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After I had finished writing these pages I rested my head between the palms of my hands, and asked myself, "For over seven years I have devoted myself entirely to one issue. I would mull over it by day and spend the whole night searching for answers. Now that I have solved its riddles and found the truth, I am no longer groping in the dark. And yet, has this conundrum, which has left its cruel traces on the features of both my face and life, indeed been brought to an end?"

Now I realise it has not been brought to an end, but rather it has only just begun. One difficult period has indeed been brought to an end, but it is here that I enter the most difficult one of all.

I live in a society full of values and ideals, none of which honours the freedom to think!! Even if it sanctions thinking, it presupposes its results in advance, and all that you are supposed to do is turn around and around in order to finally reach the uncontested conclusion that has already been prescribed!

I lifted my head to leaf through the pages, and suddenly the story of a poor artist jumped to my memory. He spent all the years of his life working on a statue. After this great toil and effort, he finished his work and lay down to sleep. He woke up suddenly in the middle of the night because a fierce snowstorm was howling through the town. So concerned was he about his statue that he took his only coat and all the covers he had and wrapped them around it. After that he lay down beside it and went to sleep, forever. The next day, the neighbours discovered that he had passed away. When they realised that he had sacrificed his own life for his art, they mourned him deeply.

I went back to asking myself, "Perhaps it is a matter of personal opinion as to whether artists or those who appreciate art should die for it, but to die for the truth is something that surely only a liar would deny!"

As soon as this fact became established in my mind, a question occurred to me: but why die for the truth? What is it that caused such an idea to come over me? Surely to live for the truth is the best thing one who has learned the truth can do. Muslims who, crying apostasy, brandish the sword against whoever harbours thoughts of doubt and unbelief in his faith are indeed spurred on by many things, none of which, though, is fear for Islam, rather ignorance, rancour and hatred! I know many Muslims who turned away from Islam and became atheists, without their fellow Muslims so much as turning a hair!! However, whenever many more than these "turned away" and became Christians, they moved heaven and earth. Yet the Qur'an records how their ancestors received the news of the defeat of the Persians by the Romans with joy, for no other reason than the fact that the Romans were people of the Book while the Persians were libertine atheists!

The Islamic legal punishment (hadd) for apostasy is death. This may have been intended as a punishment for non-Muslims who adopted Islam, but turned away from it at a later time. But the issue becomes different when capital punishment for apostasy turns into a means of overpowering and subjugation when used against Muslims themselves whenever they turn away from Islam. They did not choose to be born Muslims! I believe it was this conflict that prompted a writer like Muhammad Emaara to emphasise in his book, The Invasion of Thought – Fantasy or Fact? that Islam allows its adherents to turn away from it! "As long as the sceptic has searched as far as he is able," says Doctor Emaara, "but has not found his long-desired objective in Islam, then he is under no compulsion to believe in it." The Muslim's right to turn away from his religion, he says, has been secured by two rules: "No compulsion is there in religion" (Sura al-Baqara 2:256), and "God charges no soul save to its capacity" (Sura al-Baqara 2:286). Moreover he is to be treated on earth in the same way as those who are fully Muslim. As for his judgement in the afterlife, it is a matter entrusted to God's own hands, and there are Muslim theologians who believe that, in keeping with the view that "God charges no soul save to its capacity," such people will indeed escape punishment.

Nevertheless, there will always be someone who shouts at you and rejects out of hand whatever you say, admitting only death as the punishment for apostates. Well, let it be so then. We can only pray that God might open their hearts and minds to the truth, which I write about here, together with the reasons why I believe this to be indeed the truth. I present this book to you coupled with a fervent prayer that God may accept its shortcomings and compensate for the mistakes contained within, that it may be a stumbling block to no man and that the truth in it may be a blessing to many.



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Suppose a young man went to an advocate of the immediate application of the Islamic Sharia and asked him to give him his daughter in marriage, using the legally proper term for marriage, nikaah, which is now considered vulgar. The man would probably fume with rage and throw the young man out of his house, thinking him to be extremely rude. However, the young man would be committing no error as far as the Sharia is concerned, having used the legally accurate term.

Just as every language is a living organism that develops and grows with the passage of time, so is every generation in every age; it has its own socio-economic circumstances, by-laws, and traditions. The attempt to enforce the circumstances, traditions, and by-laws of bygone generations on one yet to come is an attempt doomed to failure.

Muhammad is quoted in al-Athar as having said, "Do not enforce your own ethics on your children; they have been created for a time other than yours." If it is so with children who are hardly three decades apart from their parents, how much more it must be true concerning those who live several centuries apart from their ancestors!

I would not have needed to mention such a self-evident truth had it not been for our Muslim brothers who ignore it in their overwhelming surge of enthusiasm for the slogan "Immediate application of the Sharia". They are unaware of the evil consequences that ensue from such an indifferent and negligent attitude, which clashes with an established universal norm and an integral social law.

It is extraordinary, however, that such indifference and ignorance has gone beyond the circle of the masses to that of the masters of jurisprudence and the Sharia, the overwhelming majority of whom, I almost certainly believe, have not carefully studied the sections dealing with legal punishments (huduud) and indemnification (diyaat) in the authoritative books. Had they done so they would have realised that the issue is not as simple as they thought and that it requires a gruelling effort to adapt the huduud to the social and economic circumstances under which people now live, especially now that the door of idjtihaad (individual legal judgement based on the interpretation and application of the four foundations of Islamic jurisprudence, i.e., Qur'an, Sunna, analogy, and consensus) has been closed. If they however go ahead without sufficient study, the result will be a great disaster, not only for the Sharia, but also for Islam as a whole.

