THE LEGACY OF ABRAHAM-ISLAM-5
Chapter-5: Shari'ah , Islamic Law
The peaceful coexistence with justice is the basic requirement of any society for its survival, development and expansion; to achieve this, the people have to adhere to the rules of conduct or procedures known as ‘law’, established by custom, agreement, or authority. The enforcement of the body of rules is through a controlling authority. The laws of morality are means of controlling human conduct by setting normative standards. The best law is by the Creator, Who knows well the capabilities and limitations of His creatures; the human being one of them. The Bible emphasizes the importance of law by declaring that the Law of God, is absolute and perpetual, Jesus said: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”(Matthew;).
Law was given to Adam (Genesis;-17), Noah (Genesis;9:6), the Israelites (Exodus;20:2-17; Psalms;78:5) through Moses. (Exodus;31:18; John;) and through the ministration of angels (Acts;; Galatians; ; Hebrews;2:2). It is described as; Pure: “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes”(Psalms;19:8); “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”(Psalms;19:7 also Romans12:2). The law is truth (Psalms;119:142) and requires perfect obedience (Deuteronomy;27:26; Galatians;; James;). It is man's duty to keep the law: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”(Ecclesiastes;). Keeping of law result in blessedness (Psalms;119:1; Mathew;5:19; 1 John;3:22,24); the love of law, produces peace (Psalms;119:165).
Disobedience of law, invite divine rage: “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD”(Isaiah;30:9); “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it”(Jeremiah; ). Transgression of law is sin: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law”(1 John;3:4). The Israelites were punished for disobeying of law: (Nehemiah;-27). The ancient people of
adhered to the law of God given to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) in the Torah and the Mishna (the latter was later incorporated
into the Talmud). Thus, for example, unfairness in labor relations was
considered a religious sin and caring for the sick a religious obligation. The
rabbinic ordinances were regarded as having validity only because the authority
of the rabbis is sanctioned by the Torah. This however remained the personal
law for Jews for centuries, being a minority in various countries. With the
rebirth of a Jewish national state (1948) and the connected revival of Jewish
culture, the Talmud has achieved renewed importance. Orthodox Jewry has always
focused upon its study and has believed it to be the absolute Halakhic
("practice," "rules of conduct") authority. This belief
has now become even further intensified.
While rabbinic courts in Israel
have jurisdiction only in the area of family life, it has become one of the
aims of religious (Orthodox) Jewry there to establish Talmudic law as the
general law of the state. Israel
Under the Old Testament, the ‘Ceremonial Law’, prescribes; the rites and ceremonies of worship. This law was obligatory and was practiced by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him); he confirmed the continuity of the law of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), by declaring: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”(Mathew; also the Beatitudes, Matthew; 5:3-12 and the Lord's Prayer Matthew; 6:9-13). However on the contrary, after Jesus, the founder of Christianity abolished the law (Hebrews;7:9,11; 10:1; Ephesians;); though it was binding on all. Whereas Jesus had said: “The disciple is not above his master:”(Luke;6:40); but Paul, the self declared 13th disciple of Jesus declared; “But now we are delivered from the law, being dead to that in which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”(Romans;7:6). The Christians even claimed to be exempted as a covenant of works (Galatians;), freedom from the bondage and the curse of law: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”(Romans; also 7:4,6,Galatians;).
The New Testament lays down the general principles of good government, but contains no code of laws for the punishment of offenders: “For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness, Thou shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Romans;13:9). Punishment proceeds on the principle that there is an eternal distinction between right and wrong, and that this distinction must be maintained for its own sake. It is not primarily intended for the reformation of criminals, nor for the purpose of deterring others from sin. These results may be gained, but crime in itself demands punishment. The Western Civilization has been following Roman Law and its derivatives. It was the law of ancient
from the time of the
founding of the city of Rome
in 753 BC until the fall of the Rome Western Empire.
However it remained in use in Christendom (Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire) until
1453 C.E. Romans considered ritual law (fas) to be God-given and social
law (lex) as man-made. The ‘Roman
Law’, as a legal system and as basis for the law codes has affected the
development of law in most of Western civilization as well as in parts of the
East. The Churches followed Canon Law which, established
within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, independent churches of Eastern
Christianity, and the Anglican Communion for church governance.
The relationship between religious and secular authority in society is commonly known as ‘Church and State’. In most ancient civilizations the separation of religious and political orders was not clearly defined. With the advent of Christianity, the idea of two separate orders emerged, based on command of Jesus: “Render unto Caesar what are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's”(Mark;). The close association of religion and politics, however, continued even after the acceptance of Christianity as emperors such as
exercised authority over both church and state. In the early Middle Ages
secular rulers claimed to rule by the grace of God, and later in the Middle
Ages popes and emperors competed for universal dominion. During the Investiture
Controversy the church clearly defined separate and distinct religious and
secular orders, even though it laid the foundation for the so-called papal
monarchy. The Reformation greatly undermined papal authority, and the pendulum
swung toward the state, with many monarchs claiming to rule church and state by
divine right. Constantine
The concept of secular government, as evinced in the
and post revolutionary France,
was influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. The Western Civilization
separated the religion from state, by declaring the religion to be personal
matter of individual and initially depended on Roman Law, later on Civil Law,
also called Romano Germanic Law, the law of continental Europe, based on an
admixture of Roman, Germanic, ecclesiastical, feudal, commercial, and customary
law. In western
Europe today all states protect freedom of worship and maintain distinction between civil and religious
authority. The separation of church and state has been tested in the arena of
public education by controversies over issues such as school prayer, wearing of
headscarf for Muslim girls, public funding of parochial schools, and the
teaching of creationism. After 9/11, there has been revival of religious frenzy
among the West, especially in U.S. .
