Context of this discourse began when the interviewer tweeted an interesting article, Stoning and Hand Cutting- Understanding the Hudud and the Shariah in Islam, by Jonathan Brown @jonathanACBrown, Associate Professor and Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University.
Al-Maqālāt introduced me to an article he had written concerning the Shariah entitled: The Essence of the Shariah- Objectives, concepts and priorities. And it is based on this article that we conducted this interview.
The reader will find that the interviewees attitudes and views are useful because he encapsulates a certain outlook which serves as a useful barometer for how some Salafi-Jihadists view the world. I should add that Al-Maqālāt does not consider himself salafi-jihadi as he made clear to me. However, he does cite scholars associated with this outlook namely Sh. Abu Qatadah and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, however equally he has cited and closely tied himself to the Taliban which has a Hanafi, Deobandi outlook. Nevertheless al-Maqālāt makes what seems incomprehensible to the Western reader, comprehensible even if it is wholly unacceptable to his or her world view.
As stated before the interviewees usefulness has not gone unnoticed. As such his writings have appeared on prominent blogs such as the influential blogs Pietervanostaeyen.com and Jihadology.net. With this in mind, this blog has decided to field questions that are in the public interest, in the hope that it will shed light on current trends on Jihadism.
Whilst the questions are mine, the answers below are his views and his views alone. The title of this post in fact was chosen by al-Maqālāt himself. I have however taken the liberty of introducing parentheses when I feel the reader could do with some clarifications on terms.
Question: In the article you refer to ‘Shariah’- which ‘Shariah’ are you referring to? We are after all dealing with a fluid living legal tradition of 1400 years. When you refer to Shariah this may be wholly different from say the Shariah of Taliban which is Hanafi Deobandi as opposed to Shariah of Mauritania which is Maliki mostly – isn’t it being reductionist in this regard? Are you not falling into the same trap that you accuse ISIS of falling into?”
Answer: “Before answering I would like to ask the reader to forget about the so-called Sharia they have seen from ISIS or the tyrannical regimes in our countries. Do not cross-reference between my answers and the so-called Sharia they are implementing. This is just an advice, otherwise it would be a waste of your time to read my response. Second, I will primarily use examples from criminal law instead of civil law, but this does not mean that the Sharia only consists of criminal law, and this does not mean that the examples are only applicable to criminal law. With that being said, I don’t agree with the statement that the Sharia in Afghanistan may be wholly different from the Sharia in Mauritania based on the different schools of thought [here he is referring to the Maliki, Shafi’, Hanafi, the Hanbali schools of legal jurisprudence]. There could be some differences in the details of Islamic laws but not in the solid foundations and the smooth legal framework. Alcohol consumption can not be forbidden in Afghanistan while it is permitted in Mauritania, because everyone agrees that it is fundamentally forbidden in Islam, whatever school of thought you may adhere to. But theoretically they could differ about the use of alcohol in medicine or other details. Islam has foundations and branches, the differences of opinions between schools of thought are mainly restricted to the branches of jurisprudence, not the foundations and the legal framework.
Many unfortunately think that Islam is an anarchic religion with limitless differences of opinions, they think that Islamic theology is not bound by any laws, order or structure. On the contrary, the Islamic religion is very structured. There are established limits (Hudood) for example. Our faith and different types of worship are built on conditions, pillars and obligations (Shurōt, Arkān and Wajibāt). The Islamic sciences are divided in the fundamentals of faith, jurisprudence, methodology, narrations, exegeses and so forth (Aqīdah, Fiqh, Manhaj, Ahadīth, Tafsīr), without counting the sciences of biographies, history, manners, language, etc. The sciences of narrations is one the most detailed and complex sciences. Various sciences, like Islamic jurisprudence, and other sciences, have very established and generally fixed principles, foundations and branches (Usool, Qawa’id and Furoo’). And the various laws (Ahkām) are carefully organized and dived in forbidden, permissible, obligatory, allowed, disapproved and recommended actions (Harām [forbidden], Halāl [lawful], Wājib [Obligatory], Mubah [Permissible], Makruh [Disliked], Mustahab [recommended], and Sunan [Prophetic practice]). With various levels within them; not every forbidden action is equally evil, and not every recommended action is equally virtuous.
So in conclusion, this is a comprehensive religion, and Allah indeed allowed some theological flexibility otherwise the Islamic religion would not be so durable to begin with, through out all of these changing ages in very different cultures and societies, encompassing nearly two billion people –one fourth of the worlds population– since the beginning of its revelation. However, the legal differences of opinions between the scholars do not and can not change the fundamental foundations and the legal framework of Islamic theology and its fixed structure and branches, if we did not have these solid foundations then the branches would have become endless. As for reductionism, we can not unify the principles of quantum mechanics with general relativity, similarly we have to differentiate between the details in Islamic jurisprudence (and their differences of opinions) and the smooth framework in Islamic theology with its solid foundations. However contrary to physics there is a unifying theory in Islamic theology as everything eventually boils down to true piety like Allah explained (Quran 2:177). I will come back to the topic of true piety later on, because it is an essential subject, as it is the backbone that holds everything together, especially in criminal law.