The following quotations should serve to prove what I have set out above:

Al-Daarqatni quoted Muhammad in the Sunan as having said, "Neither the slaves nor the people of the Book are under any huduud." This hadith means that if a Muslim deliberately kills another Muslim, he will receive capital punishment (hadd). But if a Christian deliberately kills a Muslim, he will not receive legal punishment (hadd), but a less severe punishment (taziir), which is basically a heavy beating.

Ibn Abbaas reported that Muhammad said, "If a runaway slave steals, he is not subject to the cutting off (of hands), neither is the dhimmi (free non-Muslim living in a Muslim country who pays the capital tax)" (al-Daarqatni in the Sunan). This means that if a Muslim steals he will have his hand cut off, but if a Christian or any non-Muslim does the same he will not have his hand cut off! Mitigating the punishment in the case of a Christian is not the problem; it is rather the inequality in judging the citizens of the same country for the same crime, and the negative effect this is going to have on the hearts of the Muslim populace!

Ayesha, the mother of believers, reported, "I heard Muhammad say, ‘The stealer's hand is to be cut off only if what he stole is worth a quarter of a dinar (two dirhams) and beyond that.'" Omar reported that Muhammad cut off the hand of the thief who stole a burnouse, or cloak, worth three dirhams from the women's quarters (Ahmad, Abu Daud, and al-Nasaai). Jaabir reported that Muhammad said, "The one who commits a breach of confidence, the embezzler, and the robber are under no cutting off (of hands)" (al-Bukhaari, Muslim, al-Nasaai, al-Tirmizi, and Abu Daud; declared by al-Tirmizi to be correct). So the one who embezzles the money entrusted to him or steals hundreds of thousands of pounds will not have his hand cut off, while the one who steals three pounds' worth will!!

These Muhammadan hadiths treating the socio-economic system of the desired state pose various problems for Islamists that need to be researched and studied diligently before any can set the trumpet to his mouth announcing such slogans as, "Islam is the solution. It is the law of God Highly Exalted. Islam is both a doctrine and a law. Islam is a Qur'an and a sword, religion and state," and many other such hackneyed mottos.

Trade, at the era of Muhammad, was the mainstay of economic life, therefore theft was the prevailing crime. That is the reason it received such a severe punishment, which was in accordance with the situation before Muhammad. Reliable books of Islamic history recorded that "Quraish cut off the hand of the thief who stole the treasure of the Ka’ba." However conditions have now changed, systems of monetary transactions have become different, and new crimes that were not known at Muhammad's time have been contrived; such as the embezzlement of public funds, fraud and issuing uncovered checks worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. If we apply the hadd of cutting off the hand of the perpetrators of such crimes, we will be violating the substantiated hadiths that stipulate that the hand should not be cut off in such cases. Yet if we do not, people who embezzle will get away with it and will be in a much happier state than those who steal a few pounds!

Abdel Rahmaan Ibn Auf reported that Muhammad said, "The stealer is not to be fined [or to pay back] if the hadd was administered to him [namely if his hand was cut off]" (al-Daarqatni in the Sunan). Imagine then, if you will, the situation where a man steals hundreds of thousands of pounds, has his hand cut off, has another artificial one attached and lives all his life long enjoying what he has stolen. Medical progress has even made it possible for someone who has his hand cut off to have it fixed back again in its place!

Ibn Masood reported that Muhammad said, "The indemnity for accidental homicide consists of these five: twenty jazaa, twenty hiqqa, twenty banat laboon, twenty bani laboon and twenty banat makhaad” (al-Daarqatni in his Sunan).

Now we ask: Will the clause of indemnification in the Islamic criminal law use these same words? How many of the judges who will administer the law, and the lawyers who will plead in court know the difference between hiqqa and banaat makhaad ? The great Islamic luminary al-Daarqatni, being a conscientious man and feeling concerned about the least change in the words of the Hadiths of "the Messenger," wrote over three pages to establish the true meaning of the two words hiqqa and bani laboon occurring in the previous quotation! (If the quotation is referring to camels only, then jazaa would mean a five-year-old she-camel, hiqqa a four-year-old she-camel, bint laboon a three-year-old she-camel, ibn laboon a three-year-old camel and bint makhaad a two-year-old she-camel.)

In case our Muslim brothers answer that there is no problem in replacing these words with others that everybody knows, we would like to point out that the hadiths of Muhammad, according to Islamic belief, are to be applied verbatim, without the least deviation from their wording. On this occasion we would point out that Muhammad was teaching one of his companions a prayer to be recited before going to sleep, which says:

“O God, I have resigned myself unto Thee, and sought refuge with Thee because of a request and out of fear of Thee. There is no other refuge or deliverance from Thee except unto Thee. I believe in Thy Book which Thou broughtest down, and in Thy Prophet whom Thou sent.”

Then Muhammad asked his Companion to repeat the prayer by heart. The man recited it but replaced "Thy Prophet whom Thou sent" with "Thy Messenger whom Thou sent". Muhammad corrected him and said, "Thy Prophet whom Thou sent". It is not easy to change words according to the Islamic belief!

To mention but a few of the serious problems that face those who demand an immediate application of the Sharia and the huduud in the twentieth century, we would like to point out the following:

Muhammad is quoted as having said, "Punishment is (to be administered) only on account of a sword." In other words, a murderer cannot be punished unless the murder was carried out by a sword. Here Muhammad established a legal rule that makes homicide by the sword a prerequisite for punishment, while no other way of homicide necessitates punishment!

