In an article on the TimesOnline Website, Ian Edge and Robin Griffiths-Jones ask the question as to whether Islamic Law and English Law can ever meet, and if so, would English Law be able to accommodate the ‘extravagancies’ of the former!!
Ian Edge of the Centre of Islamic and Middle East Law (CIMEL) at SOAS University wrote this piece in the run-up to an event to take place at the Temple Church, which (as some may have made the connection) was built by the Knight’s Templar who were vital allies in the Crusades against the muslims. The location has probably been chosen in order to heal old wounds, and thus, hopefully, would be welcomed – but perhaps not?! In the article, the question is posed as to whether there is an imminent “clash looming between the laws of the West and Islam? In the wake of 9/11, commentators such as Samuel Huntington have spoken of a conflict between an economically powerful but increasingly amoral West, and a resurgent and moralistic Islam.” Not only has this ‘clash of civilisations’ and ‘clash between Islam and the West’ proposition been run to the ground, but to quote Samuel Huntington is just lazy – he has been aptly rebutted by scholars across the board for his open hatred for other civilisations andespecially his assertion that “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power… [”The Clash of Civilisations?”, original 1993 article in “Foreign Affairs” magazine]. Tariq Ramadan (hafidhuAllah) and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson (hafidhuAllah) have also argued against the ‘Clash of Civilisations‘ theory and have degraded it as a tactic which imbues muslims with an inferiority complex. On this point, Shaykh Nuh Haa Mim Keller (hafidhuAllah) stated in an interview that it was not a ‘Clash of Civilisations’, rather, “It’s no question that it’s a clash of ignorance. There are horizons each culture has. They’re based on epistemology: what they judge to be knowledge and what they judge to be ignorance. Certainly, the Muslims have another dimension that people who don’t subscribe to a religion do not possess. This is the point that there is an afterlife and a next world waiting for us…that there are consequences for our actions and that there is an ultimate good. Consequently, I don’t think that the bases for agreement between a Christian country and a Muslim country are that far apart. We all believe in one God, we all believe that there will be a judgement, and we all believe that there will be consequences. No one believes that killing civilians is halal, or just, or is right. No one’s religion condones it. So if we’re talking to Godless people who only recognize the law of the jungle, it’s very difficult to avoid a clash—whether we call it a clash of ignorance or of civilizations. If we’re talking to a people who recognize an ultimate God and objective, natural moral law and the Divine Recompense for actions in this life, certainly, there is room for agreement. Here we have to underscore the point of national sovereignty. Meaning that if some country doesn’t agree with our Western interpretation of the way things should be, of the sort of things that should be sold in the market place, and of other questions of law…we can’t go in and impose our laws upon the people of that country. I think the principles are fairly well understood here, and that if there’s international law that has teeth, one power can’t stomp over all the others as soon as it wishes for something that the others have, or wishes to change something that they do. So if there’s international law, and a law-like interpretation of conflicts, there need not be any conflict. And Allah knows best.” [Read full Interview transcript here] On the comments section of the website, referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, a certain David Booth of Bedford wrote about the Islamic Law: Why is he so anxious to debase the common law which guarantees our rights and liberties, in favour of a system which is by any western standards nasty, brutish and shortens the lives of its adherents? In similar vein, Steve O’Neill from slough says: And who gets to decide which is the correct following of Islamic Law? for example it seems quite clear that Islam does not advocate free speech (as witnessed in Denmark and around the world).You cannot pick and choose which parts of Sha‘ria to follow, it is all or nothing as it’s God’s law. Something that I thought was supposed to be separate from the State. understand that law much like language is exposed to new ideas, arguments and experiments but this is one case set to fail. My response to the above comments is as follows: Both English Law and Islamic Law are based upon certain fundamental principles such as truth, equity, proportionality, obligations and rights, and although English Law has not maintained its stoic origins outwardly, legislative principles are deeply rooted in concepts originating in Christianity. The Scripture and doctrine ascribed to God, which demands acceptance is no different from that which is demanded by the Head of State, as outlined at the head of any piece of legislation. What differs are the exact details of the law to be obeyed. Here, too, Islamic and English law share certain commonalities, however, there are also differences, e.g., on the law regarding intestacy and divorce. On the matter of separating religious matters from those of the State, I would ask Mr. O’Neill as to why, in that case, the Act of Settlement of 1701 decrees that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, and neither the Monarch nor the heir to the throne can marry a Roman Catholic. Is the sovereignty of our Country not a secular mater – if so, why is there a religious clause? Critics of Islam are quick to mention subjugation of Women’s rights and Freedom of Speech as Islamic Law’s main failures. They would do well to remember that 1400 years ago the Qur’an established that women could gain separation from their spouses – English Law realised this in 1857. On the matter of Freedom of Speech in Islam, with relevance to Blasphemy, etc., many traditional Muslim scholars state that Freedom of Speech is governed by the intent of the actor expressing his freedom and that, if the expression is done genuinely and as part of expressing one’s true faith, it does not amount to blasphemy (see an article on ‘The Freedom of Expression and Islamic Ideals’ here). But I doubt that the perpetrators of the Cartoon incidents in Denmark were doing it as an act in accordance with their religious obligations or beliefs – and rather that their motives were defamation and slander, with an intent to insult the sensitivities of Muslims. On a slightly more divergent tangent, I seem to remember that when the British invaded India and colonised it, they ruled India under British Law, so much so that parts of India (certain Islands off India’s coasts) are still ruled as British Foreign Territories under English Law. However, in those days Muslims requested the British that they be ruled by certain Islamic Legal principles, including those of marriage, intestacy, property, etc. The British educated their own judges to sit alongside employed Muslim judges and dealt with the above-mentioned areas of Law according to the Islamic Law. The system worked so well, that there are volumes of codified legal handbooks and textbooks as well as law reports in Libraries (such as Lincoln’s Inn’s vaults in London). Now when the Muslims have come over and ‘invaded’ England (!), why is it that there is such a hue and cry if similar systems are requested?? After all, if this is a truly democratic country, surely the people should be able to choose how they wish to be adjudged. For those who fear the Britain will become a Shari‘ah state still should not fear – the reason being that even if such a thing should happen (which is unlikely), the Islamic State must allow non-Muslims to be ruled and governed by their own laws (with the exception of State-levied taxes), thus if they choose they may be ruled and governed by Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or secular laws.
However, on a cursory glance at each of the above legal systems, history bears witness that many of those of other faiths chose to be judged by Islamic Law, as the burden of proof required for even a minimum punishment is often much higher than those found in other legal systems, and the punishments were more lenient under the Shari’ah, as compared to their own.