Sharia: Between Civilisation and Belief- By Yushau A. Shuaib
“And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses(to support their allegation), flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after; for such men are wicked transgressors.” (Quran 24: Verse4)
The above is a quotation from the Holy Quran. The commentary on the verse is on the people who put forward slanders or scandalous suggestions about women without adequate evidence. Evidence bordering on immorality against women must be supported by evidence twice as strongly as would ordinarily be required for business transaction, or even in murder cases. Four sane witnesses are required in Islamic law. Failing such preponderating evidence, the slanderer should himself be treated as a wicked transgressor or punished with eighty stripes.
Before the stoning of the adulterous woman, there is indeed the urgent need for our religious and political leaders, and even the followers, some of whom I suspect have little knowledge about the spirit of punishment in the noble religion of Islam to ponder briefly on the deterrent nature and its application in legitimate environment.
All the Hadd offences so categorized in Islam are also seen by other rational human beings as abominable and condemnable in the civilized world. The medical profession, for instance supports the Islamic restraint on intoxicants, which make human beings lose their senses of reasoning and rationality. Stealing and robbery are first class world offences outside Sharia and many victims have been maimed or killed as a result, while some offenders have been hackled, executed and arbitrarily burnt alive in some cultures and customs.
Adultery and fornication as felonious sexual escapades, are worst forms of cheating, betrayal and unfaithfulness, especially when one’s spouse commits the act outside the matrimony. This promiscuity encourages the breeding of bastards who are eventually rejected and end up being criminals in the society.
Infidelity is ignominious and incompatible with any self-respect as it annihilates the foundation of the family values. The Quran therefore provides the following: ” The man and the woman guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes . . . ” Q24 V2. There are also stiffer penalties in other cultures and religions.
It is crystal clear that our tupsy-turvy world has taken an alarming dimension with some preachers, especially in the developed world, have been indicted of sodomy and officiated on marriages between gays and lesbians. As a result some Nigerian religious leaders have now turned missionaries in developed countries, labouring to restore them from backslided states of apostasy. That does not exonerate some Nigerian preachers too, who have been caught red handed committing atrocities contrary to the tenets of their faiths.
It is no gainsaying that Islam is a peaceful and beneficial religion which emphasizes on the forgiveness and mercifulness of Almighty God. The Prophet of Allah (peace be Upon Him) is known to promote leniency in the application of justice. It takes 100% perfect witnesses of not less than three people for the conviction of some offences. Even if a suspect admitted on his volition, of performing such unwholesome acts, in several (Hadith) narrations, the Prophet hardly listened to them. In cases where the offenders ask for the punishment to be carried out after self confession, the narrations provide a long process and consideration in determining the sanity of the self-confessed offenders before the punishment is meted out. Allah states in the Holy Quran that “He is the one that accepts repentance from His servant and forgives sins: and He knows all that ye do”.
Though human rights activists and NGOs rely on free-civilization to criticize religious practices and beliefs as archaic, but unbridled freedom in an unchecked society results in the seeming competition between Man and God(Subhanallah). Freedom and liberty taking to the extreme level, makes man to play God. There are some sinful inventions based on the scientific advancement in the modern civilization, which include the cloning of animals, sexual transformation of men to women and vice-versa and to the recent breaking news of a man who is purported to have been mysteriously impregnated through scientific maneuvers to take over childbearing when he could easily marry a woman to give him a child.
Modernism and civilization have other ills considering the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, which have the capacity to wipe off the human race. No one prays that these deadly weapons should ever be used, but it appears modernization has accepted the proliferation of the armament and promoted them.
Islam is never against the aspects of civilization and modernization that are beneficial to humanity. In fact, some aspects of civilization have facilitated the ease in religious practices. I can say that Muslims have benefitted more from the invention of the airplane which has made easier the spiritual task of performing the holy pilgrimages to Mecca; the timer and alarm watch for responding to the regular daily prayers and the loud speakers for hearing of large believers gathered for congregational prayers. Modernization and civilization are compatible with Islam if they are pursued within reasonable and religious limit. There are different verses that predicted the emergence of this generation and some of its features. In fact Quran proffers human race many ideas in the science and arts of aeronautics when it says “Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in?
While not trying to prevent the cause of justice to be meted to the adulterous, I would want to implore our political leaders who agree with the stoning of the adulterous, to honestly consider whether the application is only meant to deal with the poor and the downtrodden since so far most of the victims are the impoverished and wretched of the society.
One may ask whether adultery is now perpetuated exclusively by the illiterate and poverty-stricken who may even be ignorant of the introduction of the Sharia and its contents or does it mean our elected officers have stopped or are no more involved in sexual escapades even after the introduction of Sharia in their domains? At least it is on record, though unfortunate, that some of the proponents of the codes stay in luxury hotel rooms when residential accommodations are available.The poor masses may wonder the moral justification for this kind of extravagance and even be suspicious of such acts as a cover-up for clandestine engagement in illicit affairs. Has the government provided an enabling environment for people not to have cause to steal by providing jobs, food and social welfare? This is to also examine whether our public officers truly and honestly rely on their salaries to take care of their families and immediate needs, including personal properties without dipping their hands into the public treasury compared to the unemployed who may be stealing to meet basic needs. I am not justifying stealing whether due to greed or actual need. Have they ever weigh the Islamic implications of deceit and hypocrisy through lying and cheating while trying to win public support and failure to fulfill the promise made to improve the living standards of the followers?
But could our leaders live by example so that the poor may not cite their action as endorsement or inducement to commit sins? Or how can they participate in Owambe parties and social engagements where beer and alcoholic drinks are freely served and expect the hoi polloi to be sacrificial lambs? At least we see them daily on television(though may be teetotalers) surrounded by bottles of beer. Let our Ulamas tell them too that they deserve commensurate punishment. Our Ulamas should also rise to the occasion and recommend judicial opinions from Quran, Hadith and other legislation (IJMA) in properly interpreting the various juristic views of the Four Imams ( i.e., Maliki, Shafii, Hambali and Hanafi) Schools of Thought for uniform codes of judgement which promote the uniqueness and benevolence of Islam against the erroneous belief in some quarters. With a Foreign Citizenship right given to one of the victim recently, it would not be a surprise if those prostitutes from a particular part of the country, invade the Sharia states so that after some noises, they would secure automatic foreign visas too.
We should be honest with ourselves without making Islamic codes unnecessarily harsh, which is not intended to be. Afterall Sharia is not only about punishment but is total ways of happy life. If properly applied in the right environment, Sharia is a beautiful bride that will attract even the non-Muslims to its principles and teachings.
This article was published in Nigerian Tribune September 11, New Nigeria September 17, Thisday September 22, Post Express September 28, Daily Trust November 13, 2002, The Monitor April 8, 2003 p9