Chapter 2




Where is Shar`a found?

The classical view of the place of Shar`a

Shar`a, all inclusive and all exclusive

Islamic government

The judiciary

The executive

Brotherhood of Muslims

Relations with non-Muslims

The Qur=n

The practice of Muammad

Regulations and practice of the early caliphs

Modern Muslim views on Shar`a


Accommodation with non-Islamic culture

Internal accommodation

The search for a consensus

Critique of these declarations

The renewed assertiveness of the Muslim community in the world is a matter of concern for the Church of West Africa because numerous incidents and restrictions of the freedom of the Church in West Africa raise the fear that the repression of the church and its activities elsewhere in the Muslim world, such as Sudan, can be repeated here.  There is more to the Islamic revival than fanaticism arising from capricious passion or resentment against the outrages of the neo-colonial AChristian@ West.  If it were only this, it could be calmed down by correction of injustices and gestures of friendship.  The Islamic revival has deeper and more permanent roots.  It is a call for a Areturn@ to Shar`a, conceived as a universal, unchanging, divinely given law, a law which covers all dimensions of human and social life and assures its practitioners of Paradise in the next life and prosperity in the normal course of this life.

Yet Muslim thinking about Shar`a and the ideal Islamic society is not uniform.  Besides, Muslim society in any one place or time always falls short of the ideal, and incorporates many non-Islamic features such as the traditional customs of a place or imitations of foreign governmental models.  Nevertheless, any Muslim society examines itself in reference to the ideal, and the ideal is the guiding force in making reforms or adopting new ways of organizing society.

Where is Shar`a found?

Considerable ambiguity emerges as to the exact contents of Shar`a because it does not exist in the form of a single code or book.  Preeminently, it is the sum of legislation contained in the Qur=n, which is clear and precise about some matters, but open-ended, ambiguous and apparently contradictory about other matters.

Besides the Qur=n, Sunna, or Tradition, as contained in six major collections of adth, is regarded as divine revelation and a binding part of Shar`a, at least from the time of ash-Shfi` (d. 820).  This is because Muammad, as the final Prophet, is regarded to be the perfectly faithful transmitter of God=s revelation not only through God=s dictated word, but also through everything he said or did.  As a divinely guided, sinless and perfect prophet, all his behaviour is considered an inspired example for mankind, a revelation, although not in the form of dictated words.[2]

Although the adths claim to be records of what Muammad said or did, non-Muslim scholars, and to a lesser extent Muslim scholars, recognize that most adths are not authentic records of what Muammad said or did, but are human constructions of the first generations of Muslims who were honestly attempting to adapt Islam to new circumstances foreign to the original environment of the Arabs.  This laudable human endeavour was metamorphosed by later generations of Muslims into a divine revelation separate from the Qur=n, mediated by the example of Muammad whose alleged words and deeds were formulated in the adth.

Shar`a, therefore, is to be found in the Qur=n and the various collections of adth.  If the legislation of the Qur=n is somewhat unclear, that of adth is more so.  Therefore various Muslim scholars have attempted to synthesize this mass of legislation in the form of codes, some of which have become classics.  The compilation of codes and replies to particular questions (fatws) were recognized as human efforts to understand or apply Shar`a and could not simply be identified with Shar`a.  This human formulation of Shar`a is known as fiqh.

Some of the major works of fiqh of the Mlik school, which dominates West Africa, are: the Muwaa`a of Mlik ibn-Anas (d. 796), which ante-dates the major collections of adth, the Mukhtaar of Khall ibn-Isq (d. 1365), and the Risla of Ibn-ab-Zayd al-Qayrawn.  These works have been the classics of Islamic jurisprudence for centuries in West Africa.  They nevertheless concentrate on the duties of the individual Muslim.  For constitutional theory two other classics are known in West Africa, and were quoted extensively by `Uthmn an Fodiye, the founder of the Sokoto caliphate.[3]  They are al-Akm as-sulniyya wa-l-wilyt ad-dniyya[4] by al-Mward (d. 1058), and Sirj al-mulk[5] by a-ursh (d. 1126).

The classical view of the place of Shar`a

The Qur=n is open to a wide variety of interpretations.  Our method is not to discover the possible, logical or more favourable interpretations of the text, but to look at the main lines of interpretation it has been given in Islamic history.  Over the centuries, not only has there emerged a considerable literature on constitutional theory, which tends to be rigorous and totalitarian, but practical politics have shown other ways of interpretation.[6]  Let us look first at the rigorist tendency which the most commonly understood as the ideal.

Shar`a, all inclusive and all exclusive

The place of Shar`a in Islam can only be understood in the context of the first principles of Islam and their powerful sway over every other aspect of Islam.  The first part of the shahda, or Islamic profession of faith, states: AL ilh ill llh@, AThere is no deity but God.@  This statement is he heart of Islamic monotheism, and means both that God is one and that he is unique.

Islamic monotheism has far-reaching consequences.  Muslim theologians are fond of linking all the beliefs of Islam to the two statements of the shahda.  This may appear to be a good mnemonic device, a pedagogical method of getting students to remember the numerous dogmas taught in theology.  Yet the shahda does more than conveniently link disparate teachings around two main points.  These points are tied to the rest of Islamic teaching by tight bonds of logical necessity, so that the whole of Islam enjoys a remarkable consistency and coherence.  No single teaching can be tampered with without affecting the whole religious system of Islam.

At least two currents of thought have influenced the interpretation of the shahda over the centuries of Islamic history.  The first is pre-Islamic Arabian thought.  This was heavily occasionalistic and fatalistic, and may have been conditioned by unpredictable rains and consequently food.  The same outlook is reflected in the Qur=n, which emphasises the omnipotence of God, although at the same time maintains human free choice and responsibility.[7]

The other influence is Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism.  Platonism had developed in different directions which found expression in different segments of the Muslim community.  The Philosophers, with some Aristotelian influence, viewed the world as fully real and endowed with natural power operating according to fixed laws.  Most theologians, including the Mu`tazilites, saw the whole concept of natural power or natural law as derogating from God=s absolute power.  They therefore stressed Plato=s emphasis on an ideal world, and adopted the Democritan and Epicurean view of the world as a cluster of atoms drifting aimlessly except, the theologians added, according as god freely directed them.  In between these two views we have the views of certain compromising Mu`tazilites.  Mu`ammar, in holding that the world was created by God and then operates independently of his knowledge or will, was in practical agreement with the Philosophers, but an-Nazzm said that the world of nature operates under God=s constant supervision.[8]

From both these historical influences on Islamic thought two different viewpoints emerged.  One would see God as having given a real likeness of his own being, goodness and power to his creatures, whereby they live and act as true agents, although sustained in being and action by the primary causality of God.  The created world, moreover, has its own inbuilt functionality which determines how it can be used for either the benefit or the harm of people.  For instance, only the right amount of the right fertilizer will help crops grow; the wrong amount or the wrong fertilizer will have a neutral or negative effect.  So some things are naturally suitable or unsuitable for humans, and people can either individually or by collective social experience discover these Alaws of life@.  For St. Paul (Romans 1:19-25) basic moral principles can be known even without revealed law.  This viewpoint is compatible with the Qur=n,[9] and with the shahda.  The fact that God has being, goodness and power in an infinite way does not preclude him from sharing these attributes by creating finite likenesses of them.  This viewpoint, however, has not been very popular in Islamic history.

The other, prevailing, viewpoint is that of Ash`arite theology, which sees any power in creation as subtracting from and competing with God=s power.  Ash`arite theological tradition has been extreme in emphasizing the transcendence of God, excluding any sharing of his attributes with his creatures.  It absolutizes the shahda to the extent that only God is powerful, and Ano created power has no effect on motion or rest, obedience or disobedience, or on any effect universally@.[10]  Creatures are only dust shaped or blown by God=s free choice.  They may appear to act, but are only occasions of God=s direct action and governance of everything that happens.  Creatures have no internal cohesion or predictability; thus nature, as a stable intrinsic principle of action, does not exist.  This philosophical occasionalism logically would have to conclude that God alone has existence and creatures do not exist at all, but are only illusions.

Ash`arite theology was not that consistent.  It did, however, logically conclude that, since there is no nature there can be no natural law; if there is no intrinsic goodness and order in things, human intelligence cannot learn from the world any ethical norms.  AThe specification of certain acts as obligatory and others as forbidden or with any other determination takes place by his pure choice, which has no cause.  Intelligibility has no place at all in it; rather it can be known only by revealed-law (shar`a).@[11]  In other words, God does not command or forbid something because it is good or evil, but it is good or evil because he commands or forbids it.

