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kr’s Thoughts on the Afghani Apostate, Part II

March 30, 2006

kr’s note: I got sleepy, so there will be a Part III conclusion tomorrow night, Inshallah… props to Saqib for helping me fix the large font problem at the end

Worldviews are interesting things; a tawheedic worldview implies that one bases his outlook on all things—be they spiritual or secular—bearing in mind that God is the one who decrees what is acceptable/unacceptable, beneficial/dangerous, etc. Human reason (`aql) often can see the logic behind such Divine decrees: we can understand why alcohol is forbidden, why one should respect one’s parents, etc. However, since human knowledge is limited and His Knowledge is infinite, this means that there are issues for which we cannot understand the exact Divine Wisdom. For example, there have been scholars who have theorized about why the number of rak`ats in each prayer is such, but there is no clear reason or logic for why we pray even number of Fard rak`ahs in all the prayers, but an odd number (3) in Maghrib. Here, one’s reason is incapable of grasping Divine Logic. While `aql is a powerful tool, historically the Sunnis have agreed that it is insufficient to rely on it exclusively to determine what is right and wrong. The Ash`aris (a school of theological thought) even go so far as to say that the only way that we know, for example, salat is good and fornication is wrong, is because of its being told to us. The Māturīdīs (another school) [and heck, even the Mu`tazilites] espouse that `aql can determine between most things what is right and wrong, but it is through Divine Decree that we learn of reward or punishment for a given action. Hence, the tawheedic worldview uses `aql only as an auxiliary instrument to Divine Decree to determine what is right and wrong.

Now, on the topic of apostasy, it is therefore irrelevant for one to logically explain why such a punishment exists. True, if one can attempt to understand it through logic, it is beneficial; but if one cannot understand it, it doesn’t affect the hukm in any way. This is exactly why we continue to pray only three rak’ahs for Maghrib; one cannot use one’s `aql and decide to pray two or four instead. Thus, before we can even discuss the logic behind the punishment, the tawheedic worldview must trump anything else: if one can understand it logically, that’s great; if not, it doesn’t change the predetermined hukm.

The Muslim worldview differs from other worldviews in many ways; one key difference is in classification of given actions into different categories. In other words, with apostasy, where other worldviews may classify it under the sphere of personal belief, a Muslim worldview (with the pre-requisite of a valid Islamic state) extends apostasy into the realm of politics. Specifically, apostasy is viewed as a crime against the state, an act of political and civic treason, rather than a religious one. Again, note the difference in classification: we’re talking about a political crime, not a spiritual one. And since it’s a political crime—an act of treachery—the state (whether it’s Islamic or not) has the right to establish laws to protect its own existence. The idea that a state may do whatever it deems necessary to protect itself is a universal fact accepted throughout history—and, if I may opine, grossly abused by the current Washington regime to perpetrate barbarities on other countries. Nevertheless, apostasy is treason, and treason is a crime. This is why treason/spying even in the U.S. and Britain are considered crimes that are punishable by capital punishment. Apostasy in an Islamic state is considered an act of treason since there is a covenant between a Muslim both with God and with the State. Whereas God will deal with the apostate as He deems fit in the next world (and we have no right to comment on what exactly, definitively will happen to them), the State has the right to respond in this world.

A useful segue would be to understand that even within the hukm, there are options for the State to deal with the apostate. In addition to capital punishment, the State may choose to either imprison the apostate for the rest of his life or banish him to another country outside Dar al-Islām. For example, if the apostate is insignificant in the sense that he poses no immediate danger to the security of the state, the ruler may decide for one of the other options. There are also separate rulings for an apostate who was born into Islam vs. one who converted; there are separate rulings for a male apostate and a female apostate. For example, the Hanafis hold that a female apostate, no matter the threat she poses to the state, should be imprisoned and should not be killed; the other schools hold that she too is to be killed. Regardless, the point I’m trying to make here is that this issue is such a complicated one with a plethora of options and legalities that one cannot simply issue a blanket statement and say that every apostate should be killed. One must consider circumstances of each case and then decide on an appropriate punishment.

Again, this is what makes law (and this means law in any religion or government) so difficult; as Shaykh Amin once brilliantly stated, “Law is a science, whereas the application of law is an art.” Hence, the distinguished jurist is not one who has simply memorized or has access to books of Fiqh; if he is not trained in the art of taking into consideration such mitigating circumstances, then he is not a faqih. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the concept of learning texts from a teacher is not simply to read the text—anyone can read a text or have access to it, especially now thanks to the internet and such—but rather to learn this art and discipline. A spiritual and legal master may not necessarily teach his student a given text cover to cover—but he will equip the student with sufficient tools that not only can the student read the text, but he can paint a masterpiece as well. It is unfortunate that modern Muslims have become obsessed with the text and have lost the ability to consider circumstance. If there was no reason to ever move away from law or consider mitigating conditions, then there would be no need for the faqih… we could all just have Hidayah, Reliance of the Traveller, and other books of fiqh in our palm pilots and go about our business. The tragedy is that this art is often forgotten by Muslims of today—no wonder the picture is so ugly at times.

