Sunday, January 09, 2011

Islam is about the law, not about personal interpretation

The other day I got a great comment from a good friend of mine, nicely taking me to task for my last post, in which I criticize Dr. Qanta Ahmed for her most recent misrepresentation of Islam.  Bill reminded me that people have many different interpretations of Islam, and that some of those interpretations allow Muslims to live peacefully under un-Islamic systems of law.  The point that needs to be stressed though, is that while I agree that there are uncountable numbers of personal interpretations of just about everything (that is human nature, after all) Islam is primarily a matter of laws, and as it is the goal of a great many people to subject us to those laws, it is in our interest to know exactly what they are.  It's for that reason that I read Islamic law - so that noone, well intentioned as I believe Dr. Ahmed is, or not, as I believe CAIR and similar organizations are, can deceive me.  Here is my reply to Bill on this subject:

 Bill, yes, there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are adherents. That's indisputable. What I'm talking about is the law.

Dr. Ahmed says that there is a body of Islamic law taken from the notion of rendering unto Ceasar... She is mistaken. She and lots of other commentators one hears today, like to offer their personal interpretation of Islam as one that is worldwide, or supported by Islamic law. They are not being truthful.
There are millions of Muslims who would do not have a problem living under un-Islamic systems of law, but that personal accomodation they have made, while commendable, is not supported by their theology. The manual of Islamic law I use is certified by Al Azhar University and all the prominent centers of Islamic learning around the world. It gives opinions in the Hannbali, Hanafi, and Shaafi schools of jurisprudence, and none of them supports Dr. Ahmed's position. 
The problem is that Islam is not just a religion, as you know. It is a system of laws, many of which are related to religion. I am happy to let anyone live and practice their religion as they see fit, but when they start talking about the law, they have left the realm of ijtihad, and are now talking about something written and definable, and I will hold them accountable. That's what I mean when I talking about being able to defend ourselves against creeping Shariah - knowing what it actually is, instead of relying on peoples' personal interpretations of it.
So I'm happy that Dr. Ahmed encourages other Muslims to deny terrorists haven, and I commend her for taking that position.  But I object to her misrepresenting Islam as supporting her in that position, because it does not. 

This continues to be the problem for those who want to live under a reformed, or moderated Islam.  Dr. Zuhdi Jassar's American Islamic Forum for Democracy is admirable, but gains little traction because of the inherent contradiction of his goals.  Democracy is completely un-Shariah, because according to the Koran, Allah is the only law-giver.  From that, it is an inescapable conclusion that the notion of establishing law by common consent of the governed is blasphemous.

I feel for Muslims who want "their Islam" to be compatible with democratic ideals, and I understand the conflict they must be feeling, but claiming, as does Dr. Ahmed that "her Islam" (I take that phrase from her book.) is compatible with democracy, or subjugates Muslims to American criminal law would be akin to me saying that "My Hinduism compels me to eat beef."  As a matter of definition, it does not work.

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