Many ways of killing have been contrived in our modern day. If we inflict punishment on them all, we will be violating the previous Hadith. Yet if we don't, the result will be devastating, since there are more cruel and hideous ways of killing than that of the sword. We cannot afford to leave those other manslayers unpunished! Furthermore, killing by the sword has become a very rare thing indeed, and thus we will be listing in the penal law a clause that is both irrelevant to real life and, at that, inapplicable!

The Musnad of al-Imam Ahmad records that a companion of Muhammad, Sa'd Ibn Abaada, said, "Prophet of God, if I find another man with my wife (namely committing adultery with her) will I wait till I bring four witnesses?" He said yes. In this hadith Sa'd Ibn Abaada brought to the surface the difficulty of proving the crime of adultery by bringing four witnesses who are then supposed to see the adulterers. This difficulty is still there today as it was before; it now even verges on the impossible. If the one concerned could prove that such a crime actually took place by the modern ways of attestation; such as photography or recording by video, which prove to the viewer that adultery took place, would that evidence be acceptable?

If we tolerate this we will be violating the approved Sunna, but if we don't the adulterers will get off lightly in spite of strong evidence. Sticking to the legal Islamic evidence, namely four witnesses, is nearly impossible nowadays, where adultery is no longer committed in a tent, but in a locked room!

These questions I here raise have been in existence for decades but no expert in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) has ever tried to answer them. Neither has any advocate of the Sharia put to paper his conception of a renewed Islamic Sharia that is compatible with the demands of the human mind in the twentieth century. All that was produced by the Ulamaa of al-Azhar in the domain of fiqh is represented by the formal legal opinions given by the Grand Mufti of Egypt concerning the things that corrupt the Ramadan fasting, such as Armenian clay and the spittle of a friend!! Does he not know that there are other things used in eating and drinking now than the Armenian clay? And why on earth should someone spit into his friend's mouth?!

The Iranian Islamic leader Khomeini once called the Ulamaa of al-Azhar "Ulamaa of menstruation and childbirth," and "theologians of water closets." He was not far wrong in what he said because the pro-Sharia Islamic propagandists, who are scattered far and wide throughout the world, are stuffed with the water-closet sort of fiqh, but are malnourished indeed as far as knowing the rudiments of what the Sharia has to offer. I believe it is an inescapable logical necessity to compare this and that before they can cry their hackneyed slogans!!


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Islamists have said that the Islamic Sharia is the only rescue operation capable of saving humankind from their confusion, bewilderment, anxiety, turmoil, and evils. They have claimed that it has become an urgent need of humanity, made necessary by the invalidity of the Western and Eastern patterns of government, since these, they say, lack the element of permanence. They have also claimed that, "The Sharia of Islam is the only solution because it is above human inclinations and mortal defect. It is not subject to the criteria of right and wrong, since it is above trial. Above all, it is divine law! These words are quoted from the books of Sayed Qutb This Religion, The Future of this Religion, Guideposts on the Road, Islam and World Peace, Toward an Islamic Society, and Under the Wings of the Qur'an.

Even if we were to grant, for the moment, the truth of what they say about the Sharia, and that it is in theory capable of resolving the political, economical, and social difficulties of life, we could not for one minute accept that it has been successfully applied at any point in history. If you were to study Egypt's history, for instance, you will find it completely contradictory to the above-mentioned statement. We cannot judge that the Islamic legislation in Egypt has been just with the Copts just because Omar Ibn al-Khattaab commanded the son of Amru Ibn al-Aas, Egypt's ruler at the time, to be whipped for dealing unfairly with a certain Copt, nor because Omar Ibn Abdil Azeez allotted a certain portion of the zakaat to be given to the dhimmis!!

We cannot take individual experiences and present them as the actual events of all the Islamic history of Egypt, and thus manage to account it as honest and equal. This would be an offence to the practical spirit in which research and studies treating the subject of history ought to be carried out.

Professor al-Aqqaad has stated, "Every allegation that is not backed up by research, which in turn should be backed up by evidence, is a mere rumour, if not a fable." If the research of Islamists into "the historical facts of Islamic legislation" were measured in reference to that statement they would prove to have been "a mere fable" of an imaginary application of the Sharia.

In order to prove the truth of what we have said, let's look at the history of Islamic Egypt, just to certify our claim that even though the Sharia might be accepted theoretically, its application is, for all purposes, unacceptable.

1. Politically and Economically

Egypt's Islamic history of government has been characterised by two things:

a. Absence of social justice

b. Dictatorial rule, which is unrelated to the Islamic principle of shura (deliberation)

The Sharia stresses in its clauses the principle of wealth distribution "so that it [money] be not a thing taken by turns among the rich of you" (Sura al-Hashr 59:7). Yet it was difficult for the Islamic governmental system in Egypt to implement such a clause. Accordingly, the judicial judgements of the time implied that such clauses were to be merely committed to memory and not put into practice!

Muhammad Ibn Iyaas al-Hanafi reports in Amazing Events in History that

When Ahmad Ibn Tulun died, he left behind 10,000 dinars of gold, 7,000 Mamelukes (white slaves), 24,000 black slaves, 7,000 horses, 6,000 heads of mules and donkeys, 10,000 camels, 100 chests of pearls, jewels and rubies, and an endless number of antiques, not to mention all the homesteads, holdings and orchards. As for his son Khamraweh, he was a unique example of dissipation, luxury and extravagance. When he married his daughter Qatr al-Nada to the caliph al-Mutadid, he furnished her with unprecedented and almost legendary household effects. It was even said that he did not withhold an antique or a rarity from her. The expenses of these effects mounted up to a million dinars. He was not content with all this, so he even gave her a 100,000 dinars to buy in Baghdad the things she couldn't find in Egypt. He built her a palace at the end of each station to rest at, which he furnished with all possible conveniences and luxury to make her feel as if she was in her father's palace. Certainly this outrageous foolishness took its toll on the treasury.”