The mercy of the shari`ah and the genius of the early communities was that they were virtuosos in this art of moving away from the law due to mitigating circumstances. A few of the more salient examples include a ruling issued by `Umar b. al-Khattab during his Caliphate wherein he temporarily set aside the punishment for stealing during a severe drought in Madinah. During the life of the Prophet, there are dozens of examples, but my personal favorite involves a man who came to the Prophet in great distress after he had intentionally nullified his fast by having relations with his wife during the fast. The Prophet then told him the punishment for such a crime, which was for him to fast for 60 days consecutively. The man replied, sheepishly, that if he were unable to make it through a Ramadan fast, how would he last for 60 days? The Prophet smiled and then went to the next level of punishment, saying that he had to feed poor people as atonement. The man replied that he had nothing to feed them with since he was so poor. The Prophet then ordered for some dates to be brought and told him to use these dates to feed the neediest of people. The man then told the Prophet that there was no one in Madinah who was more in need of being fed with these dates than his own family. The Prophet smiled and told him to feed his family and that this would be sufficient as an expiation from him.

Thus, the purpose of the shari`ah is not to simply hand out punishments to people. The word shari`ah in Arabic literally means a watering-hole, or a broad path leading to such a place. Some say that it is also related to shirā`, which means a ship’s sail. Hence, the idea is that the shari`ah is a vast, broad path that leads to something even better; or it is like the ship’s sail that guides the ship towards its destination. The common theme is that even in these linguistic definitions, there is an element of compassion and mercy which is, theoretically at least, to be manifested in the practice and application of Islamic law. Therefore, the Islamic state’s obligation becomes even greater for it not only must apply shari`ah, not only must it have jurists who are artists in its application, but must ensure that the theme of compassion is maintained throughout.

And this is where we come to the million dollar question: Is Afghanistan an Islamic State? Many would argue that yes, it is: it has a majority Muslim population, Muslim government, there are shari`ah laws in its constitution, etc. However, this is where I declare what is perhaps the most controversial part of this post: I don’t believe that Afghanistan is a complete Islamic State… the operative word here being complete. This is because the Afghani constitution that was drafted a few years ago draws from both secular and Islamic law. Yes, it does state that no law can “contravene the tenets and provisions of Islam”, but I find that to be grossly inconsistent. Either you have shari`ah or you don’t. A state cannot carry out shar`ah punishments and use that to predicate itself as an Islamic State; a function cannot be used as a definitive attribute. For example, a person cannot do surgery and declare himself a surgeon; rather, a surgeon does surgery after he is legitimized and validated as a surgeon. Similarly, with an Islamic state, it must first be one in definition and function. You cannot simply pick and choose what aspects of the shari`ah you’re going to follow and what aspects you’re going to leave aside. The shari`ah is not a buffet, wherein one can help himself to whatever and however much of what pleases one’s palette (perhaps there is symbolism that our Muslim functions today are all buffets…). This is exactly one of the reasons why the Children of Israel were condemned by God, powerfully stated in 2:85 “Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest?”… and it goes on to say, chillingly: “but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.” Hence, when it comes to shari`ah, it’s all or nothing; there’s no fence for anyone to sit on. Perhaps it would be less insulting to the shari`ah to have none of it (and still carry out one’s basic requirements as a Muslim) than to have only those parts of it that please us and leave aside those that don’t.