The religiosity displayed by George.W.Bush Junior, is well known. A survey
conducted in February 2008, by ‘Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’, a USA based think
tank, concluded: that vast majority of Americans - almost 70 percent – agree that
it is important for Washington
president to have strong religious beliefs. The American war on terror appears
to be directed against the Islamic world than the terrorists, viewed by many as
the Crusade of 21st century. The legal systems of some modern
Islamic countries are based on Islamic law (Shari’a) or admix of Shari’a and
Western law: while in most of Muslim dominated countries western law has
replaced the Shari’a after colonization. Shari’a being restricted as the
personal law for Muslims only. US
Islam being a complete code of life (Din) covers all aspects including social, economic, political, military and other aspects of human life, hence the Islamic law, spells out the moral goals of the community, where state and religion are not separate entity. Total and unqualified submission to the will of Allah is the fundamental tenet of Islam: Islamic law is therefore the expression of Allah's command for Muslim society and, in application, constitutes a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his religious belief. Known as the Shari’a (literally means path leading to the watering place).
The Jews flouted the law: “The likeness of those who are entrusted with the Law of Moses, yet apply it not, is as the likeness of the ass carrying books. Wretched is the likeness of folk who deny the revelations of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoers.”(Qur’an;62:5). Allah say: “And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced out way.”(Qur’an;). The Jews and Christians have been commanded to follow Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Qur’an: “O people of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Now Our Messenger (Muhammad) has come to you to reveal much of what you have concealed from the Holy Books and to pass over much which is no longer necessary. There has come to you from God a new Light and a clear Book (Qur’an), with which God will guide to the ways of peace all those who seek His good pleasure and bring them out of the depth of darkness into the light of His grace and guide them to the Right Way.”(Qur’an;5:15-16).
In Islamic society, therefore, the term law has a wider significance than it does in the modern secular West, because Islamic law includes both legal and moral imperatives. The Islamic law constitutes a divinely ordained path of conduct, that guides the Muslim toward a practical expression of his religious conviction (rituals) and all aspects of life (social, economic, political etc) in this world and the goal of divine favour in the world to come. For the same reason, not all-Islamic laws can be stated as formal legal rules or enforced by the courts. Much of it depends on conscience alone. The Shari’a duties are broadly divided into those that an individual owes to Allah (the ritual practices or 'ibadat) and those that he owes to his fellow men (mu'amalat). It is the latter category of duties alone, constituting law in the Western sense, that is penal law. The other laws include; offenses against the person, homicide, law of transactions, family law, succession law, procedure and evidence etc. The Qur’anic revelations laid down basic standards of conduct for the first Muslim community established under the leadership of the Prophet (peace be upon him) at
in 622 C.E. The Qur’an is the book of guidance for the believers; it also lay down
the parameters of legal code. The Qur’an contains about ninety verses directly
and specifically addressing questions of law. Islamic legal discourse refers to
these verses as Allah's law and incorporates them into legal codes. The
remainder of Islamic law is the result of jurisprudence (fiqh), human efforts to codify Islamic norms in practical terms and
legislate for cases not specifically dealt with in the Qur’an and Sunnah,
(agreement among scholars) and Qiya, (analogical reasoning). Medina
Beginning in the mid eighth century, the four major Sunni schools of legal thought (madhhabs) Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali and the Shi’a Jafari madhhab (Twelvers) emerged. They were named after the great scholars Imam Abu Hanifah (699-767 C.E), Imam Malik ibn Anas (715-795 C.E), Imam Al-Shaf’ie (767-820 C.E), Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855 C.E) and Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (699-748 C.E) respectively. These schools differ in their methodologies, which help them to arrive at verdicts to questions that are put to them. All Sunni schools use systematic reasoning to deal with areas of law not directly covered by the Qur’an or Sunnah. They differ primarily in their emphasis on textual authority or analogical reasoning, but each school recognizes the conclusions of the others as being perfectly legitimate and within the framework of orthodox Islam. Imamah is one of the core beliefs of Shiite Islam, which separates Shiites from other Muslims. Imamah is the belief that, in every time and place, there must be an infallible, divinely appointed guide who preserves the religion exactly as it was revealed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The person who bears the duty of guarding and preserving the Divine message after it is revealed and is chosen by God for this function is called the Imam; in the same way that the person who bears the prophetic spirit and has the function of receiving Divine injunctions and laws from God is called the Prophet. It is possible for the Imamate and Prophecy (Nubuwwat) either to be joined in one person or to be separate. Shi’a Muslims, believe that Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) religious leadership, spiritual authority, and divine guidance were passed on to his descendants, beginning with his son-in-law and cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, his daughter, Fatimah, and their sons, Hasan and Husain. Sunnis and Shi’a differed in their understanding of ‘who held the power to interpret Shari’a’. Shi’as initially believed that only an infallible Imam could interpret Shari’a. When the line of appropriate descendants ended, this tradition was reinterpreted to grant judicial authority to the fuqaha as the Imam's representatives.
The Sunnis, consider that the competent scholars of religious sciences can conduct Ijtihad, which means ‘independent reasoning’ as opposed to taqlid (imitation). In the absence of direct guidance from Qur’an or Sunnah for a given situation, the exercise of rational judgment by a competent authority is termed as Ijtihad. It is a unique and important component of Shari’a. Ijtihad started during the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the far flung areas. The rules of Ijtihad were framed by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph. Ijtihad, being human generated legislation is considered fallible; since more than one interpretation of a legal issue is possible: it is open to revision.
The term Shari’a is sometimes applied to all Islamic legislation. Modern scholars have however challenged this claim, distinguishing between Shari’a and fiqh and calling for reform of fiqh codes in light of modern conditions.
The law prescribed through the previous Messengers like Moses (peace be upon him); confirmed by Jesus (peace be upon them) remain applicable to Muslims, unless changed or amended through Qur’an or by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah says: “This is the guidance from Allah; He bestows it upon whom He pleases of His devotees. If they were to join other gods with Him all their deeds would have become void. Such were the people to whom We gave the Book, wisdom and Prophethood. Now if these people deny this guidance, it does not matter; We would bestow this guidance upon other people who would not disbelieve. O Muhammad, those were the people who were rightly guided by Allah, therefore, follow their guidance and tell these people: "I am not asking you any compensation for this work of delivering the Message to you, this message is nothing but a reminder to all the worlds.”(6:88-90). The Muslims do not discriminate against anyone of His Messengers (Qur’an;2:285) and follow the eternal guidance provided to all of them being the same. Hence due to the common source of origin: ONE GOD; there are many commonalities amongst the law of Moses and Shari’a’, which can also form basis for reconciliation: “O people of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Let us get together on what is common between us and you.."(Qur'an;3:64).