Therefore there is only one law for society, Shar`a law which descends from above in the form of revelation to the prophets.  People need only to submit to God=s rule; to make laws of their own is idolatry.  Therefore there is no separation of the spiritual and temporal orders and it is nonsense to say, AGive to God what is God=s and to Caesar what is Caesar=s.@

According to the prevalent viewpoint, therefore, the only way to know what God commands or forbids is to look at Shar`a.  I was once talking to a young Egyptian man who told me that we Muslims and Christians are fortunate to have a revealed law, because otherwise we would be savages with no morality or respect for human life.  When I told him that I had stayed in rural villages in West Africa which were neither Christian nor Muslim, where you could leave your property unguarded and walk safely any hour of the day or night, he did not believe me.  According to this line of thought, there can be no philosophical ethics and no human legislation, only the application and interpretation of Shar`a.  Islm, or submission to God, implies the acceptance of God=s authority to the exclusion of any other competing authority.  To accept another authority alongside God would be the sin of shirk, associating another divinity with God.  Shar`a, therefore, is all inclusive and all exclusive.

Christianity distinguishes the spiritual and temporal orders, or Church and state because, besides accepting divine revelation, it holds that God has shared his power and goodness with creatures, and it recognizes the capacity of human reason to know what is good or bad, right or wrong.  Human formulation of natural law is a participation in divine law, as Thomas Aquinas expounded.  Because human reason is autonomous, the state is autonomous.  Nevertheless Christian revelation emphasises certain principles of social justice which are easily ignored and adds the dimension of brotherhood in Christ which human reason could not know.  Therefore the Gospel and the Church have much to say and command concerning love and justice which affect every aspect of social order, but they do not displace human reason or give a complete blueprint on how to organize society.

Islamic government

Islamic government is theocratic, in the sense that God is the only recognized authority.  Human leaders and institutions, the prevalent Ash`arite school of theology teaches, are only occasions through which God governs.

While being theocratic, Islamic government is at the same time nomocratic, that is ruled by law, because God manifests his Shar`a, or commands, through the Qur=n and adth.

Islamic government is also egalitarian, that is, based on the principle of equality of all believers.  Since God alone possesses goodness and any perfection and man possesses nothing, men cannot claim any superiority over one another by nature or by office.  The only difference the Qur=n recognizes is in piety towards God (taqw), whereby they accept the first covenant (mthq) God made with men before the creation of Adam to reward those who serve God.  Every slave of God, or faithful believer, is entitled to all the rights of citizenship, whereas unbelievers, who have broken God=s primordial covenant, do not have these rights.  When believers band together and give allegiance (bay`a) to a human leader among themselves, they are merely looking for a way to coordinate their faithfulness to God=s covenant in society.  Let us see how this applies to the various functions of government.


Muslims look to the Qur=n is as the primary source of God=s law, since they take it as the dictated word of God.

In fact, the Qur=n is silent about many matters, and Muslims turn to adth for guidance.  adth is a record of what Muammad said or did.  To the extent to which it is authentic history of Muammad, the various collections of adth are considered revelation alongside the Qur=n.  That is because Muammad is believed to have been divinely guided in all he did or said, and his behaviour is taken as the model for all mankind.

In spite of the claim that Shar`a covers every detail of life, the Qur=n and adth together leave many questions unanswered, especially as Shar`a is expected to apply to modern society.  Therefore personal effort (ijtihd), operating by case analogy (qiys), and consensus (ijm`) are taken as secondary principles of law.  Through these principles Muslims have evolved several different schools of law: the Mlik (prevalent in North and West Africa), the Shfi`, the anaf, and the anbal.

The important thing to remember is that only the Qur=n and adth are considered revealed law or Shar`a; the rest is not legislation, but merely an effort to understand Shar`a.

In practice, most Muslim countries today have secular codes of law, following only the general spirit of Shar`a, and using strict Shar`a law only for personal affairs, such as marriage and inheritance.  So they cannot be considered strictly Islamic countries.  Fundamentalist Muslims are not satisfied with this situation and are calling for the establishment of Shar`a as the only law of the land.  According to the classical authors of fiqh referred to above, a Muslim who does not live under Shar`a must either make hijra, moving to where Shar`a is in force, or make jihd to establish Shar`a where he lives.

In Nigeria such Muslims see Christians as the major obstacle to establishing an Islamic country with Shar`a as the law.  In other countries, such as Algeria and Egypt where the majority of the people are Muslim, Muslims campaigning for Shar`a have met opposition from their own Muslim compatriots.  The proponents of Shar`a are not arguing from the experience of any successful Shar`a state, but only dreaming that Shar`a will solve all the problems that other forms of government have failed to solve.  They see the issue simply as implementing God=s will, which cannot be wrong.  They do not realize that a medieval concept of Shar`a will never work in a modern technical and open world.  Therefore some other Muslims argue that Shar`a should be viewed as a set of general principles, and not as an encyclopaedia of answers to every detail of society.[12]  They also say that even certain Qur=nic injunctions were only meant for the specific circumstances of seventh century Arabia, and not for all times and all places, as the fundamentalists hold.

The judiciary

The function of the judiciary is to apply Shar`a to particular cases.  By right, any Muslim who is instructed in Shar`a may deliver a verdict on a case.  The whole authority for the judgement comes from God, the author of Shar`a, and not from the individual and his caprices.

In actual history, however, certain qualified persons have exercised the office of judge, usually appointed by the acting government.  The judge is called qp in Arabic (= alkali in Hausa).  He is often advised by a muft, a jurisconsultant who is familiar with legal literature and can give an opinion (fatw) concerning difficult points of law.

The executive

Executive power belongs to God alone who does not share this authority with anyone, but merely uses certain men as occasions of carrying out his designs.  Muslim rulers and governments are under the Shar`a, and have only one task: to implement Shar`a.  Nevertheless, all Muslims are bound by the frequently reiterated Qur=nic injunction to enforce good behaviour and deter from bad behaviour (al-amr bi-l-ma`rf wa-n-nahy `an al-munkar).  This obligation, says Muammad ibn-Ysuf as-Sans, holds even for those who are guilty of bad behaviour, since the neglect of the obligation to behave well does not excuse a person from the distinct obligation of enforcing good behaviour in others; therefore there is no worry about Athrowing the first stone@.[13]

The obligation to enforce good behaviour and deter from bad behaviour is the foundation for the obligation of jihd.  Jihd literally means Aeffort@.  Authors, such as al-Ghazl, distinguish several senses of the word:  There is: 1) jihd of the heart, which includes: a) self-discipline and mastery over one=s own evil inclinations, and b) the disapproval in one=s heart of the evil behaviour of others and the desire to see them correct their ways; 2) jihd of the tongue, which includes: a) verbal remonstrations of evildoers, and b) preaching and writing to promote Islam; and finally 3) jihd of the sword, which is military effort to defend and to extend the rule of Islam.  This third kind of jihd is the first and normal meaning of the word, but the other kinds are considered more meritorious.

Conducting the third kind of jihd and the administration of Islamic territories is not an obligation of every individual, but demands a leader or imm who is head of state, as distinguished from the imm who leads prayer.  The role of the imm is sanctioned by the Qur=n verse (4:59): AObey God; obey his Messenger and those of you who have the right to command.@  This leader is also called the Acommander of the faithful@ (amr al-mu=minn) and Acaliph@ (khalfa), that is, successor to the role of Muammad as leader but not as prophet.  He is commissioned by an oath of allegiance (bay`a) made by representatives of the people or, more usually, by the learned aristocracy Awho are capable of binding and loosing@ (ahl al-`aqd wa-l-all).  He may also be chosen by his predecessor.

For Muslims who see any other law but Shar`a as shirk, an affront to the exclusive sovereignty of God, no one can justifiably hold authority in this world unless he is implementing Shar`a.  Allowance can be made for Christians to rule themselves according to the revelation Christians received, but Muslims could not accept this for themselves.  Much less could they accept Apagan@ or secular law.  For this reason Muslims must have a Muslim head of state and governors, because a non-Muslim cannot be entrusted with the implementation of a law he does not believe in.

A Muslim head of state does not rule in his own name, but holds authority only as executor of the Shar`a, so that God is the real ruler.  All Muslims are expected to Acommand the good and forbid the evil@ (Q 3:104 etc.), but a human authority is required to coordinate the community (the l l-amr of Q 4:59).  In spite of an aristocratic trend to favour the prior eligibility of Arabs or members of the Prophet=s family, no Muslim can claim any natural superiority giving him a right to rule.  Knowledge of Shar`a, dedication and a number of other qualities are required, but authority actually comes by an oath of allegiance (bay`a) made by representatives of the people.  A non-Muslim can have no part in any of this political activity.

According to as-Sans, the imm is supposed to possess a number of qualifications: to be 1) a Muslim, 2) upright, 3) a male, 4) free from slavery, 5) an adult, 6) intelligent, 7) knowledgeable in matters of religion and law, 8) in good health, 9) able to lead both in war and in peace, and 10) a member of the tribe of Quraysh of Mecca.[14]  The Khrijites, more logical to the principle of equality, permit anyone to be come caliph.