    When one looks further at duties of the Islamic state, such as being responsible for collecting zakat, burying the dead, establishing jumu’ah, maintaining an army, etc., I wonder how many of these duties are being fully carried out there? While I do not live there and thus cannot comment on it, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But there are areas for certain that these so-called Islamic States fail; for example, an Islamic State has to provide a just, shari`ah-compliant economic system. The very fact that Afghanistan is engaged in international financial markets proves that this isn’t in place. Furthermore, if we want to limit ourselves to the topic of punishments, let us consider areas wherein justice is not being established. In Saudi Arabia, for example, foreigners (even if they’re Muslim!) cannot own property, are treated as second-class citizens—their employers may legally withhold their pay for several months before giving it to them (and wow, there’s that “inconvenient” hadith about paying the laborer his wages before his sweat dries… right… but oh no, we don’t want to go along with that. It just isn’t as exciting as killing people). Forget Saudi, even in Afghanistan, the government ought to crack down on the billion-dollar opium industry and shut down the strip clubs and bars that have opened up post 2001. It ought to end the system of “honor-killing” (why isn’t anyone calling for the death of these people who kill innocent women?), wherein cultural practices prevail over the shari`ah and such criminals are let off leniently. Why are there no protests to punish people who commit crimes such as this —if you read this story, it will bring tears to your eyes. And why are the rest of the world’s Muslims, who get stirred up into a frenzy when the honor of the Shariah, the integrity of Islam, the nobility of the Prophet, etc. gets insulted… why are they not as upset about these issues? Is not the honor of the Shari`ah being insulted—nay, is God Himself not insulted—when a woman is gang-raped as punishment for something a male relative of hers may have done? I offer that it is a disgusting level of double-standardness that we somehow don’t find these issues as “sexy” as the issue of killing an apostate.

Conclusion tomorrow night, Inshallah.

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19 Comments
  1. maulana’s note-No, my life doesn’t revolve around eProping kr! I just don’t have class today =)

  2. oh btw- I have a new nasheed on my xanga and a new post…feel free to eProp me. I know I sound like eProp bikhari(beggar) but its okay….

  3. dupar. i’m glad you brought up the honor killing thing. if anything, that should have this ummah in a rage for the injustices committed against its mothers and sisters.
    jazaks this one.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    following some of our convos about this topic, I’d been waiting for this post for a very long time. Very very good, mashAllah. Tomorrow, call me in the morning about breakfast .. or just IM me tonight and we’ll work out the timing.

  5. Dude, that link that you had broke my heart…poor bichari Gulsoma…may those people burn…

  6. that story was horrific..it’s hard to imagine that things like that actually happen..
    regarding your comment about the double-standardness…i agree..i think some of it is due to the fact that many muslims, especially in poorer societies, don’t really know much about Islam other than what their parents may have taught them..i.e the basics..because they just don’t have as much access to information..so they may think an appropriate response to the “sexier” issues is to violently protest and be outraged without really understanding shari’ah or the issue at hand–and, as you said, oftentimes culture takes precedence over true Islam.  i know that doesn’t explain half of what’s going on, but it is one facet of the problems with the ummah today.

  7. Interesting posts .. the only statement I thought a little too ambitious was, “an Islamic State has to provide a just, shari`ah-compliant economic system. The very fact that Afghanistan is engaged in international financial markets proves that this isn’t in place.”I’m curious to know if anyone knows what a “shariah compliant economic system” means. A functional economic system that pulls one’s people out of poverty, I would assume to be at least within the spirit of Shariah. Whether Afghanistan’s system (they haven’t quite developed one yet to begin with) can actually do this is too early to tell, but we do know that the systems implemented in Pakistan, Saudi, and Egypt do not. Malaysia is the one country that may.

  8. “Law is a science, whereas the application of law is an art.” <– interesting… a physician once said that to me except he replaced law with medicine… so i totally relate. as usual, good thoughts, mA.

  9. This was much better than the first one, although it did put me to sleep a few times.

  10. Point of information- in 1999, the UK abolished the death penalty, even for treason.Otherwise, Mashallah, it was a good post.

  11. Anonymous permalink

    it’s really pathetic – the state of our ummah today – especially when so-called islamic countries don’t exactly set the best example for muslims.
    i didn’t know those literal definitions of shari’ah. that’s very interesting.
    *trying to open up that link* … paki internet, sigh.

  12. waiting for the conclusion….

  13. dude..seriously you should like write for a newspaper or something.

  14. wow, that was a good post.  yea, what she ^^ said.  mA…quite insightful and I could actually follow it, so well done. and thanks.

  15. good post, but i don’t think a newspaper is for kr… word count doesn’t mean anything to him 😉

  16. Good stuff. A little dense, but I guess you need all that info to make the reader trust you on a deeper level. I agree with most of this.Shukran.

  17. Me and a friend were debating about this issue over email about a week ago. Your comments were very enlightening and brought up many good points. May Allah increase us in knowledge.

  18. Anonymous permalink

    Masha’Allah your writiing style is amazing
    half of the time while im reading your posts i cant decide whether im admiring the content or the style of writing.. Masha’Allah

  19. Anonymous permalink

    This is exactly why we continue to pray only three rak’ahs for Maghrib; one cannot use one’s `aql and decide to pray two or four instead.
    i was talking to a friend a couple of days ago. people are so QUICK to become ‘logics'(noun). why this, why that, etc.
    it’s good to question but as u mentioned, some topics have a limit.

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