The Counterjihad owes a debt of gratitude to the numerous Salafist luminaries who live in the West and appear from time to time in our newspapers and on our TV screens. This cohort of fundamentalist firebrands includes Anjem Choudary (UK), Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad (better known as Mullah Krekar, Norway), Taj El-Din Hamid “Catsmeat” Hilaly (Australia), and Abdul Wahid Pedersen (Denmark).
Just when it seems that the general public is all but convinced that Islam is indeed the Religion of Peace, up pops one or another of these Jumpin’ Jihad Jokesters. They proclaim the ascendancy of Islam, sing the praises of shari’ah, defend the stoning of adulterers, denounce homosexuals, refer to our young women as “shameless whores”, and otherwise remind the overwhelming majority of Westerners why they wish Muslim immigrants would attach RUH or IST tags to their luggage handles and head for the airport.
If every Muslim in the West were like Anjem Choudary or Mullah Krekar, the resistance to Islamization would have won the day and retired from the field long ago. These fellows have no knack for taqiyyah (lying for the sake of the faith) or kitman (misleading the infidel). They consistently proclaim their seditious ideology and supremacist intentions out in the open, for everyone to hear.
Their entertaining antics make our job that much easier.
Unfortunately for the Counterjihad, the Mullah Krekars and Anjem Choudarys are overshadowed by the well-educated glib-tongued telegenic talking heads who represent the Ummah on television and in periodicals. The prime exemplar of the breed in the United States is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the former front man for the Ground Zero Mosque. Men (and women) like him are the Taqiyyah Masters, virtuosos who know how to play the Western media like a violin. They can sing every tune in the Tolerant Liberal Songbook.
Their job is to reassure and soothe the Western public, in particular the symbolic analysts of the media and the academy. Their high-minded bromides send a signal to the decision-makers of the West that Islam is just fine. The subliminal message: “You and I are both educated men, above the common ruck. Take it from me that Islam is rational and enlightened, much more so than Christianity or Judaism.”
Or, more succinctly: Islam is a Western liberal’s dream religion.
The Grand Taqiyyah Master of them all is the “Swiss philosopher” Tariq Ramadan, a Western-educated intellectual fluent in French and English. Mr. Ramadan is the pre-eminent spokesman on both sides of the Atlantic for modern Westernized Islam.
He is also the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The undated article below by Tariq Ramadan calls for a moratorium on stoning and other corporal punishments within Islam. The piece is not new; it has been a permanent post on Mr. Ramadan’s website since at least 2005.
The author finds it important to distinguish between shari’ah and hudûd (which, lacking the diacritical marks on my keyboard, I will spell “hudud” from now on). In the footnotes to his article he defines hudud as “A concept which literally means ‘limits’. In the specialized language of Muslim jurists, (fuqahâ’), this term is inclusive of the punishment which is revealed in the application of the Islamic Penal code. Sharî’a, literally ‘the way to the source’ and a path to faithfulness, is a corpus of Islamic jurisprudence the in-depth definition of which is beyond the scope of this paper.” After this concentrated dose of esoteric terminology, he adds that “Sharî’a has sadly been reduced to legalistic formulae of a penal code in the minds of many, Muslims and non-Muslim alike.”
In simpler terms: the word hudud refers to the body of prescribed punishments that have been codified within Islamic law. These include the draconian consequences to which Mr. Ramadan is drawing attention, as well as much milder punishments.
Strangely enough, according to numerous public opinion polls, hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world support the “legalistic formulae” that form the body of what they understand to be shari’ah. But we’ll let that pass, and take a deeper look at the place of hudud in Islamic law. In the process we may gain a clearer idea of why Mr. Ramadan feels it necessary to distance himself from the “legalistic formulae” of shari’ah and argue about hudud instead.
An excellent source on the topic is a Hanafi legal explanation written in English, Theories of Islamic Law: The Methodology of Ijtihad by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee. The Hanafi school — the first school of Islamic law, founded by Abu Hanifa — is the largest of the four Sunni schools, both in terms of territory under its jurisdiction and the number of adherents who are subject to it.
According to the Hanafi schema, Islamic law is broken down into a series of hierarchical rights:
- The rights of Allah;
- The rights of man;
- The rights of Allah side-by-side with those of man; and
- The rights of the state.
The rights of Allah also break down hierarchically into:
- The rights of Allah that are the rights of pure worship, and
- The rights of Allah that are the rights of pure punishment (the hadd laws).
A right of punishment means that Allah has identified an act as a punishable offense. Anyone who commits such an act has violated a right of Allah.
All law comes from Allah, and man cannot change or subordinate Allah’s law to any other law. Thus, despite the encouraging tone of Tariq Ramadan’s treatise, the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence must forever remain “legalistic formulae”. Nothing else will serve; this is the definition of the shari’ah agreed upon by all four schools of Sunni law as well as their Shi’a counterpart.