Some commonalities are notable:
The dietary instructions of Qur’an are almost similar as in Bible, adhered to by Jews and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). Muslims are allowed to consume permissible (Hilal) food from the Jews and Christians. The permissible (Hilal) animals are to be slaughtered by reciting the name of God not idols. (Qur’an;5:5, Acts;, Deuteronomy;, Genesis;9:4, Leviticus 17:14-15, Deuteronomy , 1 Samuel and Acts also at Revelation ). Swine is regarded as the most unclean and the most abhorred of all animals (Isaiah;65:4; 66:3,17; Luke;-16). A herd of swine were drowned in the
Sea of Galilee (Luke;-33,
Mark;). Eating pork is
also prohibited in Bible: Leviticus;11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8 & Isaiah
65:2-5 and Qur’an:16:115, 2:173, 5:3, 6:145. Consumption of alcohol and
gambling is prohibited in Qur’an;5:90, Proverbs;20:1 & Ephesians;. God had ordained in Torah: "A life for a life, an eye for an
eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth and for a wound
an equal retaliation." But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of
charity it will be an act of atonement for him.(Qur’an;-45). Jesus quoted the Old Law "eye
for eye," etc, and modifies it in towards of forgiveness: “You have heard
that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to
you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right
cheek, turn to him the other also;”(Mattew;-39). The retaliation has also been allowed by Qur’an
(Qur’an;2:178-179) and Bible (-25,
Leviticus, 24:18-21 and Deuteronomy; ).
The killing of innocent people is a major crime (Leviticus; 24:17, Deuteronomy;, Exodus; and Qur’an;17:33, 5:32.).
Adultery is a major sin: “Neither shall you commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy; & Exodus;, Mathew; also at Qur’an;). Death is prescribed for adultery in Bible (Leviticus; -16). Punishment of death by stoning was already prevalent for adulteress (Deuterinomy;-21) and for blasphemy (Lectivis;24:16). In Islam death by stoning is prescribed for unmarried adulterer and adulteress only if four eye witness are produced or self confession by the accused takes place.(Al-Muwatta Hadith, 41.2). Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Qur’an;7:81. Bible prescribe death as the punishment for homosexuality (Leviticus;). Theft or robbery is a serious crime, strictly forbidden (Deuteronomy; & Exodus;, Leviticus;19, Qur’an;60:12, 29:29, 7:86). Amputation of hand of thief is the punishment prescribed in Qur’an;, Matthew;18:8. Apparently in the period of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) thieves were crucified, Matthew;27:38. False witness is not permitted (Deuteronomy; & Exodus; Chapter: 20 and Qura’n;25:72). The neighbors are to be respected and treated nicely.(Deuteronomy; & Exodus; Chapter: 20 and Qura’an;, Sahih Bukhari Hadith:6.4 & 8.45). Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said that while committing adultery, drinking alcoholic, stealing or committing robbery a believer ceases to be a believer (for that duration). (Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith;3.655). Good treatment of parents with respect and honor has been prescribed at Deuteronomy; & Exodus; Chapter: 20, Mathew;15:4, also emphasized by Qura’n;31:14. The circumcision is the important statute ordained to Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) as mentioned in Genesus;17:10-13,24-27, Joshua;5:2-9, Judges;14:3, 15:18; 1Samuel;14:6; 17:26; 2Samuel;1:20, Ezekhiel;31:18, Acts;7:8 & John;7:22. Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) was also circumcised (Luke;). The Christians have abandoned this statute (Roman;-29, Galatians;), while Muslims, being the true faithful followers of Abraham, strictly adhere to the practice of circumcision (Sahih Bukhari Hadith;7.777) like Abraham, Moses, all the other prophets including Jesus (peace be upon him). The strict observance of the Sabbath day, was enjoined to the children of
Exodus; Chapter: 20 and Qura’n;4:154, 16:123-124. However the Muslims have been
exonerated from this restriction
applicable to the followers of prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Muslims only
break off for the duration of Friday prayers (Qur’an;62:9-10). Usury is prohibited in Bible at
Leviticus;25:39-37 and Qura’n;2:278-279,
2:275, 2:276, 30:39. Israel
The Islamic system of government is based on the principle of consultation (shura), the democratic way spelled out by Qur’an fourteen centuries ago (Qur’an;42:38 & 3:159); notwithstanding the hereditary kingship which followed. Even Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked to consult people in worldly matters: “and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs; and when you make a decision to do something, then put your trust in Allah”(Qur’an;3:159). In Islam state and faith are closely interlinked: “These are the people who, if We establish them (in power, authority) in the land, will establish Prayer (Salah) and pay Charity (Zakah), enjoin the right (justice) and forbid evil; the final decision of all affairs is in the hands of Allah.”(Qur’an;). The people charged with authority (Ulu-l-amr), running the government are to be respected and obeyed by the Muslims (Qur’an;4:59) otherwise there can be no order or discipline resulting in to anarchy, however not on the matters which are in conflict with the faith and fundamentals of Islam. Obedience to ruler is mentioned in Bible at Romans;13:1-4. Monarchy is not appreciated by God as system of rule in the Old Testament. After Moses the Israelites asked Prophet Samuel for appointment of a King like other nations. (Qur’an; 2:246-250). They were cautioned about the excesses of kings but they did not budge from their demand, ultimately, their request was accepted by God and Saul was appointment as King of Israelites (1Samuel;8:5-22,10:1), this was beginning of monarchy among Israelites. The Charter of Medina, in fact was the first ever written constitution in the history of mankind. This was based on the contract agreed upon by Muslims, Jews and others, stipulating that they all would be treated as equal citizens of Medina, giving the non-Muslims right of choosing a legal system they wished their affairs be governed by, be it Islamic or Jewish law or pre-Islamic Arab tribal traditions. This confirms the principle “no compulsion in religion”, freedom of expression and religious practice was open to everyone. It gave the right of protection, security, peace and justice; not only to Muslims, but also to the Jews who lived in the City of
, as well
as the allies of Jews who were non-Muslims. The Jews were recognized as a
separate political and ethnic minority, and allowed to practice their religion
quite freely. In fact, Jews were considered on an equal bases as Muslims under
the Islamic State. Medina
In classical form, the Shari’a differs from Western systems of law (based on Roman Law) being followed by Christians, in two principal respects. In the first place the scope of the Shari’a is much wider, since it regulates man's relationship not only with his neighbors and with the state, which is the limit of most other legal systems, but also with Allah and his own conscience. Ritual practices,(ibadat) such as the daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage, are an integral part of Shari’a law and usually occupy the first chapters in the legal manuals. The Shari’a is also concerned as much with ethical standards as with legal rules, indicating not only what man is entitled or bound to do in law, but also what he (obligatory) ought, in conscience, to do (halal), something that is lawful and permitted in Islam, or refrain from doing (haram) not permissible. Thus the Shari’a is not merely a system of law, but a comprehensive code of behaviour that embraces both private and public activities. The second major distinction between the Shari’a and Western legal systems is the result of the Islamic concept of law as the expression of the ‘Divine Will’. Shari’a law though appears to be rigid in certain aspects but there is room for flexibility in fiqha through Ijtehad to meet the challenges of growing and changing needs of society. In Islamic jurisprudence it is not the society that moulds and fashions the law, but the law that precedes and controls society, however the legitimate changes and requirements of the modern society are kept in view with in bounds of Divine Will. The Western Law, is not based on the Bible, they have discarded the Law of Moses, which Jesus declared as his mission (Mathew;-20).