Doctor Sayeda Ismaeel al-Kaashif says in her book Egypt Under The Ekhshidites, "Caphure left behind in his treasury after his death a million dinars' worth of jewels, clothing, weapons and personal belongings."

As for the Fatimids, the tales of tampering with public funds that were told about them outdo legends themselves. Old and new books of history alike are teeming with descriptions of their magnificent palaces and processions, and their enormous riches out of which they cheated the people.

In his research The History Of The Fatimid Empire Dr Hasan Ibrahim Hasan wrote, "Al-Muizz had a sister named Sayedatul Mulk, who died during his reign. On her death, they found in her possession 300 chests of gold, 74.8 kilograms of corundum and pearls, besides a ruby spatula weighing 126.36 grams."

The common masses, on the other hand, were at this time suffering from severe famines, plagues, droughts and lack of food. One need only point out the famine that took place under the Fatimid caliph al-Muntasir Billaah, who oppressed the nation for over 60 years. During his reign, many hair-raising calamities, catastrophes and atrocities broke out. It is enough to know that people had to eat the flesh of dogs and cats before they finally ate the corpses of their own dead people. Historians even refer to that period as "The Great Ordeal".

Al-Hanafi has detailed the events of this famine:

“A group of people would sit on the shingles of houses carrying with them ropes with grapnels attached to their ends. If a man happened to pass under them they would, in no time, throw those ropes on him and draw him up with the grapnels. As soon as he would reach them, they would slay him instantly and eat him, bones and all! In the city of al-Fustaat (Old Cairo) was an alley called "The Alley of the Plate," which had about twenty houses in it. Each house was worth 1,000 dinars. All the houses of that alley were sold for a plate of bread, each house for a loaf. From that day on it was named "The Alley of the Plate".

Of course the suffering of the Egyptians could have been less severe during that famine if the Muslim rulers, such as the ancestors of al-Muntasir Billah, had not unscrupulously abused the national funds, living in an unequalled and unrestrained dissipation. It is both tragic and comic at the same time that the other caliphs who succeeded him did not take a lesson from "The Great Ordeal" and the calamities it involved. The caliph al-Zaafir Billah, for one, having assumed power (by appointment, not by election) gave himself up to merrymaking, orgies and drinking. To add oil to the fire, he was in love with the son of his prime minister al-Abbaas, whom he used to visit frequently, spending the night with him most of the time. Later he gave him a present of a gold tray studded with 1,000 pearls. If the Sharia had a substantial authority and a real competence to rule, as the Islamists claim it does, al-Zaafir Billaah would have been burnt alive as punishment for his deviate behaviour!

Al-Qayyem al-Juzeh reports in his book The Legal Politics that Abu Bakr burnt the homosexuals and let them taste the heat of fire both in this world and the one to come!! Yet Doctor Sayed Abdil Fattaah Aashur affirms: "Homosexuality was so rampant among the Mameluke sultans and emirs that whoever of them was enamoured of and satisfied with maids only was considered deviate. Such was Sultan Hasan who was reported to have "had no inclination towards boys as was the wont of the previous kings"!

What has been said in regard to the absence of social justice can be said the more so in regard to the absence of democracy in the Islamic form of government in Egypt. Rule over Egypt, along with his palaces and other properties, was passed from one king to his successor as an inheritance. The Ulamaa, legal scholars, intelligentsia and the common people as a whole did not play any significant role in all this. Just as Arabic, the poet, has declared, "Proprietors they are, yet they are not asked for their permission."

2. Socially

Doctor Sayeda Ismaeel gives a faithful description of the social situation in the Egyptian society under the Ekhshedites. She states:

“The only refuge the common masses could resort to was superstitions and the belief that the deceased saints could perform miracles. Many charlatans stepped out, some of whom spreading rumours about themselves to the effect that they had seen the Prophet, Gabriel and Ali Ibn Abu Taalib. [The Fatimids were Shiites.] Another claimed to have seen Abdurrahmaan Ibn Muljim, the murderer of Ali, crying for help from the torment he was suffering. People were so enthralled by them that they fell for what they said. The masses fell headlong into drinking wine, merrymaking and other forms of entertainment, in both private and public gatherings. This was not restricted to young people only, but even older people and pious religious scholars did not abstain. It was no embarrassment to the Ulama to listen to singers, both male and female. Brothels and gambling houses abounded and homosexuality was rampant.”

Moral dissolution and social corruption were not restricted to the sultans and the emirs of the Ekhshidite empire. The caste system persisted with no change even under the Fatimid rulers. Social maladies persisted just the same. The Fatimids, just for good measure, imposed taxes on whorehouses.

Historians agree that when the Fatimid empire began to decline, weak caliphs assumed power, and the reins of government were in the hands of ministers. Many massacres and coups were carried out, together with other atrocities. The last of these atrocities was setting fire to al-Fustaat (a city to the south of present day Cairo) under the last of the Fatimid caliphs, al-Aadid Billaah, at the inept instigation of his minister. The conflagration lasted for 51 days, and smoke could be seen from a distance of three days' travelling (cf., the famous historian Ibn Abdul Hakam).