The duties of a caliph are listed by al-Mward:[15] 1) to enforce orthodoxy of faith, refuting and penalizing heretics, 2) to enforce the settlement of quarrels, 3) to ensure public order and the safety of everyone, 4) to enforce the penalties which are the rights of God or of men, 5) to ensure the defence of islamic territories against enemy attack, 6) to wage jihd against those who resist Islam after being called to it, so that they either become Muslim or submit to a dhimma pact under the supremacy of Islam, 7) to collect the fay= (property abandoned in war) and the adaqa (tax levied upon Muslims) according to the manner stated in the Shar`a, 8) to make expenses from the public treasury, 9) to appoint good advisors and commissioners for public works and funds, and 10) to keep a personal watch on all the affairs of state in order to ward off treachery.

In historical fact, the Arab caliphs and many other Muslim sultans have been quite autocratic.  Therefore al-Mward, speaking of the amr al-jihd,[16] a-ursh,[17] and all modern writers insist on another duty of the head of an Islamic state: 11) to take counsel (shr), as recommended in the Qur=n, 3:159 and 42:38.

Al-Mward[18] and a-ursh[19] and all modern writers insist on the duty of the head of an Islamic state to take counsel (shr), as recommended in Qur=n 3:159 and 42:38.  Taking counsel is all the more important in view of the fact that any time a Muslim ruler departs from Shar`a Muslims are obliged to resist according to the power they have, staging a coup if possible.  No ruler is sacred or can be styled as AGod=s anointed@.  Respect for God=s law may move people to stage a coup, but respect also for God=s destining (qadar) the events of the world leads people to accept any outcome, whether a successful coup and a new leader, or an unsuccessful coup and the continuance of the old leader.  Success is the indication of God=s will.

Besides the office of imm, al-Mward lists other offices in a Muslim state: 1) a wazr, or delegate of the imm, who can sometimes have wide powers, 2) an amr, who may be put in charge of some territory or a jihd operation, 3) a wal, who is a commissioner for some particular area of government, such as a) internal defence against apostasy or civil war (ridda) or armed robbery (baghy), b) the judiciary (qap=), c) complaints against the administration (malim), d) genealogical records (an-niqba `al l-ansb), e) prayer (= prayer imm), f) the ajj pilgrimage, and g) revenue from taxes or booty.

Brotherhood of Muslims

The Qur=n (49:10) insists that all Muslims are brothers to one another.  They form one community (umma), and should help one another.  The territory of Islam (dr al-Islm) is really one nation, and political divisions between Muslim countries are regarded as artificial, the result of sinful divisions among the Muslim community or of colonial partitioning.  Theoretically, a Muslim is a citizen in any part of the Muslim world; he is first of all a member of the Muslim nation, and only secondarily an Egyptian or a Nigerian.  Classical theorists provide for a single caliph or imm to be the supreme head of the entire Muslim world.  Besides, the umma is characterized by the prominent place held by Arabic language and culture, although some Muslims defensively insist that local cultures have just as much legitimacy.        The equality of Muslims transcends racial or class barriers.  This is shown dramatically during the pilgrimage to Mecca when all the men dress in the same kind of white cloth.  Historically, however, the spread of Islam has meant the spread of Arab culture.  Arabs are not considered superior people (except in the popular mind), but their culture and language are respected as the channel of God=s revelation for all men.  Therefore many of the areas conquered by the Muslims were Arabized at the same time as being Islamized.  This is the case in Syria and Iraq and the north of Africa; Arabic was not a language of Africa before the coming of Islam.  Even non-Arabized Muslims tend to imitate Arabic culture.

Elsewhere other cultural groups spread with the spread of Islam.  For instance, it was common for a pagan in the north of Nigeria who became a Muslim to renounce his native language and customs and adopt the language and customs of the Hausa (which are heavily Arabized), although recently there has been a reaction against this and an emphasis on particular cultures.

Relations with non-Muslims

The Qur=n

Let us look first at the Qur=nic data, and then at its development in Muslim history.  The Qur=n has much to say about relations with people of other religions, some of it friendly, some critical or hostile.  A few of the friendly passages are:

The Believers, the Jews, the Christians and the Sbi=ans, those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good, will have their reward with their Lord.  They will not have to fear or come to shame. (2:62)

There is to be no compulsion in religion. (2:256)

You will find that the closest friends of the Believers are those who call themselves Christians... (5:82)

A major hostile passage is Sra 9:1-35.  In this passage note the following points: 1) The occasion was the pilgrimage to Mecca led by Ab-Bakr in 631; idolaters were then permitted to visit the Ka`ba for the last time; after that hostilities would resume.  2) An exception was made for those idolaters who had entered a pact (`ahd) with the Muslims and were faithful to the pact.  3) Idolaters who were hostile to Muslims were to be spared if they became Muslims; if they merely request asylum they are to be granted it, but also must be instructed in Islam.  4) Verse 5 is known in Islamic literature as Athe verse of the sword@ (yat al-qitl).[20]

(3b) Announce a painful punishment to those who disbelieve, (4) except those idolaters with whom you made a pact, until the time it expires... (5) When the sacred months have passed fight the idolaters wherever you find them.  Take them ,besiege them, ambush them on every side.  But if they repent, do alt and pay zakt then let them go free... (6) If an idolater asks for asylum, grant it until he hears the words of God; then convey him to his place of security... (7) How can idolaters have a pact with God and his Messenger?  It is possible only for those with whom you made a pact at the Sacred Mosque, and as long as they keep to it you should keep to it... (8) How otherwise?  If they get the better of you, they will not observe with you any bond or treaty (dhimma); their mouths speak pleasantly to you, but their hearts are opposed to you; most of them are wicked.  (11) Yet if they repent, do alt and pay zakt, then they are your brothers in religion... (12) But if they break their oaths after making a pact and attack your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief; oaths mean nothing to them. (13) Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and attempt to expel the Messenger, having initiated hostilities?  Are you afraid of them?  God is more deserving to be feared... (14) Fight them.  God will punish them through you and put them to shame; he will help you against them and relieve the anxiety of the Believers.

(17) It is not for the idolaters to tend (or Avisit@) God=s mosques, bearing witness against themselves of disbelief... (18) He only shall tend God=s mosques who believes in God and the Last Day, does alt, pays zakt and fears no one but God...

(23) Believers, do not take your fathers and brothers as your allies; they prefer disbelief to belief; anyone who allies himself to them is one of them... (28) Believers, idolaters are just scum (najas); they should not come near the Sacred Mosque after this year when they are allowed.  If you fear poverty [by excluding them], yet God will provide for you from his bounty, if he will... (29) So fight those recipients of Scripture who do not believe in God or the Last Day, who do not consider inviolate what God and his Messenger have declared inviolate, and who do not practice the true religion, until they pay the jizya by hand in a state of humiliation.  [An attack on the doctrine and practice of Jews and Christians follows, verses 30-35.]

Other relevant passages are:

(3:28) Believers should not take unbelievers as allies in preference to believers.

(3:118) Believers, do not have as your confidants people outside your number.  They would not hesitate to cause you trouble; they wish you harm.  Hatred appears on their lips and what their breasts conceal is greater.

(5:51) Believers, do not take Jews or Christians as your allies.  They are allies to one another.  Any one of you who makes an alliance with them is one of them...

On the other hand we hear:

(60:7-9) Perhaps God will bring friendship between you and those [idolaters] to whom you have been hostile... God does not forbid you from being just and equitable towards those who did not fight against your religion and did not drive you from your homes... God only forbids you from making alliances with those who fought against your religion, drove you from your homes or helped in this action.  Anyone who makes an alliance with them is unjust.

All these passages, both the friendly and the hostile ones, are circumstantial; that is, they refer to particular incidents, individuals or groups of people with whom Muammad had to deal.  This gives rise to problems of interpretation.

The first problem is whether one may generalize the application of these passages.  There are severe strictures of the Jews in sras 2 to 5, e.g. AYou will find that the worst enemies of the Believers are the Jews and the Polytheists@ (5:82).  Are such passages to be understood only of particular clans in Medina or should the criticism apply to all Jews everywhere up to this day?  Muslim interpretation is not uniform.

Another problem comes from the teaching of abrogation; that is, in case of conflict, the verse revealed latest cancels the legal force of the early verse.  The later verses are usually the more severe.

The practice of Muammad

Muammad made a number of treaties: with the people of Khaybar (Jews), Barayn (Christians and Magi), Tabk (Christians), the Ban-Taghlib (Christians), and the people of Najrn (Christians), in which he set out their rights and restrictions.  Apart from these, the conduct of Muammad as depicted in the Sra, or biography, by Ibn-Hishm, has set the tone for relations with non-Muslims,

In his youth Muammad went on trading trips to Syria and on the way came across Christian hermits.  It is difficult to sift fact from legend in the accounts of these meetings, but one clear fact is that he came away with mostly positive impressions that are reflected in the Qur=n.

