Law and Authority, Restitution of Rights, Unjust Power Relations

Issue 993 » April 6, 2018 - Rajab 20, 1439

Living The Quran

Law and Authority
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verse 104

"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting all to what is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. Such are the ones who shall prosper."

This is the commandment to the Muslim community to establish a system that is essentially based on holding fast to Allah's rope or covenant and is a necessary prerequisite to help people to abide by its demands. For this purpose, the Muslims are instructed to appoint a group from among them to enjoin maruf or good, or the noble conventions of society, and to forbid munkar or evil as defined by the Islamic Shariah. The way the imperatives — enjoining and forbidding — are used concerning good and evil clearly indicates that this task is to be carried out not by mere verbal advice and admonition, but must also be enforced by law and authority. This is impossible without political power vested in such a group. If the purpose were to accomplish the task of enjoining good and forbidding evil by advice and propagation of dawah only, the words yaduna ila-l khayr (inviting to good) should have sufficed and there was no need to add ya muruna bi-l maruf (enjoining or commanding what is right).

It was indeed in compliance with this Divine commandment that the first thing that the Muslims attended to was the establishment of a caliphate on the pattern of the Prophet's model of governance. The primary purpose of this institution was to monitor and stand guard so that there should be no deviation from the ideal of itisam billah or holding fast to Allah. In terms of principles, it adopted three methods in order to realise this goal: inviting people to good, enjoining what is right and just and forbidding what is wrong and evil. Out of these three sprang all other departments during the rightly guided caliphate. These were used as a means of meeting all the internal and external responsibilities of the Muslim ummah.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Restitution of Rights

There has been a lot of argumentation about secondary cases between scholars whose basic question is, "Did the Messenger of Allah utter this hadith or not?" You may remark, "Deep knowledge of the technical terms becomes the basis for acceptance or rejection of various transmissions." We reply: "That is right — and that is all we mean by its application!" We cling to what our first Imams laid down for us and do not even think about separating ourselves from it. We are simply drawing attention to the fact that aberration and faults in the texts of the hadiths concern the fuqaha as well as those who memorise those hadiths. The fuqaha had a role to play with respect to them in the past and the gravity of the current situation demands further investigation and study.

I know that this statement provokes fear in some people, but my experiences in the field of dawa leads me to deal with the matter in greater detail. In this time when Islam has suffered a series of defeats and its enemies attribute every manner of defect to it, I heard an orator relate this hadith: "Do not ask a man why he beats his wife." I told him, "Our deen is accused of being opposed to the rights of the human being and particularly respect for women. Why do you present a hadith which might be interpreted to mean that a man can beat his wife however he likes and not be asked about what he does? You know that this idea is rejected in both the Book and Sunna."

He replied doggedly, "I related a sound hadith." I asked him, "Do you not know this other hadith which Muslim reports in his Sahih collection? 'There will be restitution of rights on the Day of Rising until even the hornless sheep takes its right from the horned sheep.' Is a beaten wife less in the sight of Allah than a sheep unjustly gored?" He said, "From the time of Eve until today women are in need of admonition and discipline. It is said in a hadith, 'If it had not been for Eve, no woman would ever have betrayed her husband.'"

I said to him, "Eve did not betray Adam or tempt him to eat from the tree. This is one of the lies in the Torah! The Quran clearly states that Adam is the one who disobeyed his Lord but you fail to quote the Noble Quran and instead transmit transmissions which inhibit the spread of Islam. Why should a man not be asked, 'Why did you beat your wife?' Do you raise your daughters to go to a husband who will slap her or injure her without being questioned in this world or the Next? One of the rights of a woman in this world is to complain to her family about what happens to her, to the judge who represents her, or the Qadi who must question her husband. After that, she may request a khul dissolution of marriage or demand an enforced divorce because of harm. Yet you, in the name of Islam, tempt people away from Islam by these hadiths.

Compiled From:
"The Sunna of the Prophet" - Muhammad al-Ghazali


Unjust Power Relations

A number of decades ago, the "Abrahamic" identity was created to expand Christian-Jewish dialogue to include Muslims. This was a positive development that has since established a shared platform for dialogue and engagement. At the same time, it is a constructed identity that does not fully encompass the theological ethics and identity of each of us or all of us. Anything we build will necessarily be limited in space and perspective, and we must be mindful that enclosures, as much as they unite people in a space, also restrict that space. I am particularly concerned that the "Abrahamic" appellation reinforces a patriarchal lineage that I believe Islam came to reform. The elder men of the community have no preferential claim on religious leadership and authority in Islam, as much as that might be the cultural preference and social reality of many Muslims. As we work together to build a more peaceful world, we must embrace language and appellations that do not replicate or reinstate unjust power relations.

Islam also recognizes that God's guidance is not limited to the scriptural traditions. The Quran states that "messengers" have been sent by God to every community. While it could be argued that communities without a written scripture have a tendency to drift further from prophetic teachings over time, they still can preserve some authentic teachings. This means that teachings of Islam in the literal sense of "submission to God" can be found among the non-scripturalists. In the Americas, New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, there are Aboriginal people, some of whom belong to our scriptural faiths and others who try to follow a traditional path left by their ancestors. In most of our countries, there is a terrible history of injustice towards the original people of the land. Our interfaith engagement should not only address these injustices, but also open a spiritual appreciation for those who might retain some of the wisdom received from the Messengers.

Compiled From:
"Of Fences and Neighbors: An Islamic Perspective on Interfaith Engagement for Peace" - Ingrid Mattson