Social life under the Ayubite empire (excluding the reign of Saladin), was deplorable. People sank beneath taxes which Saladin had previously abolished. His son al-Azeez Billaah re-established them and made them all the more onerous. Liquor was in wide circulation. Wine casks were even carried in public without the least attempt at secrecy. The government protected whorehouses and places where hashish was smoked, in order to levy heavy taxes on them. No one was able to object to places of debauchery. Grinding hashish became a business that yielded money. Affairs were thrown into a state of unrest due to the lack of justice and the abundance of transgressions and debauchery (from Amazing Events in History).

One of the most important manifestations of moral degeneration was the spread of bribery amongst both rulers and subjects. It was so rampant that al-Maqreezi said that corruption in his time was primarily due to the fact that bribery had such a great influence on the way both the sultans and the religious leaders were appointed. It was impossible to become appointed to the ministry, judgeship, vice-regency over the provinces, the office of treasurer and other prominent jobs without paying exorbitant amounts of money!

This is the Egyptian society that was governed by the Sharia for so many centuries. Was it a remedy for its many maladies? Has the Sharia come to the rescue of the poor from the oppression of their rulers? No. It has rather been a whip to lash their backs and a sword to cut their necks off whenever they thought of disobeying their governors. For disobedience to the governors was reckoned as disobedience to the Sharia itself!

If we trace back the actual history of the application of the Sharia in search of the society of freedom, brotherhood and justice, the search will lead us further and further back in history till we come to the era of Muhammad. Islamic studies, however, have certified that even this era was not devoid of ambitions and motives that detract from the impartiality of this society.


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The writings of the Islamic thinkers Abul Ala al-Mauduudi and Sayed Qutb have played a momentous role in the establishment of the concept of "sovereignty", which the "Islamic Awakening" adopted as its motto. From that time on Islamic groups began to recognise sovereignty in its desired state as God's alone!

In more than sixteen books, aside from his commentary Under the Wings of the Qur'an, Sayed Qutb has endeavoured to propagate his theory of "sovereignty". This theory maintains that absolute worship (or servitude) of God is the first pillar of the Islamic belief, which is represented by the Shahada, "There is no god but God." The second component of the Shahada, which is represented by the statement that "Muhammad is the Messenger of God," means learning from the Messenger of God how to practise such worship.

On this basis, Sayed Qutb distinguished between two sorts of societies, the first "Islamic" and the second "pagan" (pre-Islamic). The Islamic society is characterised by being established on the basis of absolute worship (or servitude) of God in all he commands, as represented and governed by the Shahada, "There is no god but God." This worship consists in:

1. - Doctrinal conception

2. - Devotional ceremonies

3. - Laws and precepts

This gives rise to yet another dogma, that "Whoever does not believe in the oneness of God is not a servant (or worshipper) of God. And whoever offers devotional ceremonies to someone other than God is not a servant of God." Hence another dogma (which is the dangerous one), that whoever receives legal precepts from someone other than God is not a servant of God.

As for the pagan society, it is "all societies other than the Islamic one." To be more specific, it is the society that does not absolutely worship (or serve) God alone, such worship being represented by doctrinal conception, devotional ceremonies and legal precepts. Sayed Qutb concludes that, on the basis of this definition, the expression "pagan society" embraces all societies present now on earth! This includes the societies that claim to be Islamic. "These so-called Islamic societies," he argues, "are included among the others not on account of their belief in any other god but God, neither because they offer their devotional ceremonies to someone other than God, but because they do not adhere to the worship of God in their life-style. For even though they do not believe in the divinity of someone other than God, yet by subjecting themselves to the sovereignty of someone other than God, they attribute the most distinctive characteristics of divinity to someone other than Him" (From Guideposts on the Road by Sayed Qutb).

Again Sayed Qutb explains this point in his book This Religion. He states:

“We are required to recognise the divine method so as to be truly described as Muslims. The first pillar of Islam, which is the Shahada, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God," simply means ascribing divinity to God, may He be exalted, alone and not allowing any of His creatures to share with Him any of the characteristics of this divinity. The first of these characteristics is the right to absolute sovereignty, which entitles Him to be the only law-giver of the people. The Shahada cannot be valid and true except by acknowledging that God has the only right to set the absolutes according to which the lives of men are to be regulated. All who claim for themselves the right to set the absolutes which regulate the life of a certain group of people are in fact claiming to be the Deity, because they claim for themselves the greatest characteristics of the Deity – legislation!!”

The theory of "sovereignty" for which Sayed Qutb lived and died, gave rise to the following ideas:

1 - The now existent society is a pagan one.

2 - The Islamic society vanished from sight many centuries ago.

3 - Muslims are not free to choose whether to apply the Sharia or reject it, since it is a revealed divine law.

4 - It is inevitable that a "Muslim group" should rise that will take upon itself the onus of bringing the society back to its Islamic identity that has been lost.