After his initial prophetic experiences, Muammad gathered a following that crossed age and tribal lines.  In the context of Meccan and Arab society this association had political overtones which sharpened as the Meccan leadership became alarmed at its growing strength and tried to stamp it out. From the very beginning of his preaching career Muammad, therefore, had both a religious and a political role to play.

Military power was the natural concomitant of political power, and during an early incident of Meccan harassment of the Muslims, ASa`d ibn-ab-Waqq struck one of the polytheists with a camel=s jawbone and wounded him.  This was the first blood shed in Islam@.[21]  The conversion of the strong man Hamza meant that the small Muslim community now could and would fight back.

An intellectual battle was also going on, in which the Muslims defended their position against the Meccans= criticisms.  The Muslim position was uncompromising: Unless you believe in only the one God and accept Muammad as his Messenger you are bound for Hell.  Pressed whether this included Muammad=s beloved grandfather `Abdalmualib, who had raised him as an orphan but never became a Muslim, Muammad answered yes.  No clan would thenceforth protect him in Mecca.

In the meantime, Muammad sent some of his hard pressed disciples to Ethiopia.  The refugees (including 83 adult males) were hospitably treated by the Christian emperor and allowed to practice their religion.  The accounts of conversations between the emperor and the Muslims contain anachronisms and are likely a retrojection of Christian-Muslim debates a century after Muammad=s death, when they were put into writing.  We can only say that the first meeting between Muslim and Christians in Africa was one of gracious hospitality.  The Muslims eventually joined Muammad at Medina, except for `Ubaydallh ibn-Jash, who became a Christian and died there.  This conversion caused no hard feelings, and Muammad married his widow.

In Medina Muammad had to deal with two groups of ideological opponents.  First were those Arabs who accepted his leadership and Islam on their own terms.  That is, they accepted Muammad as a religious leader and arbiter of their disputes, but were not willing to take him as their definitive, unique and conclusive oracle of God=s revelation in all religious and worldly matters.  These men were called the Hypocrites, and their opposition was expressed principally through the voice of poets, the media people of that culture.  Muammad=s policy was one by one to silence the poets, usually by assassination or execution.  A few managed to gain pardon and became his praise singers.  The Hypocrite movement suffered a setback with `Abdallh ibn-Ubayy=s failure to damage Muammad=s honour in the case of `=isha=s alleged adultery.  The movement seems to have been finally stamped out only with the destruction of the Aopposition mosque@ towards the end of Muammad=s life.

The other ideological opponents were the Jews, who never bought Muammad=s claim to be another prophet in the line of Abraham, Moses etc.  Of the more powerful Jewish clans, the Qaynuq` were exiled after a little market incident led to a full scale Muslim siege of their fortress.  The Napr clan was expelled after being convicted by revelation that they were planning to drop a stone on Muammad=s head.  The Quraya clan was similarly convicted on the basis of revelation of treachery during the battle of the Trench, and its men, 600 or more, were executed and their wives and children made slaves.  Only those who accepted the option of becoming Muslims were spared.

Ibn-Hishm=s account of Muammad=s attack on the Jews assumes that there was more to their mutual hostility that the immediate provocations.  These were either minor and could have been smoothed over, or based on flimsy evidence, even in the Muslim account (We do not have the Jewish side of the case).  Only by accepting the Islamic principle that the Prophet=s judgement was divinely guided and always correct can we see the proceedings against these Jewish clans as entirely just.

As for the Arabs, Meccan or nomads, who opposed Islam merely by the sword, Muammad was ready generously to pardon them once they submitted.

The impression given by the Muslim sources on his life is that Muammad envisaged a civil community governed by revealed law, in effect a single party state ruled by the Muslim party alone, which was equivalated to Athe party of God@.  All others who aspired to a role in the government without subscribing to Muammad=s exclusive and final prophetic authority were branded Aenemies of God@.  Jews and others who did no contest the supremacy of the Islamic party and remained quietly in the background were tolerated (as the Medinan Constitution provided).  So also were the Christians who came from Najrn in Yemen to make a peace pact with Muammad.  He magnanimously allowed their bishop to conduct a service right in his own mosque -- I know of no follow-up to this precedent in Islamic history.  Back in Yemen they were to practice their religion freely among themselves, but all public social institutions were Islamized.

Regulations and practice of the early caliphs

The early caliphs made various treaties with the peoples of the new territories of the Islamic empire.  These treaties have come down to us in various Muslim historical sources which may generally represent the authentic terms of the original treaties, but in some cases is a reworking and elaboration of the original documents.  Attitudes were also shaped by commentaries on the Qur=n and adth collections.

With regard to the verse, AThere is to be no compulsion in religion@ (2:256), both az-Zamakhshar (d. 1143) and al-Baypw (d. 1316) comment that its universal meaning is abrogated by the verse, AProphet, fight the unbelievers and the Hypocrites and deal with them severely@ (9:73), but its particular application to the People of Scripture (Christians and Jews) remains valid.  For its background they refer to the case of Medinan man of the tribe of Slim ibn-`Awf whose two sons had become Christian before Muammad began preaching.  The father insisted that the sons become Muslims.  They refused and he took the case to Muammad.  Then came the revelation AThere is to be no compulsion in religion@.[22]

The view became established that believers (mu=minn) are not on a par with unbelievers (kfirn).  According to al-Mward (d. 1058), believers have the obligation of extending the rule of Islam to parts where it has not reached, in order to extend the Arule of God@.  The world is distinguished into 1) Islamic territories (dr al-Islm), 2) territories of war (dr al-arb), which are non-Islamic territories which must be conquered by jihd, and 3) territories under truce (dr a-ul), which are non-Islamic territories which for the moment cannot be overcome; a truce or cease-fire (ul, muhdana) may be made with these lands for a maximum period of ten years.[23]  In a chapter on jihd al-Mward says of the polytheists in the Aland of war@ (dr al-arb):

There are two kinds of polytheists.  The first are those who have been called to Islam and have refused and turned from it.  In fighting them the commander of the army may choose whichever of two courses is better for the Muslims and harsher on the polytheists: a) to besiege them night and day with fighting and burning, or b) to threaten them with war and line up to fight them.

The second group are those who were never called to Islam.  There are very few of these today, since God has made the call of his Prophet very manifest.  But there are some such people we do not know in the far east and far west, beyond the Turks and the Byzantines who are fighting us.  We are forbidden to attack them by surprise or besiege them by war and burning, or to initiate hostilities before calling them to Islam, showing them the miracles proving Muammad=s prophethood and explaining the reasons which should lead them to accept Islam.  If they maintain unbelief after that then fight them as those who had already been called to Islam.[24]

It may happen that the Muslims are not in a position to conquer the infidels.  In that case they may make a truce (muhdana/ul), but not for longer than 10 years.[25]

Members of other religions who have submitted to Islamic rule come under the statue of dhimma, a pact guaranteeing protection to non-Muslims living in Muslim territory.  A dhimma contained obligations binding both the Muslims and the dhimms, but it was not a purely bilateral contract between equals; the dhimms were merely tolerated second-class citizens within the society.  These non-Muslims are limited, according to Qur=n 22:17, to Jews, Sabaeans (Gnostics of a sort), Christians and Magi (= Zoroastrians, in Persia).  In practice, it seems some people were called Magi for convenience, such as the Hausa Maguzawa, because of the impossibility or undesirability of imposing Islam or death on them.  Other non-Muslims cannot be given a dhimma, but at most a temporary safe-conduct (amn) or a cease-fire (ul, muhdana - both being forms of `ahd).  Otherwise the only right they have is a chance to answer the call to be a Muslim; if they refuse to become Muslim they can be put to death or enslaved.  This was the justification for the massive slave raiding in the Middle Belt of Nigeria in the 19th century.

Non-Muslims who are privileged to be dhimms are spared such a fate.  They are guaranteed their lives and property and may practice their religion among themselves.  On the other hand they are subject to a host of restrictions in violation of what the international community now regards as human rights.  These are outlined in the ACovenant of `Umar@,[26] a highly discriminatory AJim Crow@-like document, much used by the Nigerian reformer Uthman an Fodiye in his Bayn wujb al-hijra `al l-`ibd wa-bayn nab al-imm wa-iqmat al-jihd.[27]  The following are some of the major provisions:  Christians may not practice their religion publicly so as to be seen or heard by Muslims; they may not invite Muslims to join their religion, and are denied social equality with Muslims in many various ways.  According to the Risla of Ibn-ab-Zayd al-Qayrawn, Athe blood rate (diya) due to a woman is half that due to a man.  A Jewish or a Christian man likewise receives half what would be paid to a Muslim man.  A Jewish or a Christian woman, moreover receives half what her male counterpart would be paid.@[28]  A Christian man, moreover, may not marry a Muslim woman, and Aa Muslim does not inherit from an unbeliever nor an unbeliever from a Muslim.@[29]  Christians may not belong to the army, and must pay extra tax in the form of jizya.  They may be judged by their own Christian courts in disputes among themselves, but must to before an Islamic court in disputes with Muslims.  Christians of different denominations are to be judged in a Muslim court, and any case concerning public order must go before a Muslim court.  Christians are also free to bring their internal disputes to a Muslim court.[30]  Of course, any case tried in a Muslim court must follow Shar`a, with all its famous penalties.  Note, however, with reference to the 1984 prosecution of a missionary in Sudan for the possession of alcohol, that Shar`a allows Christians in Muslim lands to possess and consume alcoholic drinks, but not to sell them to Muslims.