What about mercy? Can an Islamic court show mercy to a defendant who is guilty of an offense against shari’ah?
A punishment identified as hadd is prescribed by Allah, and may be found in a book of hudud laws. If someone who has been found guilty of a hadd offense in a duly authorized shari’ah court asks for mercy, and the court extends that mercy, then Islamic law would find that the judge had supplanted the will of God and exerted his own will. Such a decision would be an act of shirk (open disbelief), because the judge would have replaced the authority of Allah with his own authority.
If Allah said through his Messenger that an offender must die for a certain crime, then death is the only possible punishment that may be prescribed. A decision to show mercy is thus an act of disbelief. If we understand Islamic law in the same way that a sincere Muslim understands it, no other conclusion is possible.
The above is a brief outline of what hudud means in Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. Tariq Ramadan is an extremely well-educated Sunni Muslim, so he knows very well the implications of the hudud.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ramadan is calling for a suspension of corporal punishment within the Islamic world. How can he make such a proposal without being accused of shirk? Why do religious leaders of the entire Ummah fail to issue fatwas condemning him for his blasphemy?
As it happens, there are exceptions built into the rules concerning the application of hudud and shari’ah. Let’s take a look at Mr. Ramadan’s treatise and see if we can identify the loopholes:
An International Call for Moratorium on Corporal Punishment, Stoning and the Death Penalty in the Islamic World
Muslim majority societies and Muslims around the world are constantly confronted with the fundamental question of how to implement the penalties prescribed in the Islamic penal code. Evoking the notion of sharî’a, or more precisely hudûd, the terms of the debate are defined by central questions emerging from thought provoking discussions taking place between ulamâ’ (scholars) and/or Muslim masses: How to be faithful to the message of Islam in the contemporary era? How can a society truly define itself as “Islamic” beyond what is required in the daily practices of individual private life? But a critical and fruitful debate has not yet materialized.
Several currents of thought exist in the Islamic world today and disagreements are numerous, deep and recurring. Among these, a small minority demands the immediate and strict application of hudûd, assessing this as an essential prerequisite to truly defining a “Muslim majority society” as “Islamic”. … [emphasis added]
Mr. Ramadan is being somewhat disingenuous here. Observant Muslims — those who closely scrutinize the scriptures and the law and attempt to abide by their provisions — are in overwhelming agreement that the strict application of hudud and other aspects of shari’ah are “an essential prerequisite” for a fully Islamic state. There is no significant debate on this issue among Islamic scholars: the full and complete observance of shari’ah is a mandatory component of a Muslim polity.
So there are no real “disagreements” in the Islamic world about such matters, except on one key issue: the application of the rules outside a “Muslim majority society”. Mr. Ramadan touches on this topic obliquely in the remainder of the same paragraph:
…Others, while accepting the fact that the hudûd are indeed found in the textual references (the Qur’an and the Sunna), consider the application of hudûd to be conditional upon the state of the society which must be just and, for some, has to be “ideal” before these injunctions could be applied. Thus, the priority is the promotion of social justice, fighting against poverty and illiteracy etc. Finally, there are others, also a minority, who consider the texts relating to hudûd as obsolete and argue that these references have no place in contemporary Muslim societies. [emphasis added]
The “ideal” Islamic society is one in which Muslims are in the majority, or at least form a large and controlling minority. The Koran and the hadith repeatedly instruct faithful Muslims to observe the laws of the countries they inhabit until they are in a position to effect full Islamic control.
This is the legal logic behind Tariq Ramadan’s position on hudud. His stance is fully consistent with the most rigorous interpretations of Islamic law, which is why Muslim religious authorities do not condemn it. In fact, headstrong zealots like Anjem Choudary are sometimes enjoined by their more educated fellows not to push so hard for shari’ah in the West, because it is “too early”.
Yet Mr. Ramadan finds it necessary to disguise his reasoning when presenting his case to a Western audience. It would not be prudent to tell his esteemed friends among the European and American literati that shari’ah is indeed coming to them, but will just be delayed for a bit longer. Alerting the somnolent infidels to what is happening would not serve the cause of Islam, so kitman — misdirection for the sake of the faith — becomes permissible, or even mandatory.
This is why layers of obfuscation come next:
One can see the opinions on this subject are so divergent and entrenched that it becomes difficult to discern what the respective arguments are. At the very moment we are writing these lines — while serious debate is virtually non-existent, while positions remain vague and even nebulous, and consensus among Muslims is lacking — women and men are being subjected to the application of these penalties.
For Muslims, Islam is a message of equality and justice. It is our faithfulness to the message of Islam that leads us to recognize that it impossible to remain silent in the face of unjust applications of our religious references. The debate must liberate itself and refuse to be satisfied by general, timid and convoluted responses. These silences and intellectual contortions are unworthy of the clarity and just message of Islam.