Muslims throughout the Arab world realised how important it is to restore "the Islamic Empire," whose presence is "a legitimate imperative". Therefore, Islamists started unanimously to rally themselves and work together towards that goal. This initial unity among their ranks, however, did not last long. They were fragmented and split when the time came for the second step – to restore the desired Islamic society. Thus Islam was divided into parties and factions, which held different views on the issue. Some of them maintained that jihad, fighting and opposing the pagan powers with arms and weapons was the only way to restore the Sharia. Others contended that the legal channels, which the government sanctioned, were effective means of establishing the Islamic society. Yet others believed that the only solution was to withdraw from the arena and work towards bringing Muslims back to the domain of mosques and educate them in the ways of devout Muslims. Thereupon, some of them migrated to deserts and mountains, turning their back on society altogether, claiming both rulers and subjects to be godless. Despite the apparently different methods used by Islamic units to apply the Sharia, there remains a main outline that was agreed on by all: The followers of the Islamic movement are to apply Islam first in themselves and in their personal lives before they can found their Islamic society. Any article or book on the Islamic movement refers in some way or another to the statement of Hasan al-Hudaibi, the founder of the Islamic Brotherhood Movement: "Establish the rule of Islam in your souls, and it will be established on earth. Your first battlefield is your souls. If you triumph over them, you will be all the more competent to triumph over others. However, if you fail in your fight (jihad), you will have proved yourselves incompetent to triumph over others." Sayed Qutb also said, "The Islamic society shall not be established unless a group of people support it with an uncompromising faith and cling to it, endeavouring to make it a reality in people's hearts. These are to strive for that end with all that they have."

This single principle, however, which all the Islamic units agreed upon, in spite of their various and several approaches, is considered an outright contradiction to the kind of Islam they understand. For Islam, as they presented it, is a total and integral religion. By "total" they do not mean that it is merely a religion that combines doctrine and law, or body and soul, or includes this life and the one to come. Totality and integration in the Islamic methodology are a form of integration that makes it difficult to apply one particular of it and ignore the others. It is supposed to render divine absolutes acceptable to the people. We cannot, for example, apply Islamic doctrine and ignore Islamic law, or vice versa. In both cases totality and integration are lost, which in turn leads to the loss of Islam, both as a doctrine and a methodology. The Islamic Sharia originates from the doctrine, and is therefore an integral part of it (from The Future of this Religion by Sayed Qutb).

Integration and totality extend even further to include integration between "the Sharia and the environment" in which it will be applied. This is an inevitable integration. Separation between the two will automatically lead to the extermination of both of them. If we apply the Sharia in an environment pervaded by a pagan atmosphere, the multitudes of the people will reject it. Likewise, if we apply a pagan law in an Islamic environment the multitudes will reject it. Integration between the environment and the Sharia is necessary and inevitable.

According to this conception of the totality and integration of Islam, the luminaries of the Islamic movements believe that the application of Islam in the lives of their followers, living as they are in a non-Islamic environment, is a demand that contradicts the essence of Islam. It is even impossible to comply with it. For the Islamic society, according to Sayed Qutb, shall not be established unless a group of people rises up who will decide to give its absolute worship to God alone, and will not let itself be subject to the worship of anyone but God. Then it will start to organise practically its entire life-style according to this unadulterated worship, purging its conscience from believing in the divinity of someone other than God, and its laws from instructions that did not come through God!!

Sayed Qutb says, "The Islamic theoretical rule must be represented by a dynamic organic society from the outset. It must be separate from and independent of the pagan assemblage, which Islam aims at annihilating. Only after this group has rid itself and its conscience of worshipping someone other than God, as far as doctrine, devotion and legislation are concerned, can it be called "Muslim". From this group the Islamic society will rise" (from his book Guideposts on the Road). So in order to restore the Islamic empire, a group must arise that will educate itself according to Islamic methodology and manners, to live by them and evangelise them. That is to say, as Sayed Qutb expresses it, "Islam must be represented by a dynamic organic society."

Sayed Qutb states his case further in his book This Religion. He argues that the establishment of this Islamic society is impossible in the shadow of the ignorance of our present society:

“People who think that the moral code of Islam makes it a heavy yoke to bear feel this only when they as Muslims live in a non-Islamic society. When this is the case, Islam with its morality will indeed become a heavy yoke, breaking the backs of those who live with their pure Islam in a pagan society, which almost annihilates these Muslims. Islam is a practical system, which prescribes that people who live according to its precepts must live in an Islamic society.”

He goes on to say that Muslims can only live in an environment created especially for this point of view and its values, and not in a pagan environment. Thus anyone wanting to be a Muslim has to realise that he can live his Islam in an Islamic society, and is only dreaming if he thinks that he can realise his Islam as a lost fugitive in a pagan society.

Yet another writer, who is one of the greatest teachers of the biggest Islamic movements, fell prey to the same contradiction. In his book The Islamic Fiqh, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali emphasises over and over again that the Islamic society can come forth only from an Islamic foundation that has been educated in the manners and principles of Islam. He further says that there must be "true Muslims" before there can be a Muslim society. However he discards this in two other books of his as impossible. In the first, A Battle of a Qur'an, he says, "God's commands and interdictions are aimed at the environment in which a person lives inasmuch as they are aimed at the person himself. They are aimed at the environment to form it into a certain shape and cast it in a definite mould. They are also aimed at the person to annul or establish what he does. The rationale of this is evident: The strong eye cannot see in the darkness. There must be a medium that enables it to see, so that it can discern what it wants." Then in his research Views on the Qur'an, he says, "The effect of the environment on human behaviour is undeniable. It is probable that environment is more able than genetics to form mankind and direct their future. Any system that aims at a personal direction for the individual cannot, by any means, ignore the pressure that his environment exerts on him. Neither can it ignore the environment's inspiration, both the hidden and the manifest, which directs him at its will. Controlling the environment is, therefore, an indispensable necessity for every earnest call. On that basis, Islam is a religion that is instituted for the soul, the society and the state all the same."