These laws are invoked today, for example in the Salman Rushdie case.  Closer to home, on 27 October 1989 one Mallam Adamu was stoned to death in the Fegge Central Mosque in Kano for preaching within the premises that Aonly Jesus Christ is the Saviour; Muslims should stop groping in darkness and blindness and accept Jesus as their Saviour@.  He is said to have been mentally deranged.  No doubt!  But what of those who stoned him?[31]

Modern Muslim views on Shar`a


Bruce B. Lawrence distinguishes three types of fundamentalist trends in religion, particularly in Islam: 1) revivalism, an attempt to go back and restore the institutions of an early golden age without reference to the present, 2) reformism, an attempt to blend the ideals of the past with the achievements of modern times, and 3) fundamentalism, an attempt to apply an integral religious system to present-day society without any compromise or adaptation.  The latter is presented as the panacea for all the ills of society which other ideologies have proven incapable of remedying.[32]  All three trends echo the ideal of an Islamic state as set forth by medieval theorists.

The attitudes of Muslims today towards Shar`a are not new in Islamic history.  Only different views gain prominence at different periods and circumstances of history.  The range of views goes from an extreme fundamentalism to a modernist secularism, with a wide variety of intermediate views.

Extreme fundamentalism is the first to consider.  It consists in a demand for the total application of Shar`a to society, and nothing but Shar`a, condemning as unbelievers (takfr) any who compromise with anything less than this.  This, of course, is equivalent to Khrijism, the movement responsible for the death of the caliph `Al.  It taught that the Qur=n (with adth) is the supreme authority in Islam, and that whoever does not practice its injunctions cannot be considered a Muslim.

Khrijism originally was a radical revolutionary movement.  In a somewhat less violent form its principles were perpetuated in anbalism, a legal and theological school formed by Amad ibn-anbal (d. 855).  He insisted on the supremacy of the Qur=n and its literal interpretation, and was reluctant to claim to be a believer, saying only AI am a believer, if God wills@.  This is because for him faith included action, and one can never be sure his actions are perfectly in accord with Qur=nic law.

Ibn-Taymiyya (d. 1328) developed anbalism into a political theory and his ideas were taken up by the Wahhbs of Saudi Arabia in the 18th century and continued by the present Saudi dynasty.  Ibn-Taymiyya also influence the turn of the century reformers, al-Afghn (d. 1897), Muammad `Abduh (d. 1905) and Rashd Rip (d. 1935), and later the Pakistani writer Ab-l-`Al Mawdd (d. 1979).  They all had a wide influence, combining anbalite conservatism with a degree of reform and modernization.

From the same milieu in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood came into prominence in 1935 under the leadership of asan al-Bann=.  Fighting Muslim Egypt=s subservience to Europe and an educated class of Christian Egyptians, they campaigned for the establishment of an Islamic state in law and in fact.  With this hope and aim, they aided Nasser=s revolution in 1952, but were disappointed in Nasser=s secular style of Islam and his exclusion of the Muslim Brothers from power.

Sayyid Qub was the greatest exponent of the Muslim Brothers at this time.  He wrote a commentary on the Qur=n while he was in prison in Egypt before being executed in 1966.  In it he called for a revival of Islamic law according to the strict letter of the Qur=n.  Rejecting any modernization, he said that women should be veiled or kept in the home; bank interest is forbidden etc.  For him, the leaders of Egypt and most of the people had effectively abandoned Islam, and the first aim of jihd was to re-islamize traditionally Islamic countries.

Regarding Christians and Jews, he maintained that the verse AThere is to be no compulsion in religion@ and similar verses are abrogated, since these people have violated their pact with God and gone back to polytheism.[33]

 Sayyid Qub=s ideas outlasted his death (in prison in 1966), being developed in a more radical Khrijite form by the movement Jam`at al-hijra wa-t-takfr, which was responsible for the assassination of President Sadat.[34]  This group saw the Egyptian government as having abandoned Islam because it did not follow Shar`a completely and had neglected jihd in the form of military warfare against the enemies of Islam; according to them the Averse of the sword@ had abrogated 124 other verses of the Qur=n and was a duty on each individual Muslim.

An obvious counterpart of this Egyptian organization is the Maitatsine movement in Nigeria.  We can be suspicious of all the newspaper allegations that they do not believe in Muammad, they make Maitatsine a prophet instead, that they eat human flesh etc.  Whenever these allegations were made no member of the movement was interviewed or had a chance to speak for himself.  What is clear, however, is that members of the Maitatsine movement regarded the Muslim rulers in the north of Nigeria, whether traditional emirs or state governors, as apostates from Islam, who must therefore be fought and killed.  As with Azraqite Khrijism of old, it is not clear what positive programme the Maitatsine movement would have if it ever succeeded.  It probably had none, but saw only the short-term need to fight the enemies of Islam.

Also in Nigeria the Jam`at izlat al-bid`a wa-iqmat as-sunna, or simply the Izala, has incorporated the principle ideas of Sayyid Qub, al-Mawdd and Wahhbism.  Its intolerant attitude to Christians is very well known.  Fortunately Muslims loyal to traditional authorities and fic groups oppose them and limit their influence.  In recent years a Sh`ite movement has captured most of the radical following in the North of Nigeria.

It may be rare for an extreme movement to succeed, as Sh`ite radicalism did in Iran, because any government will do all it can to suppress or restrain it.  It is only possible that, in case a government is unable to meet the reasons for social discontent among the have-nots, leaders of such movements may gain a wide popular following and may extort concessions from the government, as is happening in Egypt now.

Bernard Lewis sums up the military expansive aspect of Islam:[35]

There were some who argued that jihd should be understood in a moral and spiritual, rather than a military, sense.  Such arguments were sometimes put forward by Sh`ite theologians in classical times, and more frequently by modernizers and reformists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionists, however, understood the obligation of jihd in a military sense, and have examined and expounded it accordingly...

The basis of the obligation of jihd is the universality of the Muslim revelation.  God=s word and God=s message are for al mankind; it is the duty of those who have accepted them to strive (jhada) unceasingly to convert or at least to subjugate those who have not.  This obligation is without limit of time or space.  It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state.

Until that happens, the world is divided in two: the House of Islam (dr al-Islm), where Muslims rule and the law of Islam prevails; and the house of War (dr al-arb), comprising the rest of the world.  Between the tow there is a morally necessary, legally and religiously obligatory state of war, until the final and inevitable triumph of Islam over unbelief.  According to the law books, this state of war could be interrupted, when expedient, by an armistice or truce of limited duration.  It could not be terminated by a peace, but only by a final victory...

By the early ninth century, Muslims began to realize that this fulfilment was not imminent, and in popular religion and legend it was postponed to a remote, indeed a messianic, future.

Many Muslims today, however, believe that the time has come for a dramatic extension of dr al-Islm, for example, seeing Europe on the verge of having a Muslim majority.  Various hard-line or fundamentalist stances exist, from Wahhbism in Saudi Arabia to Iranian Sh`ism according to Ayatollah Khomeini, to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and its daughter, Jam`at al-hijra wa-t-takfr,[36] to Ghaddafi=s Qur=n-based people=s state in Libya.  Some outside commentators see fundamentalist extremism as the logical expression of the basic principles of Islam, from which there is no escape without compromising Islam itself.[37]  This view is widely denied by Muslims.[38]

Accommodation with non-Islamic culture

Bernard Lewis points out that the first major compromise the Muslim community had to make was the acceptance of Mongol rule while it was as yet non-Islamic.[39]  Later came European colonial rule.  Now there are those countries, traditionally Muslim or with a large Muslim population, which do not formally recognize Shar`a as the law of the land.  Finally there is the situation of Muslims living in traditionally Christian lands now ruled by a secular constitution and government.

Practical accommodation has forced theoretical accommodation.  The first known theorist of political accommodation is al-Mzar, who had to deal with the problem of Muslims living under Christian rule in Sicily after the Norman conquest in the 12th century.[40]  He, like many others after him, held onto the ideal of an Islamic state, but accepted accommodation under the principle of parra, necessity, since the Qur=n and Islamic tradition in many instances admit that one is not bound to practice the impossible.  Thus one may eat non-ritually slaughtered meat if there is no other food, and in persecution one may outwardly deny the faith, provided one guards Islam in his or her heart.