As for those who think that Islam is an anarchic religion with limitless differences of opinions, I would say that it is actually the other way around. There is no structure and no order in the human man-made systems, ideologies, philosophies and laws. Whether it is democracy, capitalism, communism, fascism, nazism, humanism, secularism, liberalism, or any other human ideology or philosophy. Furthermore, the injustice of arbitrary justice is exactly one of the reasons why humankind needs a Divine system of governance and a Divine morally consistent standard to differentiate between what is good and evil. Allah revealed many religions throughout the long history of humankind, each nation with its own Divine system of governance. The Jews, the Christians, other peoples of faith before and after them, and we as Muslims all have a Divine system of governance. As our individual human standards are very arbitrary, unlike the Divine standards of our religion. What was forbidden yesterday may be legal today in the same country, what might be forbidden in this country is legal in the neighboring.
Alaska for example has parts of the country which uphold an alcohol prohibition while alcohol is legal in other parts of Alaska. The same goes for cannabis and other laws in the US, some states legalize it while other states do not. This would not be the case in our Islamic countries if they would be ruled with the Sharia. It is not considered to be justice if a person was punished for a crime in a certain part of the country while another person is not in another part of the country even though he committed the exact same crime. Justice should be independent of time and place. It is also not considered to be justice if someone was punished for producing, importing, transporting or selling alcohol during the prohibition. While someone who commits the exact same crimes goes free because the prohibition is lifted. This is obvious injustice towards the one who was punished for the same crime before him.
You will not find the consistent Sharia to be unfair towards its people this way. If someone sold alcohol more than a thousand years ago, he would be equally as guilty as someone selling it to this very day. Furthermore, there are crimes which used to be punished with a death penalty, but others who commit the exact same crime do not get the death penalty because they committed them after the death penalty was banned. So someone who committed a crime punishable by death in 2006 in New York, got the death penalty for it, while someone who committed the exact same crime in 2007 (the year in which New York banned the death penalty) did not get the death penalty for it. How is this fair towards the perpetrators before 2006? Or after 2006 for that matter, and I am referring to the speech of John Stuart Mill in favor of capital punishment. Not only do the punishments change in a democratic country, but even the burden of proof changes. Four witnesses were needed a thousands years ago to proof illegal sexual intercourse in the Sharia, and four witnesses are still needed until this very day. This is not the case in a democracy. Again, I am mainly using examples from criminal law but this does mean that they do not encompass civil law; we would see the same in civil law.
Humans tend to have double standards, if we were to look at the capital punishment then many view decapitation as very gruesome and inhumane, as something from the middle ages, while frying someone on the electric chair or suffocating someone in the gas chamber is not. We have seen Western military interventions throughout the Muslim world because of the Islamic penal code –which is a small segment of the Sharia. They enter our countries under the pretext of rescuing the locals from barbaric and inhumane punishments, like in Northern Mali for example. But I think that many criminals would rather be decapitated than fried or suffocated till death. So it is actually the American people who need to be rescued from barbaric and inhumane punishments. An international military intervention in the US to stop this barbarism sound more logical to me. The West can get down from their moral high horse, as it is forbidden in our religion to fry someone with electricity or suffocate them till death. And again, do not cross-reference between my answers and what ISIS has shown you.
We can not deny that human standards are very arbitrary and inconsistent. What makes imprisonment for example more humane than corporal punishments? There are western countries that punish burglary with imprisonment of up to twenty years or more. If we however offered the perpetrator a choice between the corporal punishment for theft in Islam or ten to twenty years of imprisonment, would his choice be that obvious? Because I do not think that someone would easily choose prison and leave his friend, family, relatives and children for so many years, while he looses his job and his family lives in economic insecurity and social disruption, with a very realistic chance of his wife leaving him for another man and his children forgetting about him as they grow older. So choosing imprisonment does not seem that obvious to me. Sacrificing your hand, which will rob your lifespan of only a couple minutes of time, sounds more acceptable. What is the most precious thing we have in this short life, is it a limb or is it our lifespan itself? Let’s be honest. If a dying man had a chance to extend his life with ten or twenty years by to sacrificing just a hand, would he not do so? Rather limbs are amputated very regularly during surgery in several medical cases, without giving the patient any guarantee that this will add ten or twenty years more to his lifespan.
So whether the perpetrator burgled someone in Afghanistan or in Mauritania, the punishment would be the same in the Sharia, even if the schools of thought differ. Unlike the western countries who rule with democracy, each of the countries have their own punishment for burglary, and the punishment differs from perpetrator to perpetrator and from time to time, as these punishments keep changing throughout the modern history of democracy. While in the Sharia the punishment is the same whether he is a man or women, black or white, rich or poor, and whether he committed the crime today or twenty years ago, the punishment is the same. This is fair to everyone, there is no injustice as there is no distinction. Unlike countries ruled by human man-made laws that change depending on opinion, time, place and society.