It’s a tough job to tease out all the misleading and dishonest threads from these knotty sentences, and a full deconstruction would be beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that reassuring words such as “equality” and “justice” — which provide a well-meaning Westerners with a signal of hope, desperate as they are to be told that Islam is not what it appears to be — must be understood in the context of their Islamic definitions.
Islamic “equality” means equality only for Muslims, not for infidels. Strictly speaking, true equality under Islamic law applies only to Muslim men.
“Justice” means the fiqh — the practical application of Islamic law as laid down by the scholars more than a thousand years ago — which treats non-believers very differently from Muslims. Once again, the well-meaning kuffar of Knightsbridge or Ann Arbor would be dismayed to discover what the full provisions of shari’ah have in store for them, the licentious apes and pigs of Western unbelief.
That’s why Tariq Ramadan strives so diligently to obscure those niggling details of Islamic belief. It’s best that these Western fools remain blissfully ignorant until such time as they are too weak to resist the final push, after which they will be dhimmis in the new global Caliphate.
From here on in, Mr. Ramadan overloads the reader with a daunting level of detail arranged in a series of bullet points and laced with plenty of Islamic jargon.
Let’s take a look at the first of these:
In the name of the scriptural sources, the Islamic teachings, and the contemporary Muslim conscience, statements must be made and decisions need to be taken.
- What does the majority of the ulamâ’ say?
All the ulamâ’ (scholars) of the Muslim world, of yesterday and of today and in all the currents of thought, recognize the existence of scriptural sources that refer to corporal punishment (Qur’an and Sunna), stoning of adulterous men and women (Sunna) and the penal code (Qur’an and Sunna). The divergences between the ulamâ’ and the various trends of thought (literalist, reformist, rationalist, etc.) are primarily rooted in the interpretation of a certain number of these texts, the conditions of application of the Islamic penal code, as well as its degree of relevance to the contemporary era (nature of the committed infractions, testimonials, social and political contexts, etc.).
The majority of the ulamâ’, historically and today, are of the opinion that these penalties are on the whole Islamic but that the conditions under which they should be implemented are nearly impossible to reestablish. These penalties, therefore, are “almost never applicable”. The hudûd would, therefore, serve as a “deterrent,” the objective of which would be to stir the conscience of the believer to the gravity of an action warranting such a punishment.
Anyone who reads the books of the ulamâ’, listens to their lectures and sermons, travels inside the Islamic world or interacts with the Muslim communities of the West will inevitably and invariably hear the following pronouncement from religious authorities: “almost never applicable”. Such pronouncements give the majority of ulamâ and Muslim masses a way out of dealing with the fundamental issues and questions without risking appearing to be have betrayed the Islamic scriptural sources. The alternative posture is to avoid the issue of hudûd altogether and/or to remain silent. [emphasis added]
What does the author mean when he says that “the conditions under which [hudud penalties] should be implemented are nearly impossible to reestablish”?
The first necessary condition is the one mentioned above, that Muslims must be numerous enough within a polity to be able to attain political control. Based on historical examples, we would expect that somewhere between 30% and 50% of the population would need to be Islamic in order for Muslims to rule and institute the shari’ah.
Under exceptional circumstances — such as when the Moorish invaders conquered and ruled Spain beginning in the 8th century — Muslims may make up a smaller proportion of the population and yet exert full political control. In order to do this, however, they must have first subdued and disarmed the conquered peoples, thus destroying any effective political resistance.
This sort of conquest is all but impossible for Muslims to accomplish in the modern West. Hence the emphasis on restraint, as articulated by Tariq Ramadan and other “moderates”. According to this strategy, Muslims in the West need only be patient, and continue sucking up the wealth of the welfare state whilst reproducing at their customary rate. Eventually the infidels of the West will attrit themselves into a minority, and at that point Islam may assume political control without resorting to any significant violence.
The second necessary condition is that the rulers of Muslim-majority states must be “rightly-guided”. That is, they must follow the example of Mohammed and the first four Caliphs. A rightly-guided leader is devoted to all forms of prescribed religious observance, adheres closely to the Koran and the Sunna in his personal behavior, eschews all sensual excess and avarice, and engages in no corrupt practices. Despots such as Muammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak do not meet these criteria, so they are not considered rightly-guided. According to this reasoning, Egypt under Mubarak was not suitable for the full implementation of shari’ah.
However, post-Mubarak Egypt — ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood — exactly meets the required criteria. For that reason we are now hearing calls for the full implementation in Egypt of the shari’ah, including hudud, by leading figures in the new Salafist coalition.
Mr. Ramadan elaborates along these lines in the next section:
- What is happening on the ground?
One would have hoped that this pronouncement, “almost never,” would be understood as a assurance that women and men would be protected from repressive and unjust treatment; one would have wished that the stipulated conditions would be seen, by legislators and government who claim Islam, as an imperative to promote equality before the law and justice among humans. Nothing could be further from the reality. Behind an Islamic discourse that minimizes the reality and rounds off the angles, and within the shadows of this “almost never”, lurks a somber reality where women and men are punished, beaten, stoned and executed in the name of hudûd while Muslim conscience the world over remains untouched.