By contrast in the Western Law, it is the society that moulds and fashions the law thus consumption of alcohol, homosexuality, gay marriages (not permitted in Bible) have been made legal, on the desire and public support of the Western Society, where as in Shari’a, it is not possible to make such laws which are unnatural and clearly against the Divine Will, manifested in Qur’an and Sunnah. Keeping in view the importance of Shari’a among the Muslims living in UK; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, has triggered intense debate by saying that; he considers the introduction of Shari’a law for British Muslims as “unavoidable” because it would help maintain social cohesion; since some Muslims do not relate to the British legal system; many UK Muslims already use Shari’a law in aspects of their day-to-day lives, such as banking and marriage, and the same principle of separate laws could “easily be accepted for other faiths groups”.
Priesthood is the office of a spiritual leader expert in the ceremonies of worship and the performance of religious rituals. Though chieftains, kings, and heads of households have sometimes performed priestly functions, in most civilizations the priesthood is a specialized office. The priest's duties are concerned less with magic than with the right performance of ritual acts required by the divine powers. Many African societies, for example, differentiated between shamans and the priests responsible for the worship of tribal ancestors. Sacrifice is often one of the most important duties of the priesthood. Not every highly developed religion possesses priesthood, the most notable exception being Islam. The priesthood as institution exists among Israelites. The Hebrew; Cohen, (Greek; Hierus, Latin; Sacerdos), always denote one who offers sacrifices. Under the Levitical arrangements the office of the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that tribe, the family of Prophet Aaron (Harun, peace be upon him). Their duties were manifold (Exodus; 27:20-21; 29:38-44; Leviticus; 6:12; 10:11; 24:8; Numbers;10:1-10;Deuteronomy;17:8-13;33:10; Malachi;2:7). The priests represented the people before God, and offered the various sacrifices prescribed in the law. The priests were well looked after by providing sufficient revenue like: Tenth of the tithes paid to the Levites (Numbers;18:26,28); First-fruits of tree (Numbers;18:8,12-13); Redemption-money of the first-born (Numbers;3:48; 18:15-16); First-born of animals or their substitutes (Numbers;18:17-18); First of the wool of sheep (Deuteronomy;18:4); Show-bread after its removal (Leviticus;24:9; 1Samuel; 21:4-6; Mathew; 12:4); Part of all sacrifices (Leviticus; 7:6-10, 31-34; Numbers;6:19;18:8-11; Deuteronomy;18:3); All devoted things (Numbers;18:14); All restitutions when the owner could not be found (Numbers;5:8) and a fixed portion of the spoil taken in war (Numbers;31:29,41).