Some reformist Muslims, seeing the economic and social backwardness of their societies, tried to find an Islamic basis for modernization, distinguishing between the essentials (ul) of religion and the historical shape it has taken which can be changed.[41]  After some experimenting with AIslamic socialism@, social theorists began to argue for an Islamically inspired system different from the East (Marxism) and the West (Capitalism).  In practice this has meant a compromise between tradition and Western values, resulting in such things as Islamic banking.[42]

Others took a more radical position, arguing that religion cannot provide a plan for society and economics.  For them, religion should be confined to one=s relationship to God and general ethical principles, but social and economic matters should be autonomous.[43]  A few of these modernists advocated the wholesale adoption of Western education, social systems and law.[44]  Some argue that even some Qur=nic laws were ordinances for the circumstances of 7th century Medina and should not be applied today.[45]

None of these trends has resulted in a synthesis between Islam and modernity.  AWhat most of them actually did was either to build a superficial bridge between the two cultures, or to read Western civilisation in Islamic terms.@[46]

A brilliant article by `Abdallh Laroui[47] challenges the cleric who attributes the problems of Muslim societies to infidelity to Islam (whether as a self-contained Qur=nic system or as supporting independent reason and discovery), the politician who thinks that the recognition of democracy (sometimes under the guise of ijm` or shr) is the answer,[48] and the technocrat who thinks that technology is the panacea.  All of these preach answers (inseparable from Western ideology), but do not provide them in practice.

The modernists at one time were a significant voice.  They looked to Western secular democracies for inspiration, and through their influence, with foreign cooperation, most Islamic countries in this century have had a more or less secular code of law.  That is also true of Nigeria, where, however, local and state Shar`a courts were provided for Islamic personal law.  The modernists, however, are a beleaguered breed, as can be seen in the vehement reactions against the Are Musulmi of Ogun State, who argued against the introduction of Shar`a courts in the southern states.[49]  Professor I.A. Balogun of the University of Ilorin is not a modernist, but his article, AThe concept of `ahd in Islam@[50] argues from Islamic teaching on respecting pacts even with non-Muslims to support an elected government, which in the context meant that of Nigeria=s Second Republic.  Yet he qualifies his position with the statement: AThis obedience is, however, based on the assumption that both the government and the governed regulate their lives and actions according to God=s guidance which he vouchsafed human beings through his chosen Prophets and Messengers.@[51]

An Egyptian writer who could be considered a modernist is Muammad Sa`d al-Ashmw, a judge in Cairo.  In his Ul ash-shar`a, published in 1979, he calls for putting breaks on the movement back to Shar`a.[52]  He first questions the meaning of Shar`a and challenges a return to a Shar`a that was frozen after the first three centuries of Islam.  He claims that Shar`a is a spirit more than a letter, a programme of social change aimed at progress and liberation, not at preserving a status-quo.  At the time of the Prophet laws were made according to the circumstances of those times; today different circumstances call for different legislation.  For example, at the time of Muammad people knew one another, and could lend money and share the benefits without interest.  In today=s anonymous world interest is a new way of sharing the benefits and of compensating for inflation and the tying up of one=s money.  Laws should try to prevent modern forms of exploitation.  Likewise the death penalty or any penalty should not be inflicted on anyone who leaves Islam, since this contradicts the spirit of Qur=n 2:256: AThere shall be no compulsion in religion.@  Muslims should look openly to the experience of other religions and peoples for ways to control crime, and not blindly insist on traditional Shar`a penalties.  Early Islam, or the time of the salafiyya, was no more ideal than any other society, and the early wars of expansion influenced the compilers of Shar`a to make Islam into a religion of war.  Also, a theocracy was possible in the time of Muammad, but it cannot continue if revelation is closed.  The book may be superficial in its analysis of the problems, but it does raise and face them squarely.  Not surprisingly many Islamic organizations condemned the book, and he even received threats.

We can now turn to the variety of intermediate positions.  The first and weakest of these calls for Shar`a law and courts, but only for Muslim personal law.  This is the position of the Baba Adinni of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abiola, who, in reaction to the Are Musulmi of Ogun State, explained also that issues between a Muslim and a non-Muslim would not be tried in an Islamic court, and that even Muslims are free to avoid Islamic courts altogether if they so choose.

A somewhat stronger position is that of the above-mentioned Grand Mufti of Egypt, Gd al-aqq, who marshals a convincingly logical array of adths and Qur=nic exegesis to argue first for the Murji=ite-Sunnite position that a Muslim remains a Muslim as long as he professes the shahda, no matter what his behaviour is.  Secondly, he defends the actual behaviour of the Egyptian leaders who have upheld the most important Islamic values, which include the primacy of the Ajihd of the heart@ and recourse to military jihd only for self-defense.  He adds that Awe believe in the prohibition of lending at interest even though we practice it.. but we desire the law of God and put it into practice as best we can:@ this admission will please those who would like to see more Shar`a implemented in Egypt.  Even so, rebellion is not justified to bring about greater observance of Shar`a.  With regard to relations with non-Muslims, Gd al-aqq accuses the writer of the handbook of choosing certain parts of the Qur=n and adth and ignoring others.  He cites the example of Muammad who sought the help of the idolater `Abdallh ibn-`Arqt as a guide during the hijra, and other examples of Muammad and the Companions.  AThe Islamic principle is to have good relations with everyone, Muslims or non-Muslims, in everything that does not contradict a clear test of the Book of God or the Sunna of his Messenger, or a prescription for which there is unanimous agreement of Muslims.@[53]  Gd al-aqq accuses his opponents of playing into the hands of the orientalists, who pick out all the negative statements about non-Muslims in Muslim sources, distorting the picture of the whole Islamic view.

What is interesting about the views of Gd al-aqq is not whether they are historically defensible, since the orientalists certainly have good reasons for some of their views of Islamic history, but the fact that he is interpreting hostile passages in a benign way and defending a different, more tolerant picture of Islam.  This trend certainly should be encouraged, even though the degree of tolerance such men advocate would not meet full Christian expectations.

One of the best expositions of an Islamic case for religious freedom is that of Muhammad Talbi, reproduced in an appendex to this work.

A not too different position is that of most proponents of Shar`a in Nigeria.  For the most part, they are calling for the whole Shar`a.  We can sometimes doubt whether some of these proponents are really interested in Shar`a or in the political points they gain by supporting it.  The proposal of Shar`a courts certainly enjoys wide support among the Muslim masses as a symbol of Muslim identity and victory with a good share in the Anational cake@, even though they do not understand and would not even support all the provisions of Shar`a, such as the prohibition of alcoholic drinks and inheritance laws which split the family.

The distinctive feature of the Nigerian position, as far as Christians are concerned, is the effort to hide or deny the fact that Shar`a affects non-Muslims adversely at all.  The pitch is repeatedly made that Muslims are merely demanding recognition of their right to organize their own lives according to the law of God.  Others go on to call for the institution of Shar`a as the law of the land, since, as they claim, Muslims are in the majority.  Serious Christians and Muslim thinkers realize that the establishment of a full Islamic state is the aim of the step by step promotion of Shar`a, and some writers have taken pains to explain how that would not be so bad for Christians.  In chapter 12 of Musa Abdul=s The classical caliphate (1976) he does state quite frankly the fundamental restrictions on Christians, such as not to attempt to convert a Muslim and the death penalty for a Muslim who does become a Christian.  Abdul does not, however, give Mward=s full description of other restrictive features, particularly the prohibition of public display of Christian ceremonies.  Under the full Shar`a Christians would not be allowed to use amplifiers to bring their message to the ears of Muslims.  In Non-Muslims under Shar`a (1979), `Abdurramn Doi defends forcibly the equity of Shar`a in its treatment of non-Muslims.  He is accurate as regards most of the Shar`a provisions for non-Muslims, while, like Abdul, avoiding the harsh language of authors like Mward.  His attempt to present a favourable picture of Shar`a is laudable if we understand it as an exercise in wishful thinking, a hope for a new ijtihd in Islam (p. 121), but it is inaccurate, for instance, to claim that Shar`a (as most Muslims know it) allows Christians to Ado missionary activities and to propagate their faith@ (p. 79).  Or Athey will have full freedom to run their missionary organizations and evangelist activities.  They will be free to propagate their creed openly and praise their beliefs in comparison to beliefs of Muslims.  Even they will enjoy the same rights of criticizing the religion of Islam as the Muslims will have to criticize their religion, as long as it does not create any breach of peace... If a missionary of any religion works on a Muslim and the Muslim is inclined to change his religion, the non-Muslim individual or his missionary organization will not be taken to task by the Islamic state, but the Muslim himself will be answerable to the Muslim authorities@ (p. 102).  Doi does not say what will happen to the ex-Muslim; this is the only hint of the famous death penalty for converts away from Islam.