There is no way, then, to reach that desired society! But have the youth of "the Islamic Awakening" realised the extent of contradiction in this difficult equation? The Islamic movement, on the one hand, charges them to hold themselves aloof from the depravity of reality, while, on the other hand, the environment imposes on them an inescapable reality! Therefore, the followers of the Islamic movement will have to choose between these three alternatives:

1. - To revolt against this reality and environment and make it conformable with the methodology they want to apply.

2. - To withdraw from society, removing themselves to a cave or a desert or taking refuge on a mountain, so that they can practise their Islam away from the pressure of the pagan reality.

3. - To give up and relinquish Islam altogether.

These alternatives will not lead to a positive objective or give a satisfying result. Choosing any of them has its negative effects, detrimental both to society and to the individual, which may eventually lead to the destruction of both.


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When studying the history of the Islamic Empire, which Muhammad established in Medina after his migration there, one should distinguish between two phases the Islamic dawa (missionary work) had to go through in order to establish a society based on the teachings of Islam: the Meccan phase, which lasted for thirteen years, and the Medina phase, which started after the migration there and ended with the death of Muhammad.

When he wanted to establish his Islamic Empire and apply his Sharia, which he declared to be inspired from heaven, Muhammad had two things in mind, seeing that he was then in Mecca where he and his followers were but a minority among a pagan majority:

1 - The environment around him was unfavourable and not fit to apply the tenets of his Sharia.

2 - He was not in control of Meccan society and did not have the authority necessary for changing the society by force and imposing his Sharia or applying it immediately.

These two things were so clear to Muhammad that they had a far-reaching effect on his conduct of the transitional strategy of the Islamic dawa, as is made clear by the following:

1 - He did not impose on his new converts any tenets or laws to regulate their social, political and economical life.

2 - He did not demand that his followers adhere to a new moral standard, as he did in Medina after the appropriate environment had been created.

3 - He did not order his followers to do anything more than to grasp and proclaim the doctrine of monotheism and to endure the persecution arising from this. Such grasping and proclamation did not result in any actual application of its injunctions.

4 - He ordered his followers to abide by the acceptable customs and traditions that were present in the Meccan society.

No wonder Muhammad's followers (the Companions), who were the early Muslim believers, shared in all the transgressions of the Meccan society. They drank wine and gambled in the presence of their leader, Muhammad, without feeling that their behaviour contradicted the new doctrine they were commanded to believe in and study, so long as they were not in an environment that allowed them to rise above such transgressions and disdain them. Ibnul Juzi said in Zadul Maseer, "God, Highly Exalted, revealed four verses regarding wine: in Mecca He said, ‘And of the fruits of the palms and the vines, you take therefrom an intoxicant and a provision fair' (Sura al-Nahl 16:67). Muslims at the commencement of Islam drank wine and it was lawful for them. Then in Medina Sura al-Baqara 2:219 was revealed: ‘They will question thee concerning wine and arrow-shuffling [gambling]. Say, "In both is heinous sin, and uses for men, but the sin in them is more heinous than the usefulness." Therefore some departed from it on account of His saying "In both is heinous sin," while others continued drinking it on account of His saying "and uses for men."'" It so happened later that Abdel Rahmaan Ibn Auf prepared a meal and invited some of Muhammad's companions, whom he gave food to eat and wine to drink. Now when it was time for the sunset prayer, they put one of them in front to lead them in prayer. The man was intoxicated so when he quoted Sura al-Kafirun 109:2 he said, "Say: ‘O unbelievers, I serve ... what you serve,'" leaving out "not." Thereupon Sura al-Nisa´ 4:43 was revealed: "O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying." Thus God prohibited drinking before prayer times. Therefore men would drink wine after the evening prayer and by the time they woke up the next morning their drunkenness would have left them. Then Utbaan Ibn Maalik prepared a meal and invited some Muslim men, among whom was Sad Ibn Abu Waqqaas. He roasted them the head of a camel. They ate and drank wine till they were overcome by wine and began to boast and recite poetry. One of them recited a poem boasting over his kinsmen and satirising the Ansaar. At this an Ansaarite picked a jawbone of a camel and bashed Sad on his head causing a fracture. So Sad rushed to Muhammad complaining about the Ansaar. Therefore God revealed Sura al-Ma´ida 5:90: "O believers, wine and arrow-shuffling, idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan's work ...Will you then desist?" At that Omar Ibnul Khattaab said, "We desist, Lord. We desist."

The early Muslims under Muhammad dealt in liquor and gained exorbitant profits from them, as much as they did from arrow-shuffling!! In his book al-Jaami, al-Imam al-Qortubi says, "If some ask, ‘How could there be any use in liquor, though it wastes money and brain?' the answer will be that the word used in the above-mentioned verse means financial profits that people drew from dealing in liquor, which were exorbitant indeed. Similarly, they gained profits from arrow-shuffling as well. The fact that the profits were financial is evidenced by the wording of the verse, where God connected them with those accruing from arrow-shuffling."

The early Muslims practised usury as well. They did not find it at variance with the new doctrine which they had adopted and were studying. In fact, the so-called pagan reality imposed this kind of conduct. Al-Sheikh al-Saabuni says in his book A Commentary on the Verses of Judgement:

Prohibiting usury, as was the case with wine, went through four stages:

(1) First God revealed Sura al-Rum 30:39: "And what you give in usury that it may increase upon the people's wealth, increases not with God; but what you give in alms, desiring God's Face, those – they receive recompense manifold." This verse is Meccan and nothing in it indicated prohibiting usury. All it referred to was that God abhors usury and that it has no recompense from God. The verse is, therefore, "a good exhortation."