It is as if one does not know, as though a minor violation is being done to the Islamic teachings. A still more grave injustice is that these penalties are applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, the doubly victimized, never to the wealthy, the powerful, or the oppressors. Furthermore, hundreds of prisoners have no access to anything that could even remotely be called defense counsel. Death sentences are decided and carried out against women, men and even minors (political prisoners, traffickers, delinquents, etc.) without ever given a chance to obtain legal counsel. In resigning ourselves to having a superficial relationship to the scriptural sources, we betray the message of justice of Islam.
The international community has an equally major and obvious responsibility to be involved in addressing the question of hudûd in the Muslim world. Thus far, the denunciations have been selective and calculated for the protection of geostrategic and economic interests. A poor country, in Africa or Asia, trying to apply the hudûd or the sharî’a will face the mobilization of international campaigns as we have seen recently. This is not the case with rich countries, the petromonarchies and those considered “allies”. Towards the latter, denunciations are made reluctantly, or not at all, despite ongoing and acknowledged applications of these penalties typically carried out against the poorest or weakest segments of society. The intensity of the denouncements is inversely proportional to the interests at stake. A further injustice!
A careful reading of the above paragraphs reveals that the author does not consider the provisions of hudud unjust in themselves. He simply objects to the unequal and unfair application of such penalties. He reminds the reader that rich and the powerful people — Mubarak, Assad, Qaddafi, etc. — are never subjected to hudud penalties, but only the poor and the powerless and the unconnected. This is what constitutes “injustice” under Islamic law.
Mr. Ramadan’s position is exactly that of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is phrased here in such a way that it becomes palatable pabulum for a Western audience unfamiliar with the details of Islamic doctrine and unaccustomed to Muslim dissembling.
His next line of reasoning addresses the ignorant or ill-considered application of hudud by over-zealous or populist judges:
- The passion of the people, the fear of the ulamâ’
For those who travel within the Islamic world and interact with Muslims, an analysis imposes itself: everywhere, populations are demonstrating an increasing devotion to Islam and its teachings. This reality, although interesting in itself, could be troubling, and even dangerous when the nature of this devotion is so fervent, where there is no real knowledge or comprehension of the texts, where there is so little if any critical distance vis-à-vis the different scholarly interpretations, the necessary contextualization, the nature of the required conditions or, indeed the protection of the rights of the individual and the promotion of justice. On the question of hudûd, one sometimes sees popular support hoping or exacting a literal and immediate application because the latter would guarantee henceforth the “Islamic” character of a society. In fact, it is not rare to hear Muslim women and men (educated or not, and more often of modest means) calling for a formal and strict application of the penal code (in their mind, the sharî’a) of which they themselves will often be the first victims. When one studies this phenomenon, two types of reasoning generally motivate these claims:
1. The literal and immediate application of the hudûd legally and socially provides a visible reference to Islam. The legislation, by its harshness, gives the feeling of fidelity to the Qur’anic injunctions that demands rigorous respect of the text. At the popular level, one can infer in the African, Arabic, Asian as well as Western countries, that the very nature of this harshness and intransigence of the application, gives an Islamic dimension to the popular psyche. 2. The opposition and condemnations by the West supplies, paradoxically, the popular feeling of fidelity to the Islamic teachings; a reasoning that is antithetical, simple and simplistic. The intense opposition of the West is sufficient proof of the authentic Islamic character of the literal application of hudûd. Some will persuade themselves by asserting that the West has long since lost its moral references and became so permissive that the harshness of the Islamic penal code which punishes behaviors judged immoral, is by antithesis, the true and only alternative “to Western decadence”.
These formalistic and binary reasoning [sic] are fundamentally dangerous for they claim and grant an Islamic quality to a legislation, not in what it promotes, protects and applies justice to, but more so because it sanctions harsh and visible punishment to certain behaviors and in stark contrast and opposition to the Western laws, which are perceived as morally permissive and without a reference to religion. One sees today that communities or Muslim people satisfy themselves with this type of legitimacy to back a government or a party that calls for an application of the sharî’a narrowly understood as a literal and immediate application of corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty. When this type of popular passion takes hold, it is the first sign of a will to respond to various forms of frustration and humiliation by asserting an identity that perceives itself as Islamic (and anti-Western). Such an identity is not based on the comprehension of the objectives of the Islamic teachings (al maqâsid) or the different interpretations and conditions relating to the application of the hudûd. Faced with this passion, many ulamâ’ remain prudent for the fear of losing their credibility with the masses. One can observe a psychological pressure exercised by this popular sentiment towards the judicial process of the ulamâ’, which normally should be independent so as to educate the population and propose alternatives. Today, an inverse phenomenon is revealing itself. The majority of the ulamâ’ are afraid to confront these popular and simplistic claims which lack knowledge, are passionate and binary, for fear of losing their status and being defined as having compromised too much, not been strict enough, too westernized or not Islamic enough. The ulamâ’, who should be the guarantors of a deep reading of the texts, the guardians of fidelity to the objectives of justice and equality and of the critical analysis of conditions and social contexts, find themselves having to accept either a formalistic application (an immediate non-contextualized application), or a binary reasoning (less West is more Islam), or hide behind “almost never applicable” pronouncements which protects them but which does not provide real solutions to the daily injustices experienced by women and the poor.
