'an revealed, indicating to Prophet (SM): "Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not one to manage affairs." The similar messages were delivered twenty eight times in the

Qur'an where it was revealed: "I sent messengers only to convey my messages of fear (to those who reject truth) and good news to the mankind."


For these reasons, probably, none of the preachers of Islam ever applied Shariah law and the four Jurist Imams never called their legal opinions "God's Law."


The major concern of people critical of Shariah law is that it is extremely anti-women and subject to uncontrolled interpretation and evolution. There is virtually no formal certification process to designate someone as being qualified to interpret Islamic law.

As it stands today, almost anyone can make rulings as long as they have the appearance of piety and a group of followers.


[Hasan Mahmud's Bangla website:

 is a great source of most authentic Islamic documents about  Shariah.]


REFERENCE: The Daily Star, Dhaka [6 Feb., 2006]


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