The priesthood is the essential institution of Christianity, though Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) strictly forbade the excesses in adornment of prophets and pious, when he said: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and adorn the sepulchers of the righteous”(Matthew;). The Christian Roman Catholic Church is characterized by an episcopal hierarchy with the pope as its head and belief in seven sacraments and the authority of tradition. Sacrament is a visible form of invisible grace, especially: In the Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some other Western Christian churches, any of the traditional seven rites that were claimed to be instituted by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament and that confer sanctifying grace. In most other Western Christian churches, the two rites, Baptism and the Eucharist, that were claimed to be instituted by Jesus to confer sanctifying grace. The Christian Roman Catholic Church regards itself as the only legitimate inheritor of the ministry of Jesus, by virtue of an unbroken succession of leaders beginning with St. Peter and continuing to the present day. It holds that the pope is the infallible interpreter of divine revelation. Pope enjoys a very high privileged status, he even ruled ‘Papal States’ comprising a group of territories in central Italy from 754 until 1870 C.E. They were originally given to the papacy by Pippin III (714-768, the King of the Franks and the father of Charlemagne) and reached their greatest extent in 1859. The last papal state the ‘
’ was formally established as a separate state by
the Lateran Treaty of 1929. Church organization is strictly
hierarchical. Within dioceses are parishes, each served by a church and a
priest. In the episcopal Vatican
City , Priest is a
member of the second order of the ministry, ranking above deacons and below
bishops and having authority to perform certain rites and administer certain
sacraments. Only men can enter the priesthood, but women
who wish to enter holy orders can become nuns, who are organized into orders
and convents. The idea of the “priesthood of all believers” was also a cardinal
doctrine of the Reformation, and the Protestant belief that priests are not
needed as intermediaries between church members and the Holy Spirit is seen
most clearly in sects such as the Society of Friends. Though reformers such as
Jan Hus and John Wycliffe attacked abuses in the Roman Catholic church in the
late medieval period. Christian
The mainstream Islam abhors the priesthood, the institution misused and corrupted by the Jews and Christians. The concept of Imamah followed by Shi’a Islam, can not be compared with the institution of pope, though there appears some semblance. Allah says: “They (Jews and Christians) have taken their rabbis and priests (Ahbar) to be their Lords beside Allah and so they did with Christ (Messiah- Jesus) the son of Mary, although they were commanded in the Torah and the Gospel to worship none but One Ilah (Allah); besides Whom there is none worthy of worship. Exalted be He above those whom they associate with Him.”(Qur’an;). Priest worship, and the worship of saints and ascetics is a form of superstition to which people have been prone in all ages. The growth of Jewish superstition is shown in the Talmud, and of Christian superstition in the doctrine of ‘Papal Infallibility’ and the worship of saints. The mere idea of a separate order of priesthood to stand between Allah and man and be the exclusive repository of Allah's secrets is derogatory to the goodness and all-pervading grace of Allah. The worship of "lords many and gods many" was not confined only to the Pagans. The deification of the son of Mary is put in the verse (Qur’an;) in a special clause by itself, as it held (and still holds) in its thrall a large portion of civilized humanity. At an other place, it is recorded in Qur’an: “Say: "O people of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves Lords and patrons (Cohen, pope, priests, saints) other than Allah." If then they turn back say: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah's will).”(Qur’an;3:64)..The same remarks apply to the status of saints and pir. They may be pure and sincere according to their faith, (which no one knows except Allah) but no one can protect or claim Lordship over people except Allah, Who says: “When my servants question you about Me, tell them that I am very close to them. I answer the prayer of every suppliant when he calls Me; therefore, they should respond to Me and put their trust in Me, so that they may be rightly guided.”(Qur’an;2:186); “And your Lord says: "Call on Me, I will answer your prayers. Surely those who are too arrogant to worship Me shall soon enter hell in humiliation."(Qur’an;40:60). The corruption of rabbis, priests and pir exist as a barrier to the true path. Allah says: “O believers! Indeed most of the (Jewish) rabbis and (Christian) priests misappropriate the wealth of people and hinder them from the way of Allah. To those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, proclaim a painful punishment.”(Qur’an;). Hence the divine wisdom of abolishing priesthood through Islam is self evident. Some Muslim communities under the influence of local culture and ignorance, tend to go beyond the limits in extending reverence to the noble preachers of old which is not sanctioned by Islam.
Asceticism and monasticism is not prescribed in Islam, though the humility or unselfishness that go with asceticism may have its value. Asceticism often means the negation of art and beauty, it has no necessary sanctity attached to it. The beautiful and good things of life are really meant for, and should be the privilege of those with faith in Allah. If they do not always have them in this life, and if there is sometimes the semblance of others having them who do not deserve them, let it be remembered that this is a test from Allah. In the life to come they will be purely for the faithful. Allah says: “Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment (zeenah) of God which He has brought forth for His devotees, and the good things of His providing? Say: "All these things are for the enjoyment of the believers in the life of this world though shared by others; but these shall be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection. Thus do We make Our revelations clear for those who understand. Say: The things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason; assigning of partners to God for which he hath given no authority; and saying things about God of which you have no knowledge.”(Qur’an;7:32-33). The believers should use all kinds of gifts with gratitude which Allah has provided, but excess is not approved of by Allah. Christian monks are praised for particular virtues, though the monasticism is disapproved. Allah says: “…But the monasticism which they invented for themselves We did not prescribe for them: (We commanded) only the seeking for the Good pleasure of Allah;…(Qur’an;57:27). Allah certainly requires that men shall renounce the idle pleasures of this world, and turn to the path which leads to good pleasure of Allah. However that does not mean somber lives and isolation. Allah's service is done through pure lives in the turmoil of this world. The Qur’anic prayer is the testimony: "Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and guard us from the doom of Fire."(Qur’an;2:201). This spirit was lost, or at least not fostered by monastic institutions. On the contrary a great part of the "struggle and striving" for noble life was suppressed. The introvert and pessimistic approach would have disastrous consequences. The Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) provides complete guidance; As per Qur’an; “It is He Who has sent amongst the Unlettered an apostle from among themselves to rehearse to them His Signs to sanctify them and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom although they had been before in manifest error”(Qur’an;62:2). The Muslims gain spiritual satisfaction through practicing the six fundamentals of Islam and non obligatory (nawafil) additional prayers like the prayer (tahajjud) , fasting and charity (sadaqah).
The Universal Faith:
After the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in 632 C.E, initially the early Muslim caliphates, the Arabs, then the Persians and later the Turks set about to convey the message of Islam to the humanity. In process they created classical Islamic civilization. Later, in the 13th century, both
Africa and became
great centers of Islamic civilization and soon thereafter Muslim kingdoms were
established in the India Far East in
Malay-Indonesian world while Muslims flourished in with the efforts of Muslim
traders and preachers. It is unprecedented in the history of mankind wherein
the uncivilized people of the desert, became torch bearers of the great
civilization of the world with in a short period of 23 years. It was only
possible due to the strict adherence to the faith of Islam, its doctrine,
beliefs and practices, effectively preached and demonstrated by Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him). His successors carried forward his mission with
zeal and devotion, enjoining good and forbidding evil; and observing the limits
set by Allah. Consequently Muslims armies after consolidation of the their hold
in China Arabian Peninsula had swept completely
across North Africa to the Atlantic
Ocean by 711 C.E. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait
of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic kingdom in Spain to liberate the
masses from the tyrannical, suppressive and corrupt rule of King Roderick. Had
the advancing Muslim armies not been checked at the centre of in the Battle of Tours in 732 C.E they might have over run the entire France Europe. Later
was unsuccessfully besieged by Ottoman Turks, first in 1529 C.E and again in
1683 C.E, had they succeeded, the course of European history might have been
different. However the Muslims had carved out an empire stretching from the
borders of Vienna
to the India Atlantic Ocean, the largest empire that
the world had yet seen.
