04.28.08

The Islamization of the Law

Posted in Islamist, Kuwait, Politics at 7:39 pm by Haider

(To read a summary of this post click here)

One of the most meaningless and misleading agendas ever to make an appearance on the political stage is the call for the Islamization of the law. In this post, I wish to explain why this is the case, as well as explain the popularity of such a call in many Muslim countries.

What is Islamization?

In essence, Islamization is changing the source of a country’s civil law from a secular source to Islamic law (Sharia). Many Muslim countries regard Islamic law as one of the sources of legislation, whereas Islamization demands that it becomes the sole source of legislation. Islamization is the process of adopting Islamic law as the law of the land. This is an important point to bear in mind. Islamization does not only defend the use of Islamic law as the source of legislation, but makes a case for its adoption as such. In other words, it is not simply in favour of Islamic law, but makes a case against its alternatives.

The case is made for the Islamization of the law based on the argument that God, who has revealed the religion of Islam, has also revealed to us the laws by which we should govern our lives and our social affairs. And since we are Muslims, we are expected to judge and rule according to God’s laws, and no other law. Besides, since God is our creator, He is more acquainted with our needs and knows what the most suitable political system for us is. Man-made laws, on the other hand, are limited by the ignorance of those who made up the law.

Secular law, according to the Islamists, is based on ignorance and a limited view of existence. Secular law is perceived as materialistic and lacking a broader vision that encompasses spirituality and morality. Besides, secular law either perceives the government, or the citizens, as the authority in the country, whereas the Islamists regard God as the ultimate authority. Therefore, the law should be dictated by Him, and to accept an alternative is a sign that we are undermining God’s authority and ignoring His blessings, of providing us with a political system that is designed according to His knowledge of mankind. “The Creator knows His creation more than His creation knows itself.”

The fact that Islamic law is not the source of legislation in Muslim countries is viewed by the Islamists as the primary source of the ills that the Muslims are living through. By adopting Islam as the source of the law, we will be able to overcome our political, economic and social problems. Without Islam as the source of law, the Muslims are destined to fall and face further ills and agonies.

This is the foundation of the argument for the Islamization of the law. But if we dig deeper into the message being presented, we will realise how misleading and meaningless it is.

Why is it Misleading?

The Problem of Interpretation

The argument for the Islamization of the law is overly simplistic. It is based on the claim that our understanding of Islam is correct, and that we have understood the message of Islam and its laws precisely how God wants us to understand it. In other words, how we will implement Islamic law will be the way that God wants us to implement it. The only obstacle standing in the way of an Islamic heaven on earth is the acceptance of Islamic law as the source of legislation. Everything else, apart from possible corruption, will be Islam in practice.

However, the very fact that Muslim scholars disagree over what constitutes Islamic law, and that the schools of thought in Islam disagree on almost every possible issue in Islamic law, should be a sign that what we consider to be “Islamic law” might not be what God intended the law to be. If we have misunderstood God’s law, it is no longer divine. It does not come with God’s sanction. Our understanding of the law must exactly match what God has ordained. Any distortion in the interpretation of Islamic law renders it man-made. There is no escaping this fact.

The questions that we should ask are: What interpretation of Islam will we recognize as God’s law? Why would we accept this interpretation over every other interpretation? Will all Muslims be judged according to one interpretation, or will each sect be judged according to its own interpretation of the law?

The claim that Islamic law is divine, only according to the interpretation of the Islamists, is far-fetched. In the least, the Islamists need to offer proof for why their version of the law is divine. To simply make the claim in order to win support for their agenda is misleading. Before calling for the Islamization of the law, the issue of interpretation should be addressed.

The distinction is made by the Islamists between God’s law and man-made law, when the issue of interpretation reveals that “God’s law” could be just as “man-made” as any other law, if it is misinterpreted. But a law that is enacted with divine authority, when it lacks God’s sanction, is much worse than any man-made law, because it will commit injustices in the name of God, and quash any opposition to the oppression, in the name of God.