We need the Sharia more then ever as the line between good and evil seems thinner than ever. Many human actions are not evil in their nature, but they could be forbidden at times. There are likewise human actions which are evil in their nature, but they could be allowed at times. Sexual intercourse for example is not evil in its nature, but it is not allowed outside the framework of a marriage. Killing on the other hand is evil in its nature, but it is allowed or even obligatory if you must defend yourself or someone else from harm. Good and evil are mixed on this world, they have to coexist. Two theological examples; talking is allowed but it is forbidden during prayers, eating is allowed but it is forbidden during the fast of Ramadan. Something being allowed or forbidden in the Sharia does not necessary say anything about the goodness or evilness of the action itself, it largely depends on the context of the action. It is only in the hereafter that good and evil will be completely separated from each other.
So we need Divine guidelines that direct us on this world, so that we can recognize the (thin) line between good and evil in our daily social interactions, our financial transactions, disputes, environment, and so on. It is in our human nature to recognize many evils instinctively and intellectually, but not every evil. So we need a Divine standard, especially in times like these when our pure human nature has been suppressed, our intellect corrupted, and evils have increased in their various (subtle) forms and details. Our human nature and our judgments are clouded by the individualistic, materialistic, capitalist and egocentric modern societies we live in. Schools of thought could differ about various jurisprudential issues of the Sharia, but they all agree that we must heal our societies from the aforementioned sociologic illnesses so that our pure human nature, and our faith, morality and piety can flourish again. They are al guided and motivated by these Islamic values in establishing justice and social order. Governance in a democracy however is guided and motivated by profits and worldly interests. Democratic parties make false promises in their desire for power, and legislating laws has become a profitable businesses for politicians rather than a moral duty and social necessity.
But let it be clear, whether we are talking about a Divine system of law or a human system of law, both systems must be implemented by man in the end. Even if the Divine system is perfect, man is certainly not. Even the Sharia gives the necessary room for human legislated laws, like the discretionary (Ta’zir) punishments for example, as the Sharia must eventually be implemented for man by man. We also need human laws on various contemporary fields in governance; administrative, business, infrastructure, traffic, Internet, and so on. So we will always see mistakes and variations in the implementation and legislation of laws, whether they are restricted or not, and whether the system itself is Divine or not. We must understand that even the Sharia is implemented by man in the end, just like any other system of law.”
Question: “In the article you criticize ISIS for looking down on other Muslims – by the same token are you not doing the same thing when you look down on those who view democracy as a tool to remove an oppressive ruler without the bloodshed? Is this not rejecting an issue where there is ikhtilāf (difference of opinion considered a blessing in Islam)? As you know the various Madhabs [schools of jurisprudence] have accepted democracy and rejected it- some thinkers have viewed it as intrinsically Kufr and others have said that it is a tool to remove an oppressive ruler. The point is there is no consensus on the issue. If Islam is framed as the source of law within the constitution and it is used as tool to protect the maqāsid [objectives and goals] of shariah such as life etc and there is a good maslaha [public good] in it such as stability. Should the Salafi-jihadis and Muslims be so quick to reject it? I know Sh. Abu Qatada’s position but there are other erudite scholars who accept them. How can Muslims unite over an issue where there is quite simply two different schools- some who reject democracy and others who accept it. One regards the other as committing Kufr?”
Answer: “Before understanding the difference of opinion let us differentiate between secularism and democracy. These are two different concepts so the difference of opinion is not over secularism, as every Islamic scholar rejects secularism. Secondly, there are several understandings of democracy, and the Islamic differences of opinion depend solely on the understanding of it. Democracy in its basic essence means that the ultimate rule is for mankind, and Islamic scholars do not disagree over the fact that the ultimate rule is for no other than Allah. When we talk about democracy we are not only talking about a system which gives people the authority to vote or rule, but we are talking about a system which gives people the authority to legislate that which contradicts the legislation of Allah. And not one scholar disagrees over the fact that it is forbidden for people to legislate that which contradicts the legislation of Allah. There is a clear-cut scholarly consensus about this.
Rather not only scholars but even the general Muslims reject such governance. If for example a ruler would say that we will not fast in the month of Ramadan but we will fast in the month of Muharram, then there is not one Muslim who would accept this, because his legislation blatantly contradicts the legislation of Allah. There would not be any Islamic scholar who will disagree over the fact that he has committed an open act of disbelief. Why? Because Allah clearly says that we should fast in the month of Ramadan not in Muharram. By changing this law you are placing yourself above Allah as you legislate that which contracts His legislation. The Islamic religion can not by altered by anyone in governance, and Muslims would never accept this. Unlike the Christians who accepted the influence of the Roman Empire as they altered Christianity when they introduced Trinitarianism through the ecumenical councils.
