Brutus: Who is here so vile that will not love his
country? If any, speak; for him I have offended. I pause for a reply.
All: None, Brutus, none!
Brutus: Then none have I offended.
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii)
The majority of Muslims love their religion. There is no
doubt whatsoever in their minds about that love. But the Love Laws are a
different matter. ‘The Laws’ that in Roy’s words ‘lay down who should be
loved, and how, and how much.’
When Love is for God, only He has the authority to lay
down the Love Laws. Anything else
would be an ‘enforced ceremony’. Enforced upon others.
When love begins to sicken and decay
It useth an enforced ceremony
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene ii)
The question then is: What does He say about His laws?
Where to look for them? How to look for them? How to implement them? and very
importantly these days, Who is to interpret them? Who is to make them into
enacted laws for the state? And who is to implement them?
There is no doubt that the Qur’ān and the Sunnah are the
only two original bases of the content of religion, because these are the only
two undeniable and authentic forms in which the content of our religion was
passed on by the Prophet (sws), the only source of the last Divine guidance,
to his companions. Just as the
Qur’ān was received by the Ummah
through the consensus of the Prophet’s true companions and through their
perpetual recitation, the Sunnah was received through their consensus and
perpetual practice. The Sunnah, therefore, stands validated, like the Qur’ān,
for all times through the consensus of the Ummah. There is no doubt or
confusion about it. The consensus
of the Ummah generation after generation that the ‘content’ of religion was
passed on by the Prophet (sws) in the form of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah
through the consensus of his true companions makes these two bases of religion
establish their authenticity for certain. Now, it cannot be said that ‘because
of such and such reported incident in which the Prophet (sws) is believed to
have read this particular verse of the Qur’ān in a different style or manner,
the verse can also be read in such and such manner’. The veracity of an
established fact cannot be undermined by a few isolated narratives. Not even
one word or letter or vowel sign of the Qur’ān which was received by the Ummah
through the consensus of the Prophet’s true companions is deniable or
alterable. Neither is a single Sunnah of the Prophet (sws).
The result of all this discussion:
1. There is no doubt about the content of Islam in the
form of the Qur’an and the Sunnah
2. There is no scope for any alteration in these two
on any grounds. Whether that alteration is justified in the name of a reported
(and therefore debatable) incident regarding the Prophet (sws) or Ijtihād
. When an explicit directive of
the Qur’ān or the Sunnah exists, there is room only for interpretation, not
That is the only certainty. The Qur’ān and the Sunnah
and the ‘content’ of religion they contain. Through these bases we have His
undeniable and unalterable ‘words’ and ‘the rituals’ He wants us to follow.
However, the interpretation of this ‘content’ is another matter. The ‘content’
is from God, the interpretation is ours. The former is Divine, the latter
human. No individual can claim that his interpretation does not carry any
possibility of mistake. The same applies to a group.
Therefore, while only the Qur’ān and the Sunnah are the source of reference
for the Divine directives – no scholar, no sufi, no opinion, no interpretation
is that source, for none of these contains the ‘content’ of religion --, only
that interpretation of a Divine directive can become the law of the land in an
Islamic State which has the support of the majority of the Muslims (see the
Furthermore, when laws need to be enacted in matters
regarding which there is no Divine directive, in other words in matters not
related to religion (for example laws for the traffic), any law which has the
sanction of the majority of the Muslims and is in accordance with the good
conventions of their society is, in Qur’ānic terms, Ma‘rūf, and its violation
is Mun’kar. But such law is not Sharī‘ah (Divine law). It is the area related
to such law where Ijtihād is required. The ‘effort’ to find the right solution
– a law for example – in a certain city for a traffic problem is Ijtihād. If a
law is the solution, then it should not be against Islam. It should also not
be against common sense. Ensuring this requires wisdom and understanding,
especially where in one city the solution may be perfect and in another
To conclude, the points that need to be emphasised are:
1. The Qur’ān and the Sunnah are the only two bases of
Divine directives in Islam. These directives cannot be altered through any
Ijtihād or on the basis of any narration.
2. Only that interpretation of these two bases should
become the law of the land which has the support of the majority of Muslims.
3. Ma‘rūf (good conventions) and Munkar (bad
conventions – or violation of good conventions) are not Sharī‘ah (Divine law).
When laws are made on these bases, due consideration must be given to varying
circumstances in different places and different times.
4. Any law, even a law which is passed on the basis of
a Divine directive, can be changed if the change has the sanction of the
majority of Muslims. In the case of a Divine directive, if the legislature is
convinced that an interpretation other than the one on which an existing law
was made is correct, it can, with the support of the majority of Muslims,
change the law based on the wrong interpretation. Similarly, with such
support, it can change any other law (for example a law related to Ma‘rūf and
Interpretation of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah is a very
serious responsibility. Even when the matter is personal at the level of an
individual, it is expected of a Muslim that he will make a sincere and
responsible effort to find out the meaning of the Divine directives which
relate to his duty to God and to his fellow men. But when the task of making
laws for the whole society is undertaken, especially in case of laws based on
Divine directives, the responsibility becomes manifold. The spirit of the
Divine directive (42:38) ‘amruhum shūra baynahum’ (Their [the Muslims’]
affairs are by consultation among them) clearly dictates that this immense
task of enacting laws for the land, whether those laws relate to religion or
to other matters, should not be left to the whims of one person or to that of
a few people, that the responsibility be taken seriously and shared to such an
extent – through the support of the majority of the Muslims which manifests
itself through their chosen representatives – that the chances of exploitation
by any one person or group are minimised, and that the chosen representatives,
hopefully pious, competent and sagacious people, should work in a spirit of
co-operation even when laws contrary to their desires are enacted and
implemented on the basis of ‘amruhum shūrā baynahum’.
Enacting and changing laws, therefore, is not child’s
play. Changing the procedure for enacting laws and for amending the
constitution is a matter of much greater importance. The system of checks in
any constitution ensures that the task of enacting and interpreting laws
remains serious, responsible and balanced. There is nothing in the condition
of approval in both Houses or in the condition of two-thirds majority which is
against Islam. In fact, these conditions are quite obviously very much in line
with the spirit of ‘amruhum shūrā baynahum’. A negation of this spirit would
be a virtual negation of the Qur’ān. Furthermore, it is also important to
ensure that just as none of the Divine directives should be deleted, nothing
should be added to them as well. Even good intentions of rulers, when these
intentions take the form of law, should not be presented in such a way that
they, with names as Ma‘rūf and Munkar, are mistaken for Sharī‘ah.
There is no doubt that Love needs laws. With laws, it
remains within the bounds of decency and ethics. But the laws need wisdom.
Without wisdom, the law can, in the words of Dickens’ Mr Bumble ‘be a ass’.
And then there are times and situations when Love needs no laws. It needs
sacrifice. The dream of an Islamic society that has lived on in the bosoms of
Muslims for generations ever since the Armistice is not merely a dream of
seeing Islamic laws take effect. It is also a dream of once again seeing the
ruler in virtual rags roaming about to inquire after the people. It is a dream
of once again seeing an Umar unable to eat his food in times of starvation
haunting his people. It is a dream of seeing a common man walk up to the Head
of the State to ask where the extra piece of cloth for the new suit came from.
It is a dream of seeing each member of the elite trying to outdo one another
in contribution to a common cause: one giving half of everything in his house,
the other giving everything except his love for God and the Prophet (sws).
Maybe, just maybe, what is missing for the realisation
of the dream is not an amendment, but this sacrifice.
And this manifestation of Love – sacrifice and personal
conduct – does not even require a two-thirds majority.