Thursday, September 25, 2008

Part XVII: Intro to the Shari'a (Sharia, Shari'ah, Shariah)

Part XVII: Intro to the Shari’a
by Abu Daoud

During a recent five-month sojourn in the West I had the opportunity to do a good amount of teaching on Islam, and there was one question that people kept asking: what exactly is the shari’a? Where does it come from? These are the questions I want to tackle in this paper:

Generally one hears the word shari’a translated as “law” but that’s not quite right. It would be more like the Jewish understanding of Torah in fact. It does contain positive laws (thou must) and negative law (thou shalt not), but it also has a whole series of other classifications, including things that are recommended but not mandatory (certain prayers, for example) and things that are frowned upon but not forbidden (smoking, entering churches). There are also categories for things that are neutral, and a category for things upon which there is no judgment.

The shari’a then is like law with a whole body of advice thrown in for good measure. Moreover it is not mutable. While there are several schools of shari’a its origin is divine and thus the shari’a is immutable like God. For example, its provisions about slavery, stoning adulterers, slaying the one who offends the Prophet, the inferiority of Christians and Jews under Muslims, or the permanent injunction to wage jihad—none of these things can be repealed or changed.

Furthermore the shari’a touches on every single aspect of life. It is not then a “law” in the Western understanding of law, which is established to protect social order and freedom (or what have you). Some of the aspects of it make sense to the human mind, but ultimately its nature is not like ours and our obligation is not to understand it but simply to obey it. It is not meant for Muslims alone, but for all of humanity, and indeed it is the vision of Islam and the purpose of jihad to make the world submit to the shari’a of God. So there really is a cosmic dimension to this concept. Much of the shari’a simply stands beyond understanding.

The source of the shari’a is revelation. In Islam revelation takes two forms: the Qur’an and the sunna. The Qur’an does contain rules about things like divorce, inheritance, the value of certain witnesses, the division of the spoils of jihad, gambling, alcohol, and so on. But much is left unanswered, which is where the second source becomes so important: it is found in the collection of sayings and deeds of the Prophet and his companions. These deeds and sayings are individually called “hadith” and the plural in Arabic is “ahadith.” After Muhammad had died and Islam was growing quickly several Muslim scholars went about collecting these ahadith, and it become important to form a chain of witnesses from the present to Muhammad, so they will often start, “Ahmad heard from Yusef, who heard from Yaqub, who heard from Omar, that the Prophet used to eat dates on the morning” or something like that. Some of most important collections of ahadith are those done by Al Bukhari, Abu Dawood, and Muslim, but there are many others.

Since the Prophet was the perfect man or ideal man, it followed that even his words and way of being (sunna) were in themselves a form of revelation regarding Allah’s will for humanity. So this is the second form of revelation that forms the bedrock of the shari’a.

Through centuries of Islamic jurisprudence, Quranic interpretation (ijtihad), and the use of analogy, the shari’a finally reached a form around the 13th Century (some say earlier) where it basically was considered to be complete in that it had all the resources needed to make judgments on any topic. Thus further revision via new interpretations of Revelation (Qur’an and the sunna) were no longer permitted or needed.

In conclusion the shari’a is Allah’s will for all of humanity revealed in the Qur’an and the way of life (sunna) of Muhammad. It is complete and immutable and has been so for many centuries. The society that abides by the shari’a will be prosperous, just, and powerful. It is the will of Allah that the whole of humanity be made to submit to the shari’a.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Part XVI: Islam and Mormonism

Islam and Mormonism
by C. Fletcher, ed. Abu Daoud

In studying world religions, I have noticed several similarities between Mormonism and Islam. Sure, there are significant differences as well (Monotheistic Islam vs. Polytheistic Mormonism for example), and I would not suggest that they are theologically compatible, but the foundings of both religions are surprisingly similar and worth noting.

Here are 12 of the parallels that have been noted (this list is by no means exhaustive):

1. Both claimed that the original meaning of the teachings of Jesus and those who preceded him had either been forgotten or corrupted.
2. Both prophets are reported to have come from humble beginnings with no formal education and were barely literate.
3. Holy Books: Both prophets wrote a new holy book that was apparently inspired by God, and both claimed that their holy book was the most correct and perfect book on earth. Also, they both claimed that their holy books were based upon a record stored in heaven. Both religions claim that their Holy Books have been preserved and are accurate to what was originally recorded by their prophets.
4. Both prophets claimed to have had visions and to have been visited by angels. For Muhammad it was the angel Gabriel, and for Smith it was the angel Moroni. Both visions revealed many new teachings that contradict the Bible.
5. Both believed that no true religion existed on Earth and they were there to restore God’s truth. Islam claims that Adam and Abraham were truly Muslim and that it is restoring 'the true faith of Abraham'. Mormons claim to have restored 'the true faith/church' that was on the earth during and after the time of Jesus, before the supposed "Great Apostasy".
6. Both prophets were practicing polygamists and advocated polygamy (and condemn polyandry) by supposed revelation from God. Additionally, both men married very young girls.
7. Both profited greatly (financially) from their followers by commanding their money.
8. Both men received “convenient” revelations just in time to satisfy their own desires. For example, Muhammad got a revelation that he himself was allowed to marry 8 wives instead of the usual 4 in Islam, and Joseph Smith got a similar revelation (revealed in Doctrine and Covenants section 132) that he was not only permitted to marry multiple wives, but that it was required for salvation and was an everlasting covenant. This revelation came just as he was going to be “caught” with other women he was having affairs with. Additionally, D&C 132 specifically mentions his wife Emma by name and warns her to death should she be unfaithful to Joseph. (Most scholars [even Mormon scholars like Todd Compton] estimate that Joseph Smith had 33 wives before he was killed. Surely he would have had many more had he lived longer.
9. Both left no clear successor for their faith - leading both religions to splinter after the death of their prophets. In each religion there are splinter groups with each group claiming to be the true successor or true continuation of the faith.
10. Both Islam and Mormonism have those who follow the "original doctrine" of the founding leaders and like these founding leaders, are violent polygamists, and have revelations justifying their evil actions.
11. Both prophets and religions deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the eternality of Jesus, as well as Jesus being God in the flesh
12. Both men were murderers. For Muhammad, there is no question about this. Most Mormons teach and believe that Joseph Smith was martyred, but this is not true. It is historically verifiable that he shot and killed two men during the shootout that ultimately took his life. The Mormon view is that he was “led like a lamb to slaughter” and was killed as a martyr. Not so. It was a gunfight, that he and his brother lost, but not before taking some lives of their own.

Here are some scriptures to reflect on in light of the points above. While these scriptures may come across as abrasive... remember, it's not my view or anyone else's, this is the Bible.

Galatians 1:6-9 "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."

2 Cor 11: 12-15 "And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."