However, there is some confusion in the Ummah [the trans-national Muslim global community] because the colonial and neo-colonial capitalist powers and their tyrant agents, with their sorcerers, have sowed the tumor of secularism as they spread theological confusion and ignorance in our countries and in the minds of its people. So if for example, the very same ruler would say that the punishment for burglary is ten to twenty years of imprisonment instead of the corporal punishment described for theft by Allah in the Quran. Then we would discover that many general Muslims and even the Muslim intellectuals will show hesitance and restrain in their judgment. Why? Allah is The One who said that we should fast in the month of Ramadan in the Quran, and Allah is The One who said that we should punish theft with a corporal punishment in the very same Quran? Then what is the difference? The grounded scholars know that there is no difference whatsoever.
As for the exceptions, I already talked about them in ‘The essence of the Sharia’. We are talking about general principles but there are of course exceptions in certain circumstances, especially in our current times in which we do not have any Islamic State or Caliphate and were weak Mujahid groups could have some limited local control. If someone for example is not capable of implementing the revealed law of Allah he can choose to implement an alternative law, the scholars have detailed this issue and the Al-Qaedah scholar Shakyh Abu Hassan Al-Bulaydi in Algeria also adopted this opinion. Because he is thereby not replacing or contradicting the law of Allah, however he is unable to implement the initially revealed law of Allah, so he is forced to implement an alternative law to deter people from a certain crime for example.
To conclude, the difference of opinion concerning democracy does therefore not entail the man-made legislations which contradict the legislation of Allah, every sensible scholar would reject this type of secular governance. Rather the difference of opinion lies in the understanding of democracy, as even the scholar who endorses the use of a democratic system reject secularism and ultimate man-made legislation. The scholars who endorse the use of democracy view it merely as a voting system similar to Islamic Shura (mutual consultation), which does not give the voter nor the ruler the authority to legislate that which contradicts the legislation of Allah. To be clear, the Islamic ruler in an Islamic country has the authority to legislate, but he does not have the authority to legislate man-made laws which contradict the legislation of Allah.
But if for example in theory there would be a constitution adopted in a democratic system which says that nobody has the authority to legislate a law which contradicts the legislation of Allah, then no one would reject this type of “democratic” governance. This is one of the reasons why scholars have refrained from Takfir on Islamist parties who propose such solutions, among other reasons like the difference in understanding of what democracy means and entails. But I say in theory because the man-made constitution in a democracy can be changed, reformed and altered by man, so this democratic constitution does not really hold any Islamic value. A democratic constitution does not hold the value of a Divine revelation. It can not be compared with The Ten Commandants, because we can not change these Divine commandments, but we can eventually change a democratic constitution. There are several western and Arab countries that changed their constitution, Morocco changed its constitution for example during the Arabic Spring. Democratic countries claim to limit the arbitrary nature of secularism with a man-made constitution, as even they recognize that the arbitrary nature of secular governance poses a problem. But even the constitution can be changed, because man can change his mind, and it has indeed been changed in several countries throughout modern history. Or worse, there are contradicting legislations which violate the constitution, like the FISA Amendments Act or the National Defense Authorization Act in the US.
Islam gave us a divine standard for good and evil, as Allah is Al-Hākim (The Ultimate Legislator). If we would give people the ultimate authority to legislate then we would see all kinds of perverted acts being legalized. We have seen how Western countries have legalized suicide giving it the name euthanasia, we have seen them legalize baby murder giving it the name abortion, they have legalized bestiality, pornography, drugs, prison torture, etc. Because their legislation is not guided by Divine standards nor are they motivated by Divine values. The tyrants in our countries have also legalized all kinds of twisted man-made laws, countries like Pakistan and Morocco up until recently for example have a law which allows rapists to marry their victims, while forcing the victim to marry their rapist. Instead of punishing the rapist they punish the victim twice, first by rape and secondly by marrying the rapist. But such tyrant laws do of course not deserve any international western military intervention to save the people from this oppression, these interventions are only launched to rescue the people from the so-called oppression of the Sharia; which aims to restore their dignity, while freeing and defending them from the merciless tyrant agents and their neo-colonial capitalist masters.
When has democracy ever removed tyranny in our Islamic countries? Rather it only empowers tyranny like we saw in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood won the democratic elections and Algeria before them when the Islamic Salvation Front won the elections. Did western installed democracy remove tyrant oppression in Iraq, did it bring stability in Afghanistan? So not only is democracy rejected from a theological perspective, it is practically useless. We can debate about the theological permissibility of using democracy as a tool, but why don’t we look at its practical application; why allow something that proofed useless to begin with? Which Masalah (benefit) does it have and which Maqasid (objectives) does it protect? Where is the stability it brought for Egypt, Iraq and many other countries? Democracy in especially our countries is a stage set for tyrants to oppress our people with their consent. Democracy is one of the chains used by the neo-colonial powers to shackle us.