The super power status facilitated in extending the Muslim influence and in conveying the message of Islam world over, even in the areas not directly under Muslim rule. Forced conversion is forbidden in Islam (Qur’an;2:256), as evident that, despite Muslim rule in Spain, India and Eastern Europe for centuries, the majority of population remained non Muslim and freely continued to practice their faith. Where as, after the end of eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain (711-1492 C.E) Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and those who declined, were expelled by force. The Muslim traders and preachers through their good conduct and moral righteousness achieved the miracle of conversion in
, Indonesia in the
Malaysia Far East. The East coast of Africa as far down
as Mozambique, as well as the bulk of the inhabitants on the West coast of the
continent are Muslims, but history does not record any invading hoards of
Muslims from anywhere. This forced De Lacy O'Leary in to write: ‘History makes
it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the
world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one
of the most fantastically absurd myths
that historians have ever repeated.’ ("Islam at the Crossroads'' , 1923, p.8).
Despite all the negative propaganda by the hostile media, even after 9/11, Islam
remains the fastest growing religion in London North America and Europe,
no one is carrying the sword to force the conversion.
The obligation of conveying the message of true faith by instituting the rule of Allah, was nevertheless used by some medieval Muslim rulers to justify wars motivated by purely political ambitions. The only comparable conquests in human history are those of the Mongols in the thirteenth century, which were primarily due to the influence of Genghis Khan. These conquests, however, though more extensive than those of the Muslims, did not prove permanent, because they lacked any ideological base, they were just conquests for worldly gains, power and plunder. Most of descendents of Genghis Khan ultimately embraced Islam and contributed towards further enhancing the glory of Islamic civilization. Hence today the only areas occupied by the Mongols are those that they held prior to the time of Genghis Khan. Similarly the empire established through conquests by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) could hardly survive Alexander's death as a unit. These empires did not give birth to any new civilization based on sound ideology, which could exist for long in the history. The Muslim conquests of the seventh century and thereafter have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day due to the significance and capacity of Islamic civilization to influence the humanity, which emerged from the direction provided by Islam in the moral, spiritual, sociopolitical, economic and all other aspects of human life.
Islam is not racial, it grant equality to the humanity, the righteousness is the sole criteria for His preference, not colour or race; Allah says: “O mankind! we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (Not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you In the sight of Allah is (He who is) the most righteous of you. and Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”;“Verily we have revealed the Book to Thee In truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, that receives guidance benefits His own soul: but He that strays injures His own soul. nor art Thou set over them to dispose of their affairs”. (Qur’an;39:41).
Humanitarian obligations (Haqooq-ul-Ibad) are highly emphasized in Muslim communities. Generally Haqooq Allah, the duties towards Allah (belief, rituals, prayers) are over emphasized while duties toward fellow human beings are given a low priority in practice, both at the individual and community level. Since a good balance is the main characteristic of Islam and its code of living so, the responsibilities toward other human beings are indeed given a very strong emphasis in Islam. It should always be remembered that except major sin like denial of God and associating partners with Him; God may forgive other sins that relate to human obligations toward Him, but He will not forgive anything that is due to fellow human being until that person is ready to forgive it. Hence, the Muslims have to perform their obligations like worship and simultaneously be kind to the other human in the society, which is also a form of worship being part of Islamic duties. The Sunnah of Prophet (peace be upon him) is the role model for the Muslims. The virtues like justice, truthfulness, charity, kind and courteous behavior with fellow humans, fairness in trade, dealings, respect of human life and property of others, helping underprivileged, oppressed and weak, weather Muslims or non Muslims alike; are hall mark of Islam. The life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is full of practical examples. The rights of parents and non Muslims have been elaborated separately due to their special significance. Prophet (peace be upon him) was also the best of neighbors and he emphasized that neighbors have a claim on our kindness. All human are equal, the preference is only in piety (known to Allah alone).
When the message of Islam was preached, slavery was a very common practice in all-human societies, it was an international system. The Greeks, Romans, the ancient Germans whose legal and social institutions have mostly influenced the modern world, recognized and practiced all kinds of slavery, like praedial servitude as well as household slavery. Slavery as it existed under the Mosaic law has no modern parallel. That law did not originate but only regulated the already existing custom of slavery(Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus;-21,26-27; Joshua
are well known. 9:6-27).
Christianity as a religion did not oppose slavery. The teachings of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) did
not express disapproval of slavery. Christianity did nothing to eliminate
slavery except general advice to the masters to give due to the servants, even
the Church held slaves and considered it to be a lawful system. The cruel
treatment to slaves in America
Islam does not support slavery. Like the nuisance of Riba (Usury), in the present time, the evil of slavery was so much ingrained in the world that its elimination had to come gradually as the society developed. There was an important reason for that, which was to help slaves cope with their new status. Had Islam issued an order to free all the slaves straightaway, that would have created social and economic chaos, as many would not have been able to cope. This happened in the
was abolished by law. Many former slaves went back to their masters to serve
them, because they could not earn their living without them. The Islamic approach
to the eradication of slavery is balanced. Islamic legislation includes a
variety of ways to ensure the reduction and eventual eradication of slavery. As
the atonement for many offenses, granting freedom to a slave in addition to
repentance was made obligatory. A portion of Zakah funds (Charitable donations) was also used to help anyone who
could buy his own freedom in return for a sum of money, which he would pay to
his master.(Qur’an;9:60). The institution of slavery was discouraged and the
owners and other people were enjoined to give financial help to the slaves to
earn their freedom under the law of Mukatabat
and marriage with virtuous slaves.(Qur’an;24:33, 24:32). The slaves were to
be treated with equity and fairness
(Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith, 3.721). However,
the slavery continued in Muslim societies for much longer than what could have
been expected because of historical and continuation of international slavery. The renowned Orientalist Annemarie Schimmel
in the book titled "Islam: An Introduction"has comprehensively
summarized the Slavery in Islam; “Slavery was not abolished by the Koran, but
believers are constantly admonished to treat their slaves well. In case of
illness a slave has to be looked after and well cared for. To free (manumit) a slave is highly meritorious;
the slave can ransom himself by paying some of the money he has earned while
conducting his own business. Only children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of
war can become slaves, never a freeborn Muslim; therefore slavery is theoretically
doomed to disappear with the expansion of Islam. The entire history of Islam
proves that slaves could occupy any office, and many former military slaves,
usually recruited from among the Central Asian Turks, became military leaders
and often even rulers as in Eastern Iran, India (the Slave Dynasty of Delhi),
and medieval Egypt (the Mamluks).” US
In communities which base their civil rights on brute strength, the weaker go to the wall, and public opinion expects nothing else. Even in modern democracies of the saner sort, it is often told that it is the fate of minorities to suffer; strength of numbers here becomes the passport to power and privilege. Islam, while upholding balanced views in general, enjoins the most solicitous care for the weak and oppressed. The minorities are treated with justice in every way-in rights of property, in social rights, and in the right to opportunities of development. The non-Muslim living under the protection of a Muslim state is referred as Dhimmi, a free non-Muslim subject. They are exempt from duties of Islam like military service and alms (zakat) instead they are required to pay jizyah (poll-tax). Historically some Islamic governments paid this poll tax for poor non-Muslim subjects or reduced it to mere symbolic tax. If the State cannot protect those who paid jizyah, then the amount they paid is returned to them. Islam guarantees full protection and security of the State including freedom of religion to all. Thus the notion that the minorities are treated as second class citizens in an Islamic state is based on malicious propaganda. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the main enforcer of human rights safeguarding the legitimate interests of minorities.
