Sunday, September 30, 2007

Islamic Law

I received an email response to my blog entry that addressed Jesus' peaceful teachings versus Mohammad's occasionally unpeaceful teaching. The response pointed out that along with the different messages, the men had very different roles in society. Whereas Jesus was only a preacher, Mohammad was a community leader. In this respect, it would be much more fair to compare Mohammad to Moses or Joshua than to Jesus. When that comparison is made, Mohammad comes out to be the the more peaceful of the group. Whereas Islam's spread permitted the conquered inhabitants to remain in their land and even retain their religion, the Israelites conquering the Promised Land drove out and killed all previous inhabitants. Even this comparison, however, is unfair as Islam's conquests were not aimed at procuring land but at expanding the empire and, in some cases*, to spread Islam.

In any case, blanket statements calling Jesus peaceful and Mohammad violent would be far from accurate. Jesus' teachings address personal behavior whereas Muhammad addresses all aspects of life just as the Jewish law does.

Since I seem to be retracting previous statements, I guess this would be a good time to confess my lack of understanding of the various levels of Islamic code. I've heard of some things being Sunnah, which means that they're not mentioned in the Quran but they were stated by Muhammad. Because of this, they're apparently not mandated but are strongly suggested since the Quran does say to obey the teachings of Muhammad. There are also laws that are fiqh, which are interpretations and rulings. The Quran and Sunnah are immutable whereas the fiqh are interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah to address topics not explicitly covered. An analogy can be made in which the Constitution (if we imagine that there's no possibility of amendments) is like the Quran and Sunnah and the rulings of the Supreme Court are like the fiqh.

I'm not terribly sure what belongs to the different classes or what comprises Sharia. Wikipedia claims that sharia technically consists only of the revealed law, code in the Quran and Sunnah, whereas fiqh does not qualify. However, it also states that in many cases, fiqh is wrongly considered part of sharia law. In the one brief conversation I've had with a Muslim friend, it turned out we were both wrong and confused so I won't hold it against others who also make mistakes.

Anyway, I'm now even less sure what Islam says about different things and into which category the various things I've heard fall. I guess that is just more incentive for me to read and gather my own information rather than relying on other (possibly faulty) sources.

I have more things scribbled down about which to write but it'll have to wait for another day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I strongly suggest looking into taking classes on Islamic topics you wish to learn more about. You are proactive in your search, which is huge benefit compared to those who'd rather the info came to them.

Al-Maghrib Institute is an organization that provides such classes. If you are located near any of the locations these classes are offered at, I recommend checking them out. Very informational and reputably unbiased.

May Allah help you on your search.