Trying to change our situation through democracy is like going to a casino and hoping to win enough money to buy the casino itself and change it into a mosque. You are not only sinning as you desperately try to achieve virtue, rather it is also completely impossible. On the contrary, the only thing you will reach is ruin, as you will loose everything you possess. If Muslims do not understand the theological objections to democracy, which can be indeed difficult to understand for the general Muslims, then surely its failed practical use is obvious. Rather this is the reason why the majority of Muslims reject democracy without them understanding the theological details of the unlawful legislation that this system entails.
We should reject democracy (and all its -isms; humanism, liberalism, individualism, capitalism, secularism, etc) because it is a pagan religion from various perspectives. And for us to understand this we need some sociological and anthropological insight, we can then easily recognize democracy as a modern-day idol. The more primitive societies are the more primitive their idols, the more sophisticated societies are the more sophisticated their idols. Societies worshipped idols made out of stone, clay and wood, or they worshipped tyrants, spirits and holy men. Most societies have passed this primitive phase of idolatry, so they have sophisticated idols. The modern day idols are made out of ideologies, concepts and systems which they worship and enforce on others to be worshipped. In the past there were idols like Pharaoh who forced people to worship him, he forced people to accept his rule, there was no rule except his rule, his word was to be perceived as ultimate and divine law. The west today does the exact same thing, they bomb our countries in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Waziristan, Afghanistan, Mali and so on, as they enforce their idol democracy on us. We are forced to accept this rule because there is no rule except this rule, and we must likewise perceive it as ultimate and divine law. No one is allowed to disagree over its ultimate and divine authority.
But like any idol, it is only worshipped when its suits the desires of the idolater. When it does not suit his desires he turns his back on the idol and follows his desires instead –without even looking at the inherent arbitrary nature of democratic man-made legislation. We saw this very clearly when the US bombed Iraq unlawfully, even by their own international standards, because they desired our oil recourses. We saw how they committed war crimes and how they unlawfully imprisoned and tortured Muslims while their idol man-made international human right laws did not legalize this. Various whistleblowers exposed such violations of international human right laws, especially Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. Not only do they violate these laws, they also support tyrants who violate these laws. The injustice of the tyrants in our countries is excused because it suits the desires of the ruling powers in the democratic west, but the so-called injustice of the liberating Sharia will never be allowed.
As Charles Clarke said: “What drives these people on is ideas. And, unlike the liberation movements of the post-World War II era, these are not political ideas like national independence from colonial rule, or equality for all citizens without regard for race or creed, or freedom of expression without totalitarian repression. Such ambitions are, at least in principle, negotiable and in many cases have actually been negotiated. However, there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Sharia law”. (Contesting the Threat of Terrorism – Heritage Foundation.)
Although the issue of legislation is the main objection against democracy, there are however other objections in addition to the issue of legislation. We can not compare democracy with the Islamic concept of Shura [consultation] for example. Why? Because in a democracy everyone is allowed to vote, while in the Islamic Shura only the experts, scholars and people of influence and opinion are allowed to have a say. This is especially relevant looking at our current situation; like I said, our pure human nature and our intellect are suppressed and corrupted, so our judgment is very clouded. Furthermore, the general people are not informed enough, they are not specialized and they do not have the correct insight to vote for what is good. That is why the likes Donald Trump and Bush Jr. before him got elected as presidents in the US. We must also not forget that Hitler and Nazism and Fascism came to rise through democratic elections.
The voting system of Islamic Shura however is limited to the opinion of intellectuals and specialists. If humanity keeps governing with democracy and bases its legislation on the wishes and desires of the masses, and the political entrepreneurs who exploits their sentiments, then we will keep repeating the mistakes of Germany and Italy in the Second World War over and over again. The sentiments of the masses are very ambiguous. This is clearly visible looking the current rightwing movements sweeping trough the West. Rightwing populists utter the most racist remarks and various western countries pass laws which we would have hold for unimaginable just a couple of years ago. So democracy is very unstable.
Look at the idiotic man-made policies legislated by the US president Trump for example. Men like him and Adolf Hitler are the best examples that we should not give man unlimited authority to legislate. They are the best example that we need Divine guidelines and standards for good and evil. No one has the authority to legalize crimes, perverted acts and atrocities in an Islamic country, unlike democratic countries. If in theory the majority agrees to genocide and war crimes in a democracy, then this will become a legal policy, like we saw with Nazi Germany for example and other countries. We say that something should only be considered legal if it is in line with Divine moral standards, not the whims and sentiments of the masses, which can be easily manipulated. And they are indeed manipulated like Edward Bernays explained in his book ‘Propaganda’ and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent’.
