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October 6, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 795

Tunisian University Lecturer: Shari'a Must Not Be Implemented Today

October 6, 2004
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 795

In an article titled "Shari'a Must Not Be Implemented Today" posted on the liberal Arab website www.metransparent.com, Dr. Iqbal Al-Gharbi, lecturer in psychology at Al-Zaytouna University, Tunisia, wrote that during Islam's formative years, the Prophet Muhammad and the four Righteous Caliphs placed the best interests of the Muslim nation before a literal adherence to the Koran and blind imitation of the Prophet's way of life (the Sunna). She stated that the principle of placing the Muslim nation's best interests first and using logic must guide the Muslim world today as well. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

'The Implementation of Shari'a in Our Generation Harms Shari'a and the Islamic Nation'

" Shari'a [Islamic religious law] must not be implemented in the Arab world today because its implementation threatens the cultural balance that has existed in this region for hundreds of years. For example, [implementing Shari'a caused] Christian Arab emigration to the West, which is a mark of shame on the forehead of the [Muslim] nation.

"Statistics show that the number of Christian Arabs, which today stands at 12 million, has waned, and their presence in the Arab region has diminished. In Syria today there are half the Christians that there were in the 1950s, and in Jerusalem, there are only a few thousand, when in 1948 they numbered 50,000…

"In addition, the implementation of Shari'a in our generation harms Shari'a itself, as well as the Islamic nation – which will become a world joke for [dictating] amputating the hand of someone who stole 'a quarter of a dinar,' stoning [adulterous] lovers, publicly giving 1,000 lashes to anyone who imbibes a glass of wine, and breaking the necks of [Muslims] who adopted another religion or of those who do not act according to any religion.

"Moreover, the day will come when the U.S. will use our violation of the Human Rights Convention as an excuse to occupy us and make us into other Indians [and do to us what they did to them]. This is because it is clear today, in the era of globalization, that any internal problem not dealt with by deep-rooted reform becomes an international problem…"

'The Demand to Implement Shari'a Today is Absurd and Ill-Intentioned'

"The demand to implement Shari'a today is absurd and ill-intentioned. It indicates its supporters' ignorance both of Islamic history and of the aims of Shari'a. The Prophet Muhammad did not implement Shari'a fully because [ Shari'a ] was not revealed to him all at once but gradually, over more than 20 years, in response to problems that arose with the organization of the new nation and in response to the challenges [posed] by the Children of Israel in Al-Madina…

"[Likewise], an important part of the Koran was abrogated [2] because every time the social, economic, and security circumstances of the Islamic nation developed, the previous verses, which were no longer appropriate [in light of] the new changes, were abrogated…

"[Furthermore,] Islam urges the use of logic and wisdom. The role of the Prophet was not only to declare the revelations and interpret the Koranic text, but also to get [the people] accustomed to using logic… For this reason, the abrogation of Koranic verses did not end with the death of the Prophet – because social conditions did not freeze in place, but continued their constant movement from the simple to the complex."

'The Four Righteous Caliphs Continued [in the Path of the Prophet], Abrogating and Amending'

"The four Righteous Caliphs continued [in the path of the Prophet] and abrogated and amended the verses connected to the commandments between man and his fellow [man], in accordance with the Shari'a principles based on encouraging good deeds and refraining from evil deeds.

"Thus, for example, [the First Caliph] Abu Bakr abrogated the verse 'Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts have [recently] been reconciled to [Islam] [Koran 9:60]' – that is, [Abu Bakr eliminated the grant] to those who had newly joined Islam, while the Prophet continued to give this Zakat [charitable grant] to them throughout his life. It is interesting that none of the Prophet's Companions argued with him about this, or accused him of deviating from Islam – like people today hasten to accuse [others] of betrayal and apostasy.