Misrepresenting the Alternatives

Islamists don’t represent secular laws as they are, but they attach labels to them to undermine their credibility. The issue of “man-made” law is intended to undermine the value found in secular laws, since their origin is human ignorance (as if humans are incapable of reaching valid conclusions through reason and observation). As I have mentioned above, Islamic law can be just as man-made, depending on how accurate the interpretation of it is, but presented as though it was divine, making it far more dangerous than any secular law.

The greatest danger found in the call for the Islamization of the law is the blame it places on Western political systems for the social ills found in Western countries. In other words, it is taken for granted that the political system causes moral corruption, with total disregard for the role culture plays in society. That is, the incidents of rape, crime, violence, substance abuse, etc. aren’t considered social ills, but the consequences of the political systems found in the West. This is not only a grave misrepresentation, but goes to show how the Islamists plan on reforming society. I will re-visit this issue in a future post.

Defining the Problems and the Solutions

It is important to note that the political and social problems taken into consideration when presenting the case for Islamization are defined according to Islamist terms. Segregation is a clear example of this. Does Islam actually prohibit interaction between the opposite genders? And are mixed schools (or mixed gatherings, in general) to blame for the social problems that the Islamists have claimed them to cause?

The case for Islamization defines its own problems and its own solutions. Before accepting these definitions we must question their credibility.

Why is it meaningless?

For an agenda to be meaningful, it must have a specific meaning. It cannot hold more than one conflicting meaning. An agenda that “means everything” means nothing. Therefore, the very fact that Islamization doesn’t actually define which interpretation of Islamic law is being referred to, what this will practically mean and how will the law be executed makes the issue of Islamization completely meaningless.

Those who support Islamization, in the name of implementing God’s laws, do not know what they’re getting themselves into, what kind of political system they are calling for and what sort of society they will be living in.

Why is the Call to Islamization Popular?

The primary reasons for the popularity of Islamization is that it is both misleading and meaningless. People accept the claim that it is a call to the implementation of God’s laws, without realising how complex a task it is to actually define what God’s laws are. They assume that, as Muslims, it is their obligation to judge by God’s law, and readily accept the call of anyone who seems to demand that we fulfill our obligation.

Everyone who accepts the call to Islamization has associated his or her own understanding to “Islamization.” They offer their own explanations to what sort of society they would be living in, and what kind of laws will be enacted, but fail to realise that those in power may have an entirely different understanding to what “Islamic law” actually is.

The popularity of the call to Islamization is the crossroads between hope and the desire for change, and those who have placed their hope in Islamization believe that the Islamists can deliver on their promises, as though God Himself has promised a positive outcome.

Summary of "The Islamization of the Law"

The call for the Islamization of the law is both misleading and meaningless.

Islamization is the adoption of Islamic law (Sharia) as the sole source of legislation in a country. It is based on the acceptance that Islamic law is divine, and because “the Creator knows more about the creation than the creation knows itself,” it will have the most positive effect on society. All social, political and economic ills Muslims are facing is attributed, by the Islamists, to the fact that Islamic law is not the source of legislation in Islamic countries.

The call for Islamization is misleading, because it overlooks the problem of interpretation: which interpretation of Islamic law will we consider divine? If this issue is not addressed, and we accept the wrong interpretation of the law, then we would have effectively accepted a “man-made” law as divine.

The fact that Islamization doesn’t have a clear meaning on what kind of law is being called for makes it a meaningless pursuit. Those who support Islamization don’t exactly know what kind of law they are calling for, or know how it will be implemented.

The popularity of Islamization rests on the hope that the Islamists can deliver on their promises, while failing to realise that Islamization is both misleading and meaningless.

4 Comments »

  1. Computerchi said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I guess, as a conclusion, what we have is better than Islamizaion? But surely, there is a middle ground, a lowest common denominator for all the interpretations. If we take those, surely it is better than importing a foreign law. An Islamic-influenced law must be better than the two extremes. But why am I in favour of it in the first place. That is because; I think the system influences the behaviour. A culture will mutate to fit the regime. Rape is more common in countries that legalises booze, pornography and gambling, just to take an extreme example.