Rather people actually do not even have a say in a democracy. The democratic West wants to set the image that their people have a say in politics, but this is clearly not the case. Look at the anti-war protests in 2003 for example. Thirty million people, throughout 600 cities, in more than 60 countries expressed their objection to the war in Iraq. But did the democratically elected politicians that participated in this war listen to the demands of their own people? This was one of the biggest mass demonstrations in human history, but it did not achieve anything. The West acts as if democracy is highly valued but when the democratically elected Mursi was deposed by the tyrant Sisi we did not see the west extend as much as a finger to defend and support their idol democracy, which they only worship when it suits their worldly interests.”
Question: “Many Muslims find the positions of the Jihadi current as minority opinions which in the context of modernity difficult to accept- how would you respond to that? Especially with in the context of unifying into an Ummah? Currently in the light of much infighting- and also referring to your article- Mujahideen have been seen as those trying to apply the Shariah. But it begs the question- who gave the Mujahideen the authority to apply Shariah? In other words who is their source of authority? Is by virtue of knowledge? Fighting or something else? Very rarely have we seen this in history. What I am getting at is from where does Zarqawi, bin laden or Zawahiri draw authority from? They do not have the prerequisite knowledge to give Fatwas, Mullah Omar or Jalaludin Haqqani both were scholars in their own right but now we are in a situation where Mujahideen all claim authority to apply Shariah and all we see is chaos? Could you elucidate?”
Answer: “Whether the Sharia is difficult to accept or not by our societies in this modern day of age, it is what our current societies need to heal. When someone is ill he does not need to like the taste of medicine to heal, he could dislike the medicine but this does not mean that he does not need it. However I do not think that the Jihadi current holds minority opinions. It is important to realize, when we talk about the Sharia, that we can not compare the Sharia system of law with other systems of law purely based on its legal structure. The Sharia has a legal structure, but there is also a theological core that holds everything together. This is a Divine system of law that is intertwined and inseparably connected to a believe system, it is build on a fundamental theological doctrine, that teaches values, morals and principles. This is what separates the Sharia from human systems of law. The democratic west and other secular powers on the world are still struggling to find the best way to deter crime for example. They juggle between increasing the punishments and increasing the probability of getting caught, and so on. But all of these failed measures did and do not really deter crime, why so?
The legislation of laws only, and the implementation of laws only, is not what guides people. If we were to look at the legislation of Islamic laws then they are already present in Islamic theology. But does this mean that every Muslim is following these laws? No, many Muslims unfortunately do not. So this proves that the legislation of laws only, does not guide people. The same goes for the implementation of laws. If we look for example at the implementation of punishments then we will likewise see that they do not guide societies. Both reasonable and unreasonable punishments will be of no benefit if society has fallen into moral decline. The majority of States in the US have a death penalty, but did the death penalty really stop crime in the US? Crime and incarcerations have been increasing in the US with the increase of moral decay since the 1960’s as more than 2,5 million criminals are mass incarcerated by now. So if we want to tackle crime we must remove the underlying foundation of crime. As crime stems from moral decay, it moves regardless of the penalties. Statistics show that there is not more crime because the sentences are less, and there is also no less crime because the punishments are more severe. Rather crime disappears when there is faith, morality and piety.
Like Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) said: “The first thing that was revealed was a Verse from the small chapters of the Quran and it mentioned Paradise and Hellfire. When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal laws were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was ‘Do not drink alcohol’ people would have said ‘We will never leave alcohol’ and if it revealed ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse’ they would have said ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’” (Narrated in Sahīh Bukhāri)
The goal is not only implementing laws, the goal is spreading faith, morality and piety. As implementing certain Sharia laws does not necessary equal implementing the Sharia. Saudi Arabia for example implements the Sharia corporal and capital punishments, but they do not implement the Sharia. If we would only punish the poor for theft with the corporal punishment prescribed by the Sharia while excusing the people of wealth, status and influence for the same crime, then did we truly implement the Sharia and its Islamic justice? The body of the Sharia is its criminal and civil law, but they are nothing without Islamic faith, morality, and most important of all, true piety (Taqwah). That is why we can not implement the Sharia in a disbelieving society. So when I say that we need the Sharia more then ever I do not mean that we need its corporal and capital punishments more then ever as a solution to deter crime and heal our societies from the various other sociological illnesses. If we would implement the Sharia punishments in a disbelieving society or a similar society that has fallen into moral decline, without addressing the underlying foundation first which causes the corruption of these societies, then we would have to commit senseless and large scale massacres.
We have to remove disbelief, corruption and immorality while spreading faith, morality and piety. We have to polish up the pure human nature of people, and we have to polish up the faith and piety of people. I explained in the previous article ‘The essence of the Sharia’ that we have to remove certain obstacles that are blocking the Halal, and we have to place certain obstacles that block the Haram. And I also explained how obligations are connected to rights and how we must give people their rights first before they can uphold their obligations. This is all part of the Sharia and when all of this is done, we do not even have to implement the Sharia punishments, only in a few exceptions, and Islamic history can testify to this fact.