"Abu Bakr's argument when he abrogated this verse was based on logic, not on tradition: 'Islam has become stronger, and we have no need for them [i.e. those who have newly joined Islam]' Why? Because the balance of power between the Muslims and the polytheists had changed from the situation that existed when the verse was revealed. Previously, the [Muslim] nation was weak, and needed to entice people with material temptations so they would join. But when it became stronger, both numerically and with regard to its [military] preparedness, it no longer needed this…

"According to this logic, which is open to the innovations of life and sets the public [wellbeing] over the text of the Koran or the Sunna, [the Second Caliph] Omar bin Al-Khattab abrogated the Koranic punishment for theft in the year Al-Ramada [18 in the Muslim calendar], the year that famine struck the Arabian Peninsula. [He did so] even though the verse clearly and absolutely orders hand amputation: 'As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward for their own deeds. [Koran 5:38].'

"The reason why [this punishment was abrogated] was a change in the Muslim nation's strategic situation in Omar's day, in contrast to the situation in the day of the Prophet. The nation had become a conquering [nation], and had [developed] a mighty military program – to topple the Persian and Byzantine empires. Such objectives cannot be achieved with a military consisting of one-armed men, and in the year Al-Ramada, Mecca and Al-Madina alone had 15,000 thieves, and doubtless the number [of thieves] in the rest of the Arabian Peninsula was many times greater…

"[The Third Caliph] Uthman bin 'Affan went even farther than his two predecessors in abrogating texts in the Sunna and the Koran – even in the sphere of ritual between man and God. He prayed at Mina, [3] while the Prophet and [the previous Caliphs] Abu Bakr and Omar abandoned this prayer. Also, he introduced many changes unfamiliar to Muslims in the deeds between man and his fellow [man] – which aroused outbreaks against him and led to his cruel murder.

"For example, he introduced new Persian [-style] taxes, when the Koran and the Sunna recognized only the Zakat and the Kharaj [land tax], and preferred to give his family state jobs and funds from the Muslim treasury…

"Also, the Fourth Caliph Ali bin Abu Taleb acted no differently than his three predecessors, placing what he thought was the best interests of the [Muslim] nation over the text of the Koran and the Sunna… [Thus for example] he invented the punishment for [imbibing] wine… [Imbibing wine] is forbidden in the Koran…: 'Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows are an abomination [and] Satan's handwork: Eschew such (abomination) [Koran 5:90].' However, the Koran had not determined a punishment for anyone violating these prohibitions… The Prophet had not punished anyone who drank wine, and even Abu Bakr had not, and apparently also Omar had not…

"But the Imam Ali [did so because] he was horrified by the worsening of alcohol consumption and by the grave sins stemming from it during the period after the spread of the [Muslim] occupation, at a time when the booty flowed abundantly to Mecca and Al-Madina, and corruption and drunkenness proliferated there.

"In an attempt to be rid of this corruption, he did not hesitate to differ from what was said in the Koran and the Sunna, and to invent a punishment for wine-drinkers…"

'The Flaw Lies in Reliance upon a Literal Reading of the Koran and Sunna'

"The flaw [in understanding Shari'a ] lies in the reliance on a literal reading of the Koran and Sunna, instead of an allegorical and rational reading that sets the best interests of the nation over the texts of its heritage – as did the best of [our] ancient, righteous patriarchs who made us a nation among the advanced nations, that set logic above tradition and placed the best interests of flesh and blood man over the rituals of their forefathers.

"If we do not turn [in this direction] swiftly and with maximum determination, we will remain a nation of the agrarian era that has no place in an era of industrial revolutions that follow each other…"


[1] http://www.metransparent.com/texts/ikbal_algharbi_application_of_sharia_today.htm, September 9, 2004.

[2] Abrogation is a method known in Islam by the technical names of Nasekh and mansoukh which offers a solution to the contradictions between Koranic verses. According to this method, the Koran includes verses that were subsequently abrogated by verses revealed at a later stage, and only the later verses are binding upon Muslims.

[3] A valley near Mecca that was the pilgrims' final station, where they performed a sacrifice.

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