Ideas & Philosophy — 09 September 2013
Is Islamic Law Applicable today?

Sharique Naeem

An oft-repeated notion by some liberals, and self-styled secular intellectuals, is the assertion that the demand of Islamic State today which would implement Islamic law, is a reactionary stance. They deduce that the demand for Political Islam, is merely an emotional outburst, which originated out of colonialism. As such they assert that Islamic law and the Caliphate state model which originated in 7th Century Mecca, lacks the practicality to be setup again in the modern society, and its changed variables. For example: the incompatibility between its punishments as compared to the international law, and its economic prohibitions being incoherent with the global economic model etc. Some Liberals, refer the call for return of Islamic State as altogether a modern ‘Innovation’.

However, the weakness of this notion is revealed upon a rational study of the history. The irony of this notion is: Today the very thought of questioning the applicability of Islamic Law in every place and time is itself a modern innovation, produced as a result of Colonialism.

A famous Scholar, Sheikh Mohammad al-Khidr Hussein (head of al-Azhar 1952-4) refuted this assertion by the Secularist in his work “The Islamic Sharia is applicable to every time and place”

Evaluating the opinions of the Scholars, throughout the timeline clearly reveals, as Hussein writes “Before the recent Western colonial invasion of Arab lands and the Islamic world, not one of the scholars of Islam occupied himself defending Islamic law, and neither did anyone write to prove they are valid for every time and place – It was an instinctive part of Muslim thinking and the Islamic way of life, and was rooted in the reality, its application tested (and proven) over centuries of history”. This holds valid as much in the distant history as it is to the recent pre-colonial history.

In addition to these even western non-Muslims scholars and authors (even the critics) viewed the Muslim civilization as one where the legislation, law, governance and state apparatus were all formulated based on the Religion of Islam. In 1877 Edward A. Freeman in his Book “The Ottoman Power in Europe” wrote: “The successor of the Prophet, the Caliph, is Pope and Emperor in one. In the Mohommetan system there is no distinction between Church and State, no distinction between religious and civil duty. Every action of a good Mussulman is not only done from religious motive, but is done directly as a religious act.”.

Therefore today, the Secularists and Liberals who assert that Islam is pluralistic in its approach, compatible with the idea of separation of ‘Church and State’ and in harmony with the idea of democracy, are in fact intellectually isolated in terms of their assertions. Their argument lacks credibility, due to the absence of even a reasonable number of citation from Scholars of Islam and Scholars of other faith, who have written on history of Islamic civilization. A sincere review of these assertions by the Secularists may well lead to a change in their opinion and an appreciation of the facts in history; thereby it will enable a better understanding between them and those who view Politics as an integral part of Islam.



[1] Article based on extention of FB Posts/Writeups of Dr. Reza Pankhurst.
[2] Edward A. Freeman, Book “The Ottoman Power in Europe” 1877
[3] Sheikh Mohammad al-Khidr Hussein (head of al-Azhar 1952-4), “The Islamic Sharia is applicable to every time and place”

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