The author’s taqiyyah manifests itself in his reference to “a literal and immediate application” of the hudud — as if Islamic law allowed for anything other than a literal interpretation of the Koranic punishments. It does not: the gate of ijtihad (interpretation) closed more than a millennium ago, and no revision of the application of the law is now permitted.
The most a Muslim jurist can do is determine where the circumstances of the case fit within the corpus of authoritative Islamic law. This is obviously what Mr. Ramadan means when he refers to “context”: all facts pertaining to the case must be examined to determine how the shari’ah applies to them. No consideration of mercy or “moderation” is implied; that is a reading projected onto Islam by Westerners employing their own internal models of reason and justice. His is simply an admonition to observe the law in all its detailed exactitude.
Western readers will also take his words as a description of “fundamentalists”, for which they can find an analogy in Christian fundamentalists. Their inference — but not the author’s implication — is that there is a milder, more reasonable, more modern interpretation of Islam than the “literal” precepts of the hudud.
This, of course, is not at all what he is saying. His only assertion of substance is that ignorant people, or people under popular pressure, may apply the law improperly. He neither states nor implies that there is anything improper or unreasonable about the punishments themselves, only that they must be applied with deep knowledge and understanding of what the shari’ah requires.
Westerners, ever hopeful of finding a “moderate” form of Islam, will hear what they long to hear in his descriptions. And one must presume that Mr. Ramadan is well aware of this fact.
Next he inveighs against the silence of Muslims in the face of injustice:
- An impossible status quo: our responsibility
The Islamic world is experiencing a very deep crisis the causes of which are multiple and sometimes contradictory. The political system of the Arab world is becoming more and more entrenched, references to Islam frequently instrumentalized, and public opinion is often muzzled or blindly passionate (to such a point as to accept, indeed even to call for, the most repressive interpretations and least just application of the “Islamic sharî’a” and hudûd).
In terms of the more circumscribed religious question, we can observe a crisis of authority accompanied by an absence of internal debate among the ulamâ’ in the diverse schools of thought and within Muslim societies. It becomes apparent that a variety of opinions, accepted in Islam, are whirling today within a chaotic framework leading to the coexistence of disparate and contradictory Islamic legal opinions each claiming to have more “Islamic character” than the other.
Faced with this legal chaos, the ordinary Muslim public is more appeased by “an appearance of fidelity”, then it is persuaded by opinions based on real knowledge and understanding of the governing Islamic principles and rules (ahkâm).
Let us look at the reality, as it exists. There is a today a quadruple crisis of closed and repressive political systems, religious authorities upholding contradictory juristic positions and unknowledgeable populations swept up in remaining faithful to the teachings of Islam through religious fervor than through true reflection. The crisis cannot legitimize our silence. We are accomplices and guilty when women and men are punished, stoned or executed in the name of a formal application of the scriptural sources. It leaves the responsibility to the Muslims of the entire world. It is for them to rise to the challenge of remaining faithful to the message of Islam in the contemporary era; it is for them to denounce the failures and the betrayals being carried out by whatever authorities or any Muslim individual. A prophetic tradition reports: “Support your brother, whether he be unjust or victim of an injustice.” One of the Companions asked: “Messenger of God, I understand how to support someone that is a victim of injustice, but how can I support him who is unjust?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded: “Prevent him from being unjust, that is you [sic] support to him.”
It thus becomes the responsibility of each ‘âlim (scholar), of each conscience, every woman and man, wherever they may be to speak up. Western Muslims either hide behind the argument that they are exempt from the application of the sharî’a or hudûd since they are “in a minority position”. Their avoidance of the questions leaves a heavy and troubling silence. Or they express condemnation from afar without attempting to change the situation and influence the mentalities. These Muslim women and men who live in spaces of political freedom, who have access to education and knowledge, shoulder — in the very name of the Islamic teachings — have a major responsibility to attempt to reform the situation, open a relevant debate, condemn and put a end to injustices perpetrated in their name.
Once again, this sounds to Western ears like a reasoned call to effect “social justice”. It seems enlightened and progressive. The chattering classes cannot help but be delighted to hear it.
We must remember, however, what “injustice” means to Muslims: the incorrect or incomplete application of Islamic law. There is no assertion or implication that any part of the law is unjust; neither the relegation of women to a half-human status, nor the stoning of adulterers, nor the cutting off of limbs for theft, nor death for apostasy. None of these punishments is unjust per se, but their application is often improper. That is the source of injustice.