    Wassalam

  2. Haider said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Salaam Computerchi, what we have is not better than Islamic law, but I don’t think Islamization is simply about using Islamic law. There is more to Islamization than Islamic rulings on property, social contracts, etc. There is also the issue of government authority. This is something which Muslim schools of thought disagree over, and you will have to find out what the group that is steering a country towards Islamization identifies as the proper scope of a government’s authority.

    I will deal with implementing Islamic law in a future post, as well as deal with the issue of culture and politics.

    As for “importing a foreign law,” what makes a foreign law good or bad is not the fact that it is foreign. Islamic law was, at one point, foreign to Persia, Spain and the Indian sub-continent. Rather than condemn foreign law for being foreign, we must evaluate its merits. Not all Western political systems are of equal standing, and we can’t accuse them all of leading to the same results.

  3. TL36 said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Save yourself the effort of explaining dude. Obviously you’re a confused “Reason-driven” who knows little about systems. Before you go into the trouble of looking for the merits of our Western systems, one needs to understand the cause of the existing differences among the various schools of thought. It is because people from different sects were using a mixture of REASON and personal limitations “emotions” to describe what is thought to be divine. However, if you do beleive that God’s message is divine than you should stick to it with the intention to implement it in the best of your knowldge. What can’t be obtained fully, shouldn’t be ditched fully. The Islmaic law was meant for the Islmaic nation, bear that in mind. Within the Islamic nation it is expected that rape, violence,,etc will occur, and that’s why certian punishments exists to curb people from wrong-doing.

    A system should influence the behaviour, but with that you need to have sincere people who are capable of enforcing it. If one obsrves negative results, one shall not conclude that necessarily the system is wrong, as it could be an effective one but lacks effecient implementers.

    Besides, no man-made system is entirely correct, no matter how logical you try to be. That is because the system should care for emotinal aspects as well. Thus, if you only use reason as a means to derive a “meaningful” law then, dude, it will be inappropriate. The Marxism school is deedmed to be based on reason, but it was nothing but bullshit.

    A man-made system, techonology, social model or whatever will always evolve to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for seggregating the wealthy from the poor. Many theories and solid beleifs were demolished and replaced by others. This is a sign that humans will come up with the best of their knowledge up to a point.

    However, the Creator knows better, and He even knows that we cannot handle the responsibility in the best way, but His wisdom may be to see how will you stick to your “beleifs” rather than being arrogant with our great minds and the powerful solutions that it can create.

    Last, The beauty of the Islamic law is that it does not deny other laws, it actually contain them in a rather harmonic manner. No traffic system exists in Islam, but it never denies the importance of it.

  4. Haider said,

    May 1, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Deal TL36,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    While I can’t possibly respond to all the points you have raised here, I do plan on addressing them in future posts. For now, I wish to make two points, one general, and the other specific to the issue of Islamization:

    1) The validity of reason: You can’t escape the fact that your comment is full of reasoning. You can never discredit reason, and when you try to do so, you only discredit your own views, because it will lead us to think: how did you come to accept your own views as true? Out of emotion? faith? family affiliation? etc.

    Please bear in mind that reasoning is only a tool to resolve contradictions between a set of beliefs and to integrate facts in a consistent way (understanding is only possible with the use of reason. Otherwise, you are simply holding a set of ideas that you do not know how to fit together). You may try to connect false ideas through reason, but the failure is not with reasoning as a tool, but with the ideas themselves.

    What your view boils down to is: “I’m ignorant and choose not to think, therefore, I am certain that I am right.”

    No matter how much you choose to deny it, but the Holy Koran is full of reasoning, and there are a number of verses that validate reason and speak of the merit of using reason.

    2) Islamization: the danger with Islamization is that it is based on poorly defined arguments. For example, you said: “if you do believe that God’s message is divine.” My point is, define what “God’s message” is. Islam is interpreted differently by different people, and you cannot claim that all interpretations are “God’s message.” So which interpretation is God’s message, and how did you come to this conclusion?

    It is not a matter of partially implementing God’s message, but implementing a man-made law in the name of God.

    Please read my other post on why Islamization is unIslamic for a further explanation of why I disagree with Islamization.

    I hope this helped clarify some of your objections.

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