The monks of
Mount Sinai were
provided protection. On establishing the first Islamic state at , Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) entered into many alliances, treaties with the Muslims and
the non-Muslims, securing peace and tranquility for the Muslims and non-Muslims
alike. Safety, security and protection
of non Muslims is to be ensured (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith:9.49
& 4.287). Muslims are encouraged to act
towards all the non-Muslims living in Islamic state with kindness and equity.
As per Qur’an; "As for such (of the
unbelievers) as do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither
drive you forth from your homelands, Allah does not forbid you to show them
kindness and to behave towards them with full equity. Indeed, Allah loves those
who act equitably"(Qur’an;60:8). There are numerous Hadiths, which
encourage Muslims to be kind to other religious communities, especially those
who constitute minorities in the Medina . As a result many
deserving non Muslims were able to get very high positions in the Muslim
hierarchy. Islam does not forbid engagement in respectful and peaceful dialogue
with others, especially the Jews and Christians, provided that neither side
exploit the ignorance or dire financial need of others so as to psychologically
manipulate them in the name of outreach. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim
minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by
the minorities themselves. The rights of minorities are well protected in
Islam. Another interesting fact in Islamic history is that although Muslims are
prohibited from preparing, selling and consuming alcohol, whereas the ruling is
not the same with non-Muslim. If non-Muslim minority in an Islamic state wish
to do so, and do not involve Muslims, they would actually be given this right,
they even consume pork, strictly
prohibited for the Muslims. This points out that the concept of human rights in
Islam has often been given a much negative view. While throughout Muslim
State Europe and , Muslims are not permitted
to make the call to prayer (adhan) on loud speakers though, the church
bells ring freely in the Muslim world. Muslims are asked to call upon the
People of the Book for common terms, that is to worship One Allah, and to work
together for the solutions of the many problems in the society. “Those who believe
(in the Qur'an) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures) and the Christians
and the Sabians (monotheistic followers of John the Baptist) and who believe in
Allah and the last day and work righteousness shall have their reward with
their Lord; on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.”(Qur’an;2:62). America
It is reemphasized that there is no forced conversions in Islam, the non Muslim subjects have the right to freely choose to revert to Islam or keep practicing their faith. [“Revert”; because every human is born true to nature, in submission to Allah, in Islam (Qur’an;30:30 and Sahih Bukhari Hadith;6.298)] But once a person reverts to Islam, it is obligatory to practice his faith to be a good Muslim. Apostasy has always been considered as a capital offence in all the religions and political systems of the world, because it is considered as a high treason against the established norms of society. The Bible prescribes death by stoning for apostasy: “You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God..”(Deutronomy;).
Death penalty for apostasy remained in force in
long time. It was abolished due to social and cultural developments. Apostasy
is considered as a major sin in Islam. Whether it is punishable by Islamic law
is a debatable matter among Muslim scholars; taking inference from Sahih
Al-Bukhari Hadith:9.17, some believe that the apostate should be punished after
trial because they consider this crime as a betrayal, high treason against the
community, while others opine that if someone changes his faith and does not
challenge the Islamic society, it is a matter between him and Allah, Who will
punish him in hereafter. However, both opinions agree that it is a major worst
form of sin punishable by Allah. As per Qur’an; “Those who turn back as
apostates after Guidance was clearly shown to them the Evil One has instigated
them and buoyed them up with false hopes.”(Qur’an;47:25). It is totally
baseless malicious propaganda that the minorities are no well treated in
Islam. The Charter of Medina, in fact was the first ever written
constitution in the history of mankind which gave the non-Muslims right of
choosing a legal system they wished their affairs be governed by, be it Islamic
or Jewish law or pre-Islamic Arab tribal traditions. The Christians and Jews
have special place in Islam, they are addressed as ‘The People of the Book’ in Qur’an. The history of Islam proves
this, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together in dominant Islamic societies
in England ,
Ottomans empire. There are other social courtesies which Muslims are urged to
extend to non Muslims. Human life has very high value according to Qur'an.