The author is thus calling for mass activism by Muslims to institute true Islamic justice. And his call to “reform the situation” echoes the Muslim Brotherhood, which proposes to reform the political systems of all Muslim countries by returning the state to the original understanding of the shari’ah.
Now we get to the heart of the matter: his call for a moratorium on the hudud. This is the voice of the “educated and enlightened” Muslim par excellence:
- A call, some questions:
Taking into account all these considerations, we launch today a call for an immediate international moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in all Muslim majority countries. Considering that the opinions of most scholars, regarding the comprehension of the texts and the application of hudûd, are neither explicit nor unanimous (indeed there is not even a clear majority), and bearing in mind that political systems and the state of the majority Muslim societies do not guarantee a just and equal treatment of individuals before the law, it is our moral obligation and religious responsibility to demand for the immediate suspension of the application of the hudûd which is inaccurately accepted as an application of “Islamic sharî’a”. This call doubles itself with a series of basic questions addressed to the body of Islamic religious authorities of the world, whatever their tradition (sunnî or shî’î), their school of thought (hanâfî, mâlikî, ja’farî, etc.) or their tendencies (literalist, salafî, reformist, etc.) :… [emphasis added]
Before taking a look at Mr. Ramadan’s questions, consider the bolded sections in the above text.
“[T]he opinions of most scholars… are neither explicit nor unanimous (indeed there is not even a clear majority)…”
This is demonstrably untrue. All authoritative sources in Sunni Islam — including the scholars of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most authoritative source of all — agree on the vast majority of Islamic law. ’Umdat al-salik wa ’uddat al-nasik, or The reliance of the traveller and tools of the worshipper, by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, as edited and translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, is a recognized authoritative source, approved by Al-Azhar. It lays out in precise detail the common understanding of the shari’ah, including the hudud punishments.
Any interested reader may acquire a copy of this book and discover for himself exactly what corporal punishments are prescribed for which crimes. Needless to say, they include all the familiar examples as laid out by “Islamophobes” in their analyses of Islam.
[P]olitical systems and the state of the majority Muslim societies do not guarantee a just and equal treatment of individuals before the law…
This is the heart of the matter. Now that the “Arab Spring” has swept so many Muslim despots out of power, the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to implement the “just and equal” application of the law, which will include the hudud.
1. What are the texts (and what is their respective degrees of recognized authenticity), that make reference to corporal punishment, stoning and to the death penalty in the corpus of the Islamic scriptural sources circumscribed to what the specialists call the hudûd? Where are the margins of possible interpretations and on which points are there clear divergences (al ikhtilâf) in the history of the Islamic law and in the contemporary era? 2. What are the conditions (shurût) stipulated for each of the penalties by the sources themselves, the consensus of the scholars (al ijmâ’) or by individual scholars through Islamic law history and jurisprudence (fiqh)? Where are the divergences on the stipulations and what “extenuating circumstances” were sometimes elaborated by religious authorities throughout history or within the different schools of thought? 3. The socio-political context (al wâqi’) was always considered by the ulamâ’ as one of the conditions needed for the application of hudûd. The importance of this question is such that it demands special treatment (and participation within the debate from intellectuals, notably those who are specialized in the social sciences). In which context today is it possible to apply hudûd? What would be the required conditions in terms of political systems and the application of the general legislation: freedom of expression, equality before the law, public education, eradication of poverty and social exclusion? Which are, in this domain, the areas of divergence between the legal schools and the ulamâ’ and on what are these disagreements based?
The above questions can all be answered exhaustively through a study of Reliance of the Traveller and similar authoritative treatises on Islamic law. This ground has already been thoroughly worked over for many centuries, but Mr. Ramadan would have the reader believe that none of these answers have been determined.
They have. The answers are set. There is no significant disagreement within the corpus of scholarship.
The rest is boilerplate:
Studying these questions are meant to clarify the terms of the debate with regards to the interpretative latitudes offered by the texts, while simultaneously taking into account the determining state of contemporary societies and their evolution. This intra-community reflection requires from the start a double understanding of the texts and contexts, in keeping solemnly with the objectives of the Islamic message. On the whole, this must allow us to respond to the questions of what is applicable (and according to which methods) and what is no longer applicable (considering the required conditions are impossible to reestablish as well as the fact that societal evolution is clearly moving away from the required ideal). This undertaking requires, from within, rigour, time and establishing spaces of dialogue and debate, nationally and internationally, between the ulamâ’, Muslim intellectuals and inside the Muslim communities since this matter is not only about a relationship to the texts, but equally, to the context. In the interval, there can be no justification for applying penalties that sanction legal approximations and injustices such as is the case today. A moratorium would impose and allow a basic debate to unfold in serenity, without using it as an excuse to manipulate Islam. All injustices made legal in the name of Islam must stop immediately.