Finally, we see the practical attitude of Muslims who are securely in power, as in the north of Nigeria and in Sudan.  It is a notorious fact that to gain admission to educational institutions, a promotion or any good appointment or contract it makes a difference if you are a Muslim.  And it is a constant struggle to get land for churches or permissions for any number of activities.  As long as the Churches struggle they succeed in getting room enough to function, but there is constant pressure on Christians to either join the majority or go away.  Whatever Shar`a is in theory, this is the Shar`a that Christians experience, and which makes them resist its expansion.

Internal accommodation

Up to now we have been seeing how Muslims have coped with non-Islamic culture and rule.  For very many Muslims alien influence is the only threat.  But another tradition of thought emphasizes the danger from within the Muslim community.  It questions the myth of a golden idyllic Islam of the past.  The `Abbsid age, for all its cultural glories, is seen as religiously poor and socially repressive.  The same is said of the Umayyad period and even the reigns of al-khulaf= ar-rshidn.  The lifetime of the Prophet is usually spared, but more radical thought, as we have seen, would take even his rule in Medina as a divine compromise with a crude culture, so that not all authentic adth and not all Qur=nic injunctions should be universalized as Shar`a valid for all times and places.

The basic principle of this tradition of thought is its distinction between Islam as a system or a revelation, and Islam as a historical phenomenon subject to the social, cultural and economic forces that influence any religion in its concrete realization.  In the latter sense, Islam is used as a label for anything and everything a politician wishes to propound.[54]

For the early period, Michael Cook maintains that the first Murji=ites were active opponents of the Umayyad regime, but later, like the Imm Sh`ites, adopted a quietist non-involvement attitude to politics.  This was because Islamic society initially was made up of tribes bent on conquest and revolution, and later became an imperial society where the tribes were demobilized and mixed with converts from the conquered peoples.[55]  So we see one way of coping with internal infidelity to Islam or injustice is to opt out, the only choice of Alarge numbers of Muslims who lived their lives with no part in the exercise of political power and no realistic expectation of achieving it.@[56]

Medieval and later theorists had to accommodate with the deteriorating internal situation of Islam.  Ann Lambton shows how the constitutional theorists of Islam from the early Middle Ages to the 16th century progressively reduced the conditions necessary for a legitimate ruler from being a just, knowledgeable Qurayshite with many other qualities as well, to anyone who happens to be firmly in power, even if he got there by usurpation, and even if he is unjust.[57]  It was natural that f leaders who fled politics took over moral authority with the people at this time.

In a pattern that has parallels elsewhere, Jean-Claude Vatin shows how in Algeria fic leaders had most influence in the latter days of Turkish rule and early French rule.[58]  After the First World War these gave way to the `ulam= who became popular under the banner of Arabic culture, Islam and nationalism.  With independence, these had to cede power to state Islam.  This is using the label of Islam to legitimize any policy the government wants to adopt for its own pragmatic reasons.  To the extent that the state fails to assure employment and basic needs of the people, especially for the youth majority, Algerian state Islam has come under challenge from the ulam= who mobilize the masses to clamour for an Islamic state.

The Gulf crisis also illustrated the use of Islam and call for jihd in galvanizing both Saudi and Kuwaiti support for their own regimes, and Iraqi and Arab national feeling against U.S. economic and political power in the region.[59]

For other countries many authors see the serious economic and social crisis, and not a wave of religious conviction, as the real reason for the appeal of fundamentalism.[60]

Other authors see religious impoverishment as an equally important reason reaction against state Islam.  If Islam is preached merely as a expedient cover for a economic and political policies that have no Islamic reference whatsoever and the fic or mystical dimensions of Islam are pushed to the background, people will experience a spiritual hunger and look for satisfaction in movements that promise this.[61]  This phenomenon is similar to the situation in Latin America where the Catholic Church put so much emphasis on liberation theology and action, leaving the spiritual hunger of the people for pentecostal sects to minister to.

The search for a consensus

Which is the correct Islamic attitude towards followers of other religions?  Both Qub and Talbi can make a good case arguing from the Qur=n, adth and legal and theological tradition.  But a debate about texts will never come to any resolution.  What is needed is a new consensus (ijm`).

One could compare the situation in Christianity, where Scripture research is every necessary and fruitful, but in the end it is the magisterium, Awe and the Holy Spirit@ (Acts 15:28), which settles what is the authentic orthodox position on matters of faith and morals.  The Catholic Church never accepted the principle of Asola Scriptura@, with the endless private interpretation and argumentation this entails.

In a similar way we look to world Islamic organizations to produce a charter on religious freedom based on consensus, since they have the Prophet=s words, AMy community will never agree on error@.

In fact in recent years there has been a series of Muslim international meetings on the subject of human rights.  Confronted by a series of secular declarations on the subject, from the United Nations Declaration of 1948 to the Helsinki accords of the 1970s and 1980s, Muslims have tried to articulate their own position.

In 1970 Dr. Edward Lowson, Vice-President of the Human Rights Section at the U.N., wrote to the Saudi Arabian government on the implementation of the International Human rights Declaration (1948) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and cultural Rights (1966).  The Saudis met with some European jurists in Riyadh in 1972 the minutes of which were accompanied by a Saudi AMemorandum@.  Follow-up meetings were held in Paris, the Vatican, Geneva, again in Paris, and in Strasbourg, all in October-November 1974.  Again, in December 1980, a seminar on human rights was organized by the University of Kuwait, the Association of Arab Lawyers and the International commission of Jurists.  The subject also formed the agenda of the third meeting of the O.I.C. at Ta=if in January 1981.  Besides, the Islamic Council of Europe produced a AUniversal Islamic Declaration@; one draft of this was promulgated in the Royal Albert Hall in April 1980 and another at the UNESCO palace in Paris in September 1981.[62]

These declarations assure Areligious freedom@ for all.[63]  Discrimination on the basis of religion is not allowed.[64]  Respect for Christians in the Qur=n and Muslim history is recalled,[65] as well as the right of Christians to Aan ecclesiastical jurisdiction@.[66]

Thus, under the wing of the Muslim State, there is no more difference among Arabs, be they Muslims or not; there is no more difference between adepts of Islam and adepts of other religions, whatever their ethnic origin may be.  As in modern states, where social or religious discrimination is excluded, all nationals of the Muslim state are equal in their rights.[67]

Nevertheless a Muslim woman still may not marry a non-Muslim.[68]  Muslims have the right and duty to proclaim Islam throughout the world,[69] but other groups must confine their expression of thought to what agrees with Islam.[70]  Moreover a Muslim is not free to change his religion.[71]

Critique of these declarations

Muhammad Charfi, a Tunisian lawyer, observes that such restrictions cannot be justified.[72]  He calls for a revision of fiqh, the codification of Islamic law that took shape during the first four centuries of Islam.  In doing so, scholars must re-study Islamic history in order to distinguish the true values of Islam from rules that arose from particular political circumstances.  Even some Qur=nic rules were meant for circumstances of 7th century Arabia and, although progressive for their time, are only half-way reforms which must be carried further today.[73]

Charfi notes that many notable reforms have taken place in this century, but the problem is that parallel to this reality is a different Aofficial Islam@ taught by theological faculties.  More important than revising the laws, he says, is revising the programme of religious instruction.[74]

Charfi calls attention to another problem, observing that many Muslim states which claim to follow Shar`a do not follow it in practice, and trample on human rights.  He points to Iran, countries of the Arabian gulf and to some extent Egypt.[75]


[1]Part of this was printed in my Shar`a and Christianity in Nigeria: Islam and a 'secular' state,@ Journal of Religion in Africa 26:4 (1996), 338-364

[2]On the role of ash-Shfi`, cf. W.M. Watt, The formative period of Islamic thought (Edinburgh,),

[3]Cf. Usman pan Fodiye, Bayn wujb al-hijra `al l-`ibd wa-bayn nab al-imm wa-iqmat al-jihd, ed. El-Masri, U.I. Ph.D. thesis, 1968.

[4]Cairo: M. al-Bb al-alab, 1960.

[5]Cairo: al-Mamdiyya Press, 1935.

[6]For the classical views cf. Louis Gardet, La cit musulmane (Paris: Vrin, 1969); for modern pragmatic views see John J. Donahue and John L. Esposito, Islam in transition, Muslim perspectives (Oxford U.P., 1982).

[7]Cf. W.M. Watt, The formative period of Islamic thought (Edinburgh, 1973), pp. 88 ff.

[8]Cf. H.A. Wolfson, The philosophy of the Kalm (London, 1976), pp. 575-6.  For more on Mu`tazilite ideas about causality see M. Fakhry, Islamic occasionalism (London, 1958), chapter 1.

[9]See the excellent article of J. Jomier, ALa toute-puissance de Dieu et les creatures dans le Coran@, MIDEO, 16 (1983), pp. 31-58.

[10]Cf. Muammad ibn-Ysuf as-Sans, al-`Aqda al-wus, n. 35, in J. Kenny, Muslim theology as presented by Muammad ibn-Ysuf as-Sans, Ph.D. thesis (Edinburgh, 1970).

