In June, Americans in about two dozen cities joined a “March Against Sharia.” For these protesters, the Arabic term is a code word for the oppression of women and men in the name of God — horrors like stoning and beheading. Since such brutalities do indeed happen in the name of Shariah, they may have had a point. But there were also points that they missed.
In Arabic, “Shariah” literally means “the way.” More specifically, it refers to the body of Islamic rules that Muslims see as God’s will — based either on the Quran or on the Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds. It is conceptually impossible, therefore, for a Muslim who is serious about his faith to condemn Shariah. But the implementation of Shariah, which is called “fiqh,” or jurisprudence, is open to interpretation and discussion.
Much of Shariah is about personal observance: A good Muslim should pray five times a day while turned toward Mecca, for example, or should fast daily throughout Ramadan. Of course, there is no problem with these acts of personal piety — unless they are coerced. They should be welcome in any society with religious liberty.
However, a part of Shariah is about public law, including the penal code. And there are clear conflicts here with modern standards of human rights. First, Shariah lays out corporal punishments, such as chopping off hands, stoning, flogging and beheading. The Islamic legal code also proscribes crimes like apostasy, blasphemy and extramarital sex — none of which can be a crime at all in any liberal society.
Does Islam worship the one God of Abraham, like Jews and Christians, or some other god? Many strident voices insist Allah is a different god. Inconveniently, though, the three great monotheistic faiths claim Abraham as their patriarch and resulting from that, each claim Abraham’s one God as their own. Regardless, I am told, we can’t possibly be worshiping the same God as Muslims.
Challenged by Islam, numerous Christians adopt this “my god’s bigger than your god” thing. That’s a really poor way of initiating a Christian–Muslim conversation with, say, the food court clerk at my local grocery. (Under my questioning, she’s reading her Qu’ran more, she tells me.)
One of the problems Christianity has had with Islam is deciding whether Islam represents an independent revelation, or whether it is only a derivative religion. Early Christian reaction to Islam treated the Qur’an as a subtext—a mix of Judaism and Christianity spiced with Gnosticism. Certainly the low Christology of the Qur’an matches well with some forms of Gnostic teaching: Jesus was not crucified (a substitute was found) and therefore was not resurrected; God instead snatched him up to immediate ascension.
Today I’ll be the first Muslim to address the General Synod of the Church of England. It is a blessing and an honour, and I am humbled by this historic opportunity. But the journey from Noor mosque in my native Mombasa, Kenya, to Church House has been a long and meandering one – full of trials and adventure, but ultimately worth it.
A couple of days ago, Humera, my wife of more than 25 years, asked what would make me consider my life a success. Recovering from a long bout of debilitating illness, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to pursue the new lease of life that had been granted to me.
“If I can, somehow be involved in reconciling hearts and people. That would make me happy,” I replied.
Many moons spent in NHS wards, surrounded by diversity, suffering and death, not escaping to a zawiyah (monastery) retreat, made me spiritually mature and responsive. With plenty of time on my hands I embarked on a journey of rediscovering my faith and what it meant for our times.
Among the jewels I came across was a hadith (narration) of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him, which simply said: “Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”
It is a message that all members of the synod would be familiar with, for it echoes Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
In answer to a question about sex being only for procreation in Islam . . .
In the Islamic faith, the first and the foremost and the most reliable and highest form of religious law for faithful Muslims is contained within the holy Qur’an. The Prophetic Traditions (also known as Hadith, which are the sayings and doings and tacit approval of things said or done in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad, (p.b.u.h.)(1) are a second source of law. With that said, we hope the following reply will answer your question.
According to Islam, procreation is not the sole and only purpose of marriage. While procreation is a primary purpose, companionship and enjoyment of the spouse along with avoidance of unlawful or sinful relationships are also secondary purposes. These secondary purposes play their own important roles in the Islamic teachings which govern sexual relations. In other words, although procreation is definitely an aim, it is not an exclusive aim. Procreation is the major purpose, but nonetheless enjoyment and other purposes also play significant roles in married life as evidenced by the Islamic teachings which relate to sexual relations.