As mentioned previously, “injustice” in Islam means the incomplete or unequal application of the shari’ah — to everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim — within the jurisdiction of the Ummah. Any other implication is deliberate misdirection.
In his final point, Mr. Ramadan makes clear what has been asserted throughout this essay: his actual intent is to make certain that all relevant Islamic law is applied fairly and equally and justly to all Muslims. This is why his seemingly “moderate” discourse has never brought down any fatwas on his head:
- Between the letter and objectives: fidelity
Some will understand this call as an instigation to disrespect the scriptural sources of Islam, thinking that to ask for a moratorium goes against the explicit texts of the Qu’ran and Sunna. Precisely the opposite is true: all the legal texts demand to be read in light of the objective intended to justify them (Al-maqâsid). Foremost among these objectives, we find stipulated that the protection of the integrity of the person (an- nafs) and the promotion of justice (al-’adl) are primordial. Therefore, a literal and non-contextualized application of hudûd, with no regard for strict and numerous stipulated conditions, and one which would present itself as being faithful to the teachings of Islam, is in fact a betrayal if according to the context, for it produces an injustice. The caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab established a moratorium towards thieves when he suspended the application of the punishment during a famine. Despite the Qur’anic text being very explicit on this, the state of the society meant it would have been an unjust literal application: they would have castigated poor people whose potential theft would have been for the sole purpose of surviving in a state of absolute poverty. Therefore, in the name of absolute justice demanded by the global message of Islam, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab decided to suspend the application of a text: keeping with the literalist interpretation would have meant disloyalty and betrayal of the superior value of Islam that is justice. It is in the name of Islam and in the understanding of texts that he suspended the application of one of these injunctions. The moratorium finds here a precedent of the utmost importance. Reflection and necessary reform within Muslim majority societies will not occur but from within. It is for Muslims to take up their responsibilities and set in motion a debate that opens an intra-community dialogue, while refusing the continued legalized injustices in the name of Islam, i.e. in their name. An endogenous dynamic is imperative.
This does not mean that the questions put forward by non-Muslim intellectuals or citizens should be dismissed. On the contrary, all parties must learn to decentre themselves and move towards listening to the other, to the other’s points of reference, logic and their aspiration. For Muslims, all queries, from their co-religionists or women and men who do share their religious conviction, are welcome. It is for us to make use of these questions as a spark of dynamism to our thoughts. This is how we can remain faithful to the justice demanded by Islam while taking into account also the demands of the contemporary era.
The elimination of “injustice” — which is not defined for his audience — remains the primary purpose of his call for a moratorium. In order to understand what he means, the reader should follow his advice and respect the “scriptural sources of Islam”.
When we investigate Islamic law as it is informed by the Koran and the Sunna, the call for “reform” in Mr. Ramadan’s conclusion makes complete sense:
This call for an immediate moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty is demanding on many fronts. We are defining it as a call to consciousness of each individual so that she/he realizes that Islam is being used to degrade and subjugate women and men in certain Muslim majority societies in the midst of collusive silence and chaotic judicial opinions on the ground. This realization implies:
A mobilization of ordinary Muslims throughout the world to call on their governments to place an immediate moratorium on the application of hudûd and for the opening of a vast intra-community debate (critical, reasonable and reasoned) between the ulamâ, the intellectuals, the leaders and the general population.
Taking the ulamâ to account so that they at last dare to report the injustices and instrumentalization of Islam in the field of hudûd and, in the name of fidelity to the Islamic texts, to put out a call for an immediate moratorium emulating the example of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab.
Promoting education of Muslim populations so that they go beyond the mirage of the formalism and appearances. The application of the repressive interpretations, measures and punishment does not make a society more faithful to the Islamic teachings. It is more the capacity to promote social justice and the protection the integrity of every individual, woman or man, rich or poor, that determines a truly authentic fidelity. The priority, according to the norms of Islam, is given to the protection of rights not to administering punishments which are meant to be implemented under strict and conditioned exceptions.
This movement for reform from within, by the Muslims and in the name of the message and reference texts of Islam, should never neglect listening to the surrounding world as well as to the inquiries that Islam raises in non-Muslim minds. Not to concede to responses from “the other”, from “the West”, but, in order to remain, in its mirror, more constructively faithful to oneself.
We urge all of those that take heed to this call to join us and make their voices heard for the immediate suspension of the application of hudûd in the Muslim world so that a real debate establishes itself on the question. We say that in the name of Islam, of its texts and of the message of justice, we can no longer accept that women and men undergo punishment and death while we remain utterly silent, as accomplices, through a process which is ultimately cowardly.
