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Religion and Society

Before you cut our hands off!

Extract from an article by ‘Ala’ al-Aswani, Egyptian writer and founding member of the Kefaya movement. Translation from Arabic by Chiara Pellegrino

‘Are you Muslim? If you are Muslim then why do you oppose the application of God’s law? Liberals, communists, western workers and the enemies of Islam reject the application of sharî’a, are you one of them?’ This is the question that the Brothers and the Salafites ask people (in particular ordinary people) to influence them in their religious leanings, to mobilise them in the protests and press them into taking a standpoint in favour of the interests of political Islam. This way of discussing sharî’a is not honest as every Muslim wishes to apply the law of Islam. In the first place it is necessary to explain to people the difference between sharî‘a and fiqh. Sharî’a includes the diriment principles that have been revealed by God. Fiqh is the science that allows us to understand sharî’a and to apply it in our daily lives. Divine sharî’a is diriment and never changes, while fiqh is a human product and changes with the changing of times and places. Islamic law invites people to truth, good, justice and equality. What the Brothers and the Salafites are inviting people to apply are not the principles of sharî’a revealed by God but the juridical norms written by people like us, which can be right or wrong. Many of these norms were suitable for the society of the X century but they are no longer so for XXI century society. The Brothers and the Salafites who throw their weight about in the Commission for the drafting of the constitution try to impose the application of the old juridical norms by every means possible. Having reached an agreement with the liberals, Copts and Islamists with regard to article 2 decreeing that the principles of sharî’a are the main source in order to legislate, the Brothers and the Salafites inserted an article into the draft constitution which goes as follows:

 

 

‘the principles of sharî’a include all the evident proof (adilla), the norms, juridical foundations and sources of the juridical schools of ahl al-sunna wa l-jamâ‘’.

 

 

With great simplicity, this article refers the principles of sharî’a to the juridical norms, which for Egypt constitutes a real risk. During my research on the sources of the juridical schools of ahl al-sunna wa l-jamâ‘ I was able to find no better than Fiqh al-sunna, by shaykh Sayyid Sâbiq (1915-2000). […] This is one of the most important and famous books, together with the fact that shaykh Sayyid Sâbiq was one of the historic leaders of the Muslim Brothers, so much so that the introduction was written by shaykh Hasan al-Banna (the founder of the Muslim Brothers group). Here are some extracts from the book:

 

 

1. Let us suppose that a Muslim thief steals from a chemist’s owned by a Copt. In the case that the witnesses are Copts they cannot give evidence because, according to the jurisconsults, the evidence of a non-Muslim against a Muslim is not accepted (vol. 3, p. 380). […]

 

 

2. Muslims are not allowed to drink wine and this is punished by flogging (80 lashes). Some jurisconsults say only 40 lashes. This norm is known, but the jurisconsults apply the punishment foreseen also to the non-Muslims. With regard to this shaykh Sâbiq writes: ‘Islam makes no distinction in the application of the punishment established for drinking wine. The people of the Book having the nationality of the Muslim state, like the Copts in Egypt, and the people of the Book living with the Muslims like foreigners, are given the punishment of hadd should they drink wine in the dâr al-Islâm’ (vol. 2, p. 493).

 

[…]

 

 

In the light of all this, how can one speak of the right of citizenship and equality before the law (qânûn)? If a Copt offends a Muslim he is punished with 80 lashes, but if a Muslim offends a Copt there is no flogging. It is as if human dignity were reserved only for the Muslims while the Copts are human beings without any consideration or dignity. […]

 

The jurisconsults strove to make these norms and apply them to ancient societies but if they were applied in Egypt today, a civil war would break out or there would be a split between Muslims and Copts, like what has happened in Sudan. I repeat, we are not against Islamic sharî’a since God’s law is justice and truth, but we are against the application of the old juridical norms that were suitable for the Muslims of a thousand years ago who lived in very different circumstances with respect to the Egypt of today. If we want to apply Islamic principles correctly, our jurisconsults must above all do everything to interpret and gather new juridical norms, in keeping with our modern age. Being dogmatic and applying the ancient juridical norms would mean to lacerate society, destroying our country and taking Egypt back many centuries. Dear extremists, you who cannot wait to cut off hands, stone and flog, I hope that you turn back on your steps and reflect for once on the fact that the application of sharî’a is an objective that is shared by all but that the ancient juridical norms are no longer suitable for the age in which we live. Your extremism and rigid ideas harm Islam, pushing us towards a true catastrophe. Our duty, Muslims and Copts together, is to stop this happening. And we, by the will of God, will stop this and will protect our country from your extremism. We do not recognise the modified constitution which you impose on the Egyptians. The revolution will continue until the realisation of the modern civil state. We are going towards the future, never to return to the dark of the past. Democracy is the solution.

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