Islam, being the religion of moderation is in total harmony with the human
nature, it allows the fine arts, the adornments, which God has created for the
enjoyment and development of human faculties with in the bounds of decency and
faith. Apart from human, a believer has to be kind with the animals(Sunnah Abu
Dawood, Hadith.1065). Baghdad
Before the advent of Islam the status of women in earlier civilizations was very low to the extent that they were denied basic human dignity. Under the Babylonian law, if a man murdered a woman, instead of him being punished, his wife was put to death. In the Greek Civilization, women were deprived of all rights and were looked down upon. In Greek mythology, an ‘imaginary woman’ called ‘Pandora’ is the root cause of misfortune of human beings. The Greeks considered women to be subhuman to the extent that they were considered impure, and they were bought and sold in marketplaces. A woman could not refuse a husband chosen by her guardian and she could not disobey her husband in anyway. When Roman Civilization was at the zenith of its ‘glory’, a man even had the right to take the life of his wife. Prostitution and nudity were common amongst the Romans, the women did not have the right to own anything. If a woman had any property of her own, it was automatically transferred to the ownership of the head of the family. Later, in the reign of Justinian (483-565 C.E), women were given the right to retain what they earned through their own work, but money from other sources (gift etc) remained with the head of family. In Bible, Eve is considered responsible for the fall of Adam from grace (Genesis;3:1-7,12); hence as punishment she has to bear labor pain and serve men: “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”(Genesis;3:16). The word “Evil” is derived accordingly. Islam repudiates that and makes Adam and Eve equally responsible for their actions. (Qur’an;). As recently as 1805, the English law allowed the man to sell his wife. In the year 586 C.E that is when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was still a young man, the French elegies organized a convention in which they discussed whether women were human or not. They concluded that a woman was a human being created only to serve men. Even after the French Revolution, in the late 18th century, the French law continued to consider that an unmarried woman was totally unqualified to enter into any contract without the consent of her guardian. The French law of the time stipulated that those who did not have legal status were "young boys, idiots and women.” The Egyptian considered women evil and as a sign of a devil. Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs looked down upon women and very often when a female child was born, she was buried alive by some.
Islam has offered dignity, justice, and protection to women which had been denied to them since long. Although man and woman have been created equal, but they are not identical. Both have been fashioned differently from each other, so their roles and responsibilities are also different. The variation in their functions does not imply that one is inferior to the other. In Islam, both men and women can rise in spiritual eminence and knowledge. Umme Warqa, a pious women, well versed in Qur’an had been acting as prayer leader (Imam) in the local area, with the permission of Prophet (peace be upon him). Mostly the women used to be in the congregation. An old man is known to deliver Adhan (prayer call). The Qur’anic address always applies to men and women equally, at times the women and men are also addressed together ( Qur’an;33:35). The Muslim women are dressed up modestly which not only enhances their status to a respectable position but also help in controlling indecencies, forbidden in Islam. It may be kept in view that modest dress for women has always been a part of biblical traditions: “also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire.”(1Timothy;2:9). Veil, as a covering for the head was usually worn by Jewish women (Genesis;38:14). It was worn, as a token of modesty (Genesis;24:65), as a token of subjection (Corinthians;11:3,6-7,10) and for concealment (Genesis;38:14). The removing of veil was considered rude and insolent (Song of Solomon;5:7) and threatened as a punishment to ungodly women (Isaiah;). It is also mentioned: “but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head -- it is the same as if her head were shaven”.(1 Corinthians;11:5). The nuns are still dressed modestly, like Mary, but the Christians are themselves defying Bible (Deuteronomy;22:5) by degrading the women through nudity and vulgarity.
Polygyny has been practiced since ages; the Bible did not condemn polygyny, to the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic writings frequently attest to the legality of polygyny (1 Kings;11:3, 2 Samuel;, Deutronomy;22:7). The Talmud advises a maximum of four wives. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy. The Church in
banned polygamy in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture (which
prescribed only one legal wife while tolerating concubinage and prostitution).
The Qur’an is the only religious book, that contains the phrase ‘marry only
one’, (the legal permission for
maximum of four) with instructions
of ‘justice’ with all wives, which is difficult, hence a moral prohibition
(Qur’an;4:2-3, 4:129). The Sunnah of Prophet and Companions indicate the
existence of more than one wives, but may be that they could be fair at least
in the matters of equitable provisions, however one can not control the heart,
which may be more inclined to one wife over the others. Some Muslim countries
have banned polygyny basing on the analogy of ‘impossibility of equity and
justice beyond human control (Qur’an;4:129). The concept of temporary marriage (Mutt’a) though permissible among Shi’a school is not permissible among four Sunni schools
of jurisprudence. Qur’an has "tolerated" or "allowed"
polygyny, and no more, it is not obligatory. There are places and times in
which there are compelling reasons for polygyny. In most societies, females outnumber
males. Islam as a universal religion suitable for all places and all times
couldn't ignore these compelling reasons. The polygyny in Islam is a matter of
mutual consent, no one can force a woman to marry a married man. If a woman
lays down the condition of monogyny, initially in the marriage contract (Nikah), it becomes binding upon man.
Abul Abbas As-Saffah, the first Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty had promised his
wife Umm-e-Salma that he will remain monogamous, she ensured that he adheres to
the term even after becoming Caliph. The abuse of polygyny and repudiation of
wife by the husband, even when her conduct is faultless, has recently led to
the enactment of reformed family laws in most Muslim countries. The Qur'an
repeatedly emphasizes the kind treatment of women. Rome
Islam granted the right of divorce to women 1400 years ago, once no woman could dream of this freedom. Women were not allowed to bear witness in early Jewish society.
In the Christian West, both ecclesiastical and civil law debarred women from giving testimony until late last century. In Islam the testimony of a woman is accepted as equal to that of a man except in financial cases. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the man's in certain cases. Among the pagan Arabs before Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male relatives. Islam abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the female relatives inheritance shares. The payment of Mehar to the bride by groom without any upper limit, provide additional financial security to the women. Moreover as compared to men, Muslim woman is financially secure and provided for as a wife, mother, daughter or sister by her husband, son, father and brother respectively. Women are free to earn at their own free will; if they so desire: the expenses of house hold is the responsibility of man. Regrettably in some Muslim societies, the rights granted to the women by Islam are denied due to the local culture and traditions, Islam has nothing to do with this. The rights granted to women by Islam are unrivalled in the history of religion, evident from the fact that among the new coverts to Islam in the West are women because in Islam the women are not subjugated but emancipated.