When we say we want the Sharia we do not mean that we want every sinner to be punished by Sharia law, rather we want the Sharia to create a healthy society in which the people do not have the need or motive to sin in the first place. When we say we want the Sharia we do not mean that we want the people to resolve all of their disputes in a Sharia court, rather we want the Sharia to create a healthy society in which people respect the rights of each other , and in which people reconcile between each other in good and healthy understanding in the first place, without the interference of the law in case of any dispute. This is the society we want.
This is what all Muslims want, they are united in their demand of the Sharia regardless of the technicalities in terms of theological sciences, legal structure, and the different visions between jurists and scholars; the specialists. This is not something we should really worry about. The practical application of the Sharia in the future will shape itself gradually like a human body shapes itself as it grows older, with all its growing pains and childhood diseases. Yes we will stumble, yes we will make mistakes, but this is all part of the process. Look at the recently formed unification of Tahrir Shaam in Syria for example. Different schools of thought, different methodologies, different scholars and Mujahid leaders, all formed one unity. The Jihadi current and its demand for the Sharia has successfully united between different Muslims. But do they all agree over the specifics of the Sharia? No, but they do agree over its necessity. Like the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. Muslims need the Sharia like the famished needs food, he can not pick and choose what type of food he wants and likes. We can likewise not pick and choose which specific school of thought, or methodology, or movement we prefer to implement the Sharia. That is why even the Salafi Jihadi movement accepted the Sharia implemented by the Taliban despite their differences.
But let’s clear something out of way, and let us be realistic. We must understand that the Sharia is not going to change the world into Paradise. The world will stay the world with all its negative aspects, like we said good and evil must coexist on the world. Evil will not disappear if the Islamic Sharia appears. There is no doubt that many mistakes will be made in the beginning, and this is not strange since the Sharia and the Islamic State have been absent for many years. There is no doubt that many sacrifices will be made. So let it be clear, we are not selling false utopias like ISIS does. Sayyid Qutb was also very realistic in this regard, concerning the revival of the Islamic Caliphate, in his book ‘Milestones’. We are not going to bedazzle the world from one day into another with social, economic and scientific progress once we establish the Sharia in the beginning. Rather a lot of sacrifice and hard work will be asked from the Muslims in the beginning, as we are witnessing right now, and even after the Sharia is implemented and an Islamic State is established. It is much like John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Not only reality but the prophecies also indicate that we must make huge sacrifices for the Sharia. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) predicted that ninety-nine out of one hundred Muslims will die in Armageddon (Al-Malhamah Al-Kubra), the sacrifice will be so huge that Muslims will not even feel joy once they reached promised victory. And after this even a greater calamity will appear, the Anti-Christ (Al-Maseeh Al-Dajaal). And after he is killed another calamity will appear, Gog and Magog (Yajooj wa Majooj). It is only after their destruction that we will enjoy peace and prosperity under the rule of the Jesus (‘Isa, Alayhi Selam). The sacrifices we must make before that are unimaginable, so we must not think that the establishment of the Caliphate will come without war, death, chaos and destruction. These sacrifices are not strange; more than 112 million people were killed during the First and Second World War, without counting the wounded, the tortured, the raped, the starved, the imprisoned etc. These sacrifices were made for the man-made international laws and failed world order that is crumbling in front of our eyes. So what to think of our sacrifices for something as noble as a Prophetic Caliphate which will revive the whole Muslim Ummah?
Facism and Nazism collapsed in 1945, Communism and Socialism collapsed in 1991, Capitalism collapsed in 2008, neo-colonialism collapsed in 2011, and the morally bankrupt Humanism and Liberalism is collapsing in front of our eyes. All of these failed -isms will fall and make way for Monotheism. We are witnessing the world order and international law collapse in front of our eyes as they are replaced with the laws of the jungle set by the upcoming ideologies of “Putinism” and “Trumpism”. You either grab what is yours or others will grab it from you, human rights are not granted anymore nor are they enforced. We saw how hospitals, nurseries, schools and bakeries were bombed in Syria in front of the whole world, and we saw how incendiary bombs and chemicals weapons were used on a large scale in Syria. I already talked about the period of chaos and lawlessness which will create a vacuum for us to implement the Sharia in the interview ‘Managing designed savagery’ with Tore Hamming. Many scholars and Jihadi theorist explained how this destabilization and chaos will make way for a new system, Shaykh Tariq Abdul Haleem talked about it for example in his recent article ‘The Fall of Democracy in the United States of America.’
We must take all of these facts into consideration when we look at our countries. There will be attempts and partial implementations of the Sharia before the Islamic Caliphate is established, and without the establishment of an Islamic Sate as a whole, we already saw such attempts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali and Yemen. These attempts were relatively successful until the West intervened with international coalitions, drone programs, counter-revolutions, and proxy-wars which ended these experiences making way for sectarian violence, chaos and war. Look at the wide spread scale of corruption in Afghanistan before the Taliban emerged and after the Taliban were deposed from power by the US. So we must stay honest, it is not the Sharia that brought chaos, it is rather the war against the Sharia that brought chaos in these countries. On the contrary, there are many media sources that testify to the fact that the Sharia in especially the war-torn countries Afghanistan, and Somalia, Mali and Yemen brought stability and security. The Taliban ended the reign of the terrorizing warlords for example.