[11]Ibid., n. 19.

[12]E.g. Muammad Nuwayhi; cf. Donahue & Esposito, pp. 160 ff. Note especially Muammad Sa`d al-Ashmw; cf. P.J. Vatikiotis, AIslamic resurgence: a critical view@, in A.S. Cudsi & A.E.H. Dessouki (eds.), Islam and power, pp. 186 ff. and Jacques Jomier, ALes fondements de la loi musulmane@, Mlanges de l=Institut Dominicain d=Etudes Orientales du Caire, 16 (1983), pp. 289-292.

[13]Cf. J. Kenny, Muslim theology as presented by M. b. Ysuf as-Sans, especially in his al-`Aqda al-wus, Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1970, p. 272.

[14]Cf. J. Kenny, op. cit., p. 275.

[15]Op. cit., pp. 15-16.

[16]Ibid., ch. 4, section 3, p. 43.

[17]Op. cit., ch. 10, p. 93, & ch. 27, p. 145.

[18]Speaking of the amr al-jihd, ch. 4, section 3, p. 43).

[19]Ch. 10, p. 93; cf. ch. 27.

[20]These and the other Qur=n quotations are my own translations.  Verse numbers are according to the Cairo edition.

[21]Ibn-Hishm, As-Sra an-nabawiyya, ed. Muaf ash-Shiq (Cairo: al-Muallab, 1955), vol. 1, p. 263.

[22]Al-Baypw, Tafsr (Jadda: al-abbl, 1305 H.), p. 58; az-Zamakhshar, al-Kashshf (Beirut, Dr al-Kitb al-`Arab, nd.), p. 304.

[23]Al-Mward, al-Akm as-sulniyya (Cairo, 1960), ch. 4, section 5, p. 51.

[24]Al-Mward, Al-Akm as-sulniyya (Cairo: al-Muallab, 1960), p. 37.

[25]Ibid., p. 51.

[26]Contained in a-ursh (d. 1126), Sirj al-mulk (Cairo: al-Mamdiyya Press, 1935), pp. 252-258.  Its attribution to `Umar ibn-al-Khab (the second caliph) has been shown to be false; it probably comes from `Umar ibn-`Abdal`azz, the Umayyad caliph who ruled from 717 to 720; cf. A. Fattl, Le statut lgal des non-musulmans en pays d=Islam (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1958), pp. 60 ff.  Besides my translation, see the translation in B. Lewis (ed.), Islam, vol. 2, pp. 217 ff.

[27]Ed. El-Masri, University of Ibadan Ph.D. thesis, 1968, especially chapters 27 and 45.

[28]In my translation, n. 37.04.

[29]Ibid., n. 39.14.

[30]See. A. Fattal, op. cit., pp. 344 ff.; cf. Qur=n 5:42-3.

[31]Nigerian Tribune, 1 November 1989, p. 5.

[32]In AFrom Islamic revivalism to Islamic fundamentalism@, The World & I, Feb. 1991, pp. 469-485.

[33]On the life and views of Qub, see Oliver Carr, Mystique et politique, lecture rvolutionnaire du Coran par Sayyid Qub, frre musulman radical (Paris: Cerf, 1984).

[34]Cf. G. Anawati, AUne rsurgence du Khrijisme au XXe sicle: >L=obligation absent=@, Mlanges de l=Institut Dominicain d=Etudes Orientales, 16 (1983), pp. 191-228, and Michael Youssef, Revolt against modernity (Leiden: Brill, 1985).

[35]The political language of Islam (University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 72-73, 75.

[36]Cf. G.C. Anawati, AUne rsurgence du Kharijisme au XXe sicle: >l=obligation absent=@, Mlanges de l=Institut Dominicain d=Etudes Oreientales du Caire, 16 (1983), pp. 191-228.

[37]For example, Richard Rubenstein, AMuslims, Jews, and the Western world: a Jewish view@, Currents in modern thought, Feb. 1991, pp. 541-549.

[38]E.g. Sheikh M.A. Zaki Badawi, AIslam, other religions, and the future of the world@, Currents in modern thought, Feb. 1991, pp. 529-539; Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, AIslam is always for peace and for reconciliation@, ibid., pp. 532-533.

[39]Op. cit.

[40]Cf. B. Lewis, op. cit., p. 106.

[41]Notably Jamladdn al-Afghn, Muammad `Abduh and Rashd Rip; cf. Jacques Jomier, Le commentaire coranique du Manr (Paris: A. Maisonneuve, 1954).

[42]E.g. Muaf Mamd, Khurshid Ahmad, Ab-l-asan Ban-adr, Muammad al-Qadhdhf; cf. Donahue & Esposito, op. cit., pp. 103, 155, 217 ff.

[43]E.g. Hichem Djat, Sub Mamasn, & saf A.A. Fyzee; cf. Donahue & Esposito, pp. 149 ff., 181 ff.

[44]E.g. Rif=a Badaw Tahtw; cf. John Donohue & John Esposito, Islam in transition, Muslim perspectives (Oxford U.P., 1982), pp. 11-15.

[45]E.g. Muammad Nuwayhi; cf. Donahue & Esposito, pp. 160 ff. Note especially Muammad Sa`d al-Ashmw; cf. P.J. Vatikiotis, AIslamic resurgence: a critical view@, in A.S. Cudsi & A.E.H. Dessouki (eds.), Islam and power, pp. 186 ff. and Jacques Jomier, ALes fondements de la loi musulmane@, Mlanges de l=Institut Dominicain d=Etudes Orientales du Caire, 16 (1983), pp. 289-292.

[46]Ali E.H. Dessouki, AThe resurgence of Islamic organisations in Egypt: an interpretation@, in S. Cudsi & A.E.H. Dessouki, Islam and power (London: Croom Helm, 1981), p. 113.

[47]In Donahue & Esposito, pp. 141 ff.

[48]For an example of an argument that the use of shr from the grass-roots up will solve the malaise of the Islamic world, see Masudul Alam Choudhury, AIslamic futures after the Desert Storm@, Hamdard Islamicus, 14:4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 5-21.

[49]See the National Concord, 27 October 1984, p. 1.

[50]Orita, 12:1 (June 1978), 3-11.

[51]Ibid., p. 9.

[52]See J. Jomier, ALes fondements de la loi musulmane@, MIDEO, 16 (1983), 289-292.

[53]Anawati, op. cit., p. 220.

[54]Cf. Ali Mrad, AThe ideologisation of Islam@, in Coudsi & Dessouki, pp. 37-48.

[55]AActivism and quietism in Islam: the case of the early Murji=a@, in A.S. Cudsi & A.E.H. Dessouki, Islam and power, pp. 15-23.

[56]Ibid., p. 22.

[57]AChanging concepts of authority in the late ninth/fifteenth and early tenth/sixteenth centuries@, in Cudsi and Dessouki, pp. 49-71.

[58]AReligious resistance and state power in Algeria@, in Coudsi and Dessouki, pp. 119-157.

[59]Cf. John. L. Esposito, AJihad in a world of shattered dreams@, Currents in modern thought, Feb. 1991, pp. 515-527.

[60]Cf. A.E.H. Dessouki, AIslamic organizations in Egypt@, in Cudsi & Dessouki, pp. 107-118; P.J. Vatikiotis, AIslamic resurgence: a critical view@, ibid., pp. 169-196.

[61]Cf. William C. Chittick, AThe Islamic concept of human perfection@, Currents in modern thought, Feb. 1991, pp. 499-513.

[62]The texts of the meeting of the Saudis with the Europeans may be found in Human rights in Islam (Beirut: Dr al-Kitb al-Lubnn, n.d.).  That of the Kuwait meeting appears in French translation in R. Caspar, ALes dclarations islamiques des droits de l=homme@, Islamochristiana, 9 (1983), pp. 78-91.  The O.I.C. first draft is found ibid., pp. 92-96; the second draft pp.l 96-101.  The London AUniversal Islamic Declaration@ appeared in the London Times, 14 April 1980, and the Paris version is printed in Arabic, English and French in Islamochristiana, 9 (1983).

[63]Memorandum 6e, Strasbourg 9e, Kuwait 4, O.I.C. first draft 29, second draft 12, Universal Declaration 10 & 13.

[64]Memorandum 61, Kuwait 26, O.I.C. first draft 6.

[65]Vatican 3-7, Geneva 4-7, 20-21, Universal Declaration 12e.

[66]Geneva 21.

[67]Geneva 28.

[68]Memorandum 8a, 9-10.

[69]Universal Declaration, introduction etc.

[70]O.I.C. second draft 33, Universal Declaration 12d, 14.

[71]Memorandum 8b, 11-12, Ta=if 12, O.I.C. first draft 29, second 12.

[72]Op. cit., p. 15.

[73]Ibid., pp. 23-24.

[74]Ibid., p. 23.

[75]Ibid., pp. 14-15.