It is urgent that Muslim throughout the world refuse the formalist legitimization of the teachings of their religion and reconcile themselves with the deep message that invites towards spirituality, demands education, justice and the respect of pluralism. Societies will never reform themselves by repressive measures and punishment but more so by the engagement of each to establish civil society and the respect of popular will as well as a just legislation guaranteeing the equality of women and men, poor and rich before the law. It is urgent to set in motion a democratization movement that moves populations from the obsession of what the law is sanctioning to the claim of what it should protect: their conscience, their integrity, their liberty and their rights.
1. A concept which literally means “limits”. In the specialized language of Muslim jurists, (fuqahâ’), this term is inclusive of the punishment which is revealed in the application of the Islamic Penal code. Sharî’a, literally ‘the way to the source” and a path to faithfulness, is a corpus of Islamic jurisprudence the in-depth definition of which is beyond the scope of this paper. Sharî’a has sadly been reduced to legalistic formulae of a penal code in the minds of many, Muslims and non-Muslim alike 2. Prophetic tradition: texts which report what the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) did, said or approved of during his lifetime. 3. In Muslim countries, laws that we see as being “borrowed from the west” are often interpreted as tools by dictatorial governments to mislead and legitimize their autocratic character, and more importantly, to promote a westernized culture and morals. 4. Hadîth reported by al-Bukhârî and Muslim. 5. The argument is weak and dangerous as it tacitly accepts the application of hudûd within today’s societal context as “Islamic” 6. If ever in doubt, all circumstances require the benefit of the doubt towards the accused according to a legal universal principle (acknowledged from the start by the tradition of Islamic jurisprudence)
So what conclusions of our own should we draw?
Any Muslim who takes the word of Allah seriously desires to overcome the non-believing West and usher in the divine rule of the worldwide Caliphate. This is what his faith commands, and this is what pious Muslims — both terrorists and those who use other forms of jihad — intend to do.
If the believer is intelligent and even minimally informed, he knows that Islam will be unable to overthrow the West by force of arms for the foreseeable future. For the infidel to be completely and permanently vanquished, the victory must be accomplished through quiet, unobtrusive means. Educated believers who are well-versed in the ways of the West are invaluable for these purposes. They must propagate soothing, sophisticated rhetoric that lulls the infidels and keeps them unaware of any threats to their cultural hegemony.
That’s where Tariq Ramadan comes in.
In Book R, “Holding One’s Tongue,” §r8.0 “Lying” at r8.2 “Permissible Lying,” Reliance of the Traveller cites the iconic Islamic legal jurist Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali:
This is an explicit statement that lying is sometimes permissible for a given interest…When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible (N: i.e., when the purpose of lying is to circumvent someone who is preventing one from doing something permissible) and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory.
In other words, an accomplished taqiyyah master must tell the truth if it will accomplish his goal, but may lie if his goal is unrealizable through truth-telling. If the goal is mandatory, lying is mandatory.
Here is another example straight out of Islamic law:
Primary texts from the Koran and Sunna say it is unlawful to lie… because of the scholarly consensus of the community that it is prohibited. [§r8.0, r8.1]
But there are exceptions. Lying is permitted, or even mandatory, under certain circumstances, and those circumstances are carefully laid out:
Our only concern here being to explain the exceptions to what is considered lying.
So what the Prophet described, as quoted in §r8.2, is not lying:
He who settles disagreements between people to bring about good or says something commendable is not a liar.
I did not hear him permit untruth in anything people say, except for three things: war, settling disagreements, and a man talking with his wife or she with him. (in smoothing over differences.)
That covers a lot of territory, doesn’t it?
In addition to lying, there is §r10.3, giving a misleading impression:
Scholars say that there is no harm… in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law that is more important than not misleading the person being addressed, or if there is a pressing need which could not otherwise be fulfilled except through lying. (r10.3)
As you can see, Islamic law permits the believer to utter statements that are not completely truthful, if doing so would accomplish a purpose that is countenanced by sacred law.
This is not an argument for trusting or mistrusting any particular Muslim. It is simply important to be aware of these facts, to realize that there is a religious ideology whose adherents may be held to a standard that allows (or even requires) them to be misleading or untruthful.
Faithful, observant Muslims may lie to non-Muslims without violating the tenets of their religion. Their faith may even make it mandatory for them to do so.
The reader is left to decide for himself what Tariq Ramadan is doing. The best way to make an informed judgment is to bypass all the exegeses written by Muslims for Western audiences, and go straight to the source: legal texts written by Muslim scholars that are intended for a Muslim audience.
It’s all in there, written up for everyone to see if they care to look.
The truth will out.
A note on the title of this post
The word hudna in Islam means a temporary truce or peace treaty, generally negotiated when Muslims are in a weak position with respect to an infidel enemy. A hudna may be broken by as soon as conditions change so as to favor victory.
The prototypical hudna was the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah between Mohammed and the Quraysh tribe, which Mohammed broke as soon as his forces became strong enough to achieve victory.
Update: At the request of a reader, two sentences defining and describing hudud have been inserted near the top of this essay for the purposes of clarification.