So when we talk about the implementation of the Sharia we have a long hard way ahead, it is a journey of several generations, and if you ask me we are not the generation that will implement the Sharia, rather this is the generation that must sacrifice everything they possess to lay the fundamental groundwork for the Sharia. Therefore the question, where do Mujahid leaders like Shaykh Usama bin Laden, Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi, and Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri get their theological authority from to implement the Sharia, is actually irrelevant, as we are not the generation that will implement the Sharia. Rather this generation is busy with facilitating groundwork for future generations to implement the Sharia, this generation should be busy removing the obstacles that prevent the Sharia from being implemented in the first place.
And this is exactly what the Mujahid leaders have been doing as they are trying to remove the tyrant systems in our countries through armed struggle. However this does not mean that Al-Qaedah does not have qualified scholars, I mentioned Shaykh Abu Hassan Al-Bulaydi for example and there are many others. But even the military command of Al-Qaedah is drenched in theological knowledge, the current Mujahid leader Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri is also known for his theological knowledge, his detailed explanation on the jurisprudential text Al-Waraqaat for example also testifies to this fact. Nonetheless this Mujahid generation is the wrecking ball tasked with destroying the current tyrant systems in our countries, while laying the groundwork for the construction of any future Islamic State or Caliphate. This generation calls-, its demands-, it fights and sacrifices everything they have for the Sharia, but it is not the generation that will govern with the Sharia, which is actually the easy part.
When the obstacles that prevent the Sharia from being implemented are removed, then the scholars, jurist and other Muslim specialists will be given the chance to form and establish the Sharia. The Muslims will also be given the chance to participate in the process of Islamic Shura, after being freed from the tyrant powers that influence, corrupt and suppress their opinion and intellect.The Mujahid soldiers and leaders should not busy themselves too much with administrations, social services, and other responsibilities of governance for now in this unstable transitional stage. They should give the Muslim civilians of the freed territories this responsibility themselves as they set up counsels and institutions, while the Mujahideen busy themselves with the mission of liberating and defending territories as they wage Jihad against the enemies of the Ummah.
This was more or less the same policy of Al-Qaedah in Yemen when they liberated Al-Mukallah as they handed over the city’s administrative and institutional governance to The Peoples Council of Hadramouth. Jayh Al-Fath did the same when they handed over the administrative governance in Idlib to an elected civilian counsel. Al-Qaedah is stretched over vast territories on the world, but they did not declare any Islamic State or Caliphate. Because they realize that any energy invested in governance comes at the expense of energy which could have been invested in waging Jihad, as they are still waging a prolonged defensive guerrilla war. They are trying to liberate our countries and peoples from the global neo-colonial powers and their tyrant puppet regimes. Declaring a futile State or Caliphate would busy them with pointless short lasting administration and governance instead of waging a defensive Jihad against the global and local enemies.
It would mean building governmental bodies and institutions, creating stability, providing security, solving public disputes, dealing with public administrations, social services, health care, economics, etc. If we busy ourselves with this it would come at the expense of waging Jihad and advancing against the enemy, as it dilutes our manpower, capacities and resources. This is why we have seen very little military activity from ISIS against the Syrian regime when they declared a State or Caliphate, up until recently. With the growing military vulnerability of the Ummah it is not wise to invest time and energy in governance at the expense of waging a defensive Jihad to liberate our lands. We do not even have enough manpower, capacities and resources to wage a defensive Jihad against the local and international enemies let alone manpower, capacities and resources to build and manage a structured domestic and foreign policy. The biggest priority of the Sharia is the defensive Jihad against the transgressing enemy, so all our manpower, capacities and resources should be invested in this goal first and foremost.
The biggest problem with ISIS for example was that they prioritized governance over waging Jihad. They came to Syria with the ambition to rule. Those who want to rule should stay at home and wait for a couple of generations. The Ummah does not need another person who seeks to rule, there are enough power hungry people who seek to rule. Rather the Ummah needs men who want to sacrifice everything they possess as they lay the groundwork for future Muslim generations to rule with the Sharia. The Ummah does not need the likes of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi who are hungry for power and authority. Rather the Ummah today needs men like Hassan ibn Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) who are willing to sacrifice their leadership so that the Ummah draws closer to unity and victory. Because, again, this is the generation of sacrifice not governance. And the generation that called for-, demanded for-, fought for-, and sacrificed everything for the Sharia, has a much higher position than the generation that governs with the Sharia. Just like the Salaf (The Predecessors) had a higher position than the Tabi’un (The Followers). The Salaf liberated vast territories for the Muslim Ummah as they spread Islam, while the Tabi’un only governed these territories with Islam.”