(2) Then He revealed Sura al-Nisa´ 4:160: "And for the evildoing of those of Jewry, we have forbidden them some good things that were permitted to them, and for their barring from God's way many, and for their taking usury, that they were prohibited." This verse was revealed in Medina. It was a lesson God was teaching to the Muslims from the history of the Jews, who were worthy of God's wrath and curse because they had been forbidden to practise usury but did it anyway. This sort of prohibition is an implicit, rather than an explicit, one.

(3) Later God revealed Sura Al Imran 3:130: "O believers, devour not usury, doubled and redoubled." This verse was also revealed in Medina. We find in it evident prohibition of usury; but it was partial not total. This prohibition was levelled at a sort of usury called "the exorbitant usury."

(4) Lastly, usury was prohibited categorically by Sura al-Baqara 2:278-279: "O believers, fear you God; and give up the usury that is outstanding, if you are believers. But if you do not, then take notice that God shall war with you, and His Messenger; yet if you repent you shall have your principal, unwronging, unwronged."

Here we ask, why didn't Muhammad impose on his followers in Mecca, where the pagan environment was predominant, any laws or precepts? Why didn't he set a moral code for them as he did in Medina thirteen years after the beginning of the dawa? Why did Muhammad leave his followers Muslim in belief and thought but pagan in behaviour and conduct? Why was Medina, and not Mecca, the place where laws and precepts were revealed? Sayed Qutb answers, "Because the early Muslims had no power over themselves, neither over the society. How could they enact these laws without power or supremacy?"

The moral code that Islam calls for cannot be applied, except in an atmosphere dominated and ruled by Islam. And since the Islamic environment was not available in Mecca, the application of moral laws and codes was postponed until the time when that environment arose in Medina after the migration.

By analogy to the transitional strategy prepared by Muhammad and observed by his followers, which aims at establishing an Islamic society on the remains of the pagan one, all transitional strategies propounded by the Islamic groups as a means of attaining the application of the laws and precepts of Islam prove to be wrong. It has thus become a necessity to submit another alternative, and this is due to their insistence on rescuing humanity by means of the Sharia law.

So another opinion emerged, which holds that Muslims are to emulate Muhammad in his transitional strategy that succeeded in establishing the society of Islam in Medina. The advocates of this opinion believe that we now live in a "pagan" society and, consequently, "we are to afford what the Messenger of God afforded in it." If the early Muslims dealt with the pagan society through paganism, let us, too, deal with reality through realism. If the environment had such a formidable effect on directing the Islamic legislation when the Qur'an was being revealed, let the environment now be our chief criterion for legalising and prohibiting things, not the old time legislation of a previous age. Their argument is evident: There was a reason for the gradual advance of laws and precepts that took place at the time of early Muslims in Mecca, namely the unfavourable environment that surrounded them at first. The suspension of the Islamic code of manners was justified by factors that are still at work in our present environment.

What about different Islamic units who object to this on the basis of their interpretation of Sura al-Ma´ida 5:3, "Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed my blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion"? They interpret this as a statement that obligated Muslims to implement the laws, precepts and all the instructions of Islam, hence abrogating all the gradual introductory phases that had gone before it. This view has been put forward by Fahmy Huweedy under the title The Jurisprudence of the Minority in discussing the situation of Muslims in Europe and America, where they experience difficulties in trying to apply their Islam in European and American societies. Therefore, he says, they have made individual judgements on how to forge a relationship with the society they live in not based on any previous legal Islamic decisions. In order to do this they have had to reconsider many previous judgements established through Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) that resulted from living under Muslim rule. On the family level, for example, if we take into consideration the principle of a wife converting to Islam and divorcing her non-Muslim husband, as established in jurisprudence at present, the result will be the destruction of the future of all families in which either husband or wife convert to Islam, which in turn will impede the expansion of Islam itself. So then, shall we apply the principle at any cost, or shall consider the circumstances? Al-Imam al-Mauduudi adopted the latter alternative in dealing with the Muslim minority in India.

Another example is the situation of Muslims who work in restaurants that offer pork or wine or anything else prohibited by Sharia law, and have no other chances of work. Should they continue working and serve these forbidden things to people, or should they leave their jobs and stay idle at home? A third example: If a Muslim centre or individual wants to build a headquarters or a house, should they take out a loan with interest from a bank or should they not? What are they going to do where this is the only option they have?

Let us not forget either the dilemmas faced by Muslims living in society where mixing of the sexes, expressionistic arts, music, dancing and singing are the norm.

Finally Huweedy makes a special case for the matter of personal freedom. For, in order for the Muslim minority to have the right to practise their religion and to meet its doctrinal obligations, the strategy of the Islamic centre must always be on the side of the freedom of belief, ceremonies and religious practices, from which even Satanists and all sorts of debauched people will benefit. Without this they would be losing the field in which they have room to act and, therefore, they have adopted the logic that says, "Let us be for the freedom, even if this leads to the emerging of something that might sully our beliefs and ethics."

Hence it is evident that those who uphold "the Jurisprudence of the Minority" are talking about the situation in countries that make it perfectly clear that they are not Islamic, such as European countries and America, while the others who concern themselves with application of Sharia are talking about the situation in societies that claim to be and have the outward appearance of being Islamic. The two approaches, we believe, are largely similar concerning the core of the issue at hand: both of them agree on the impossibility of applying Islamic Sharia outside any environment that has been prepared especially for it. Both of them have brought to nought, whether knowingly or not, the concept of the Sharia competence everywhere and at all times.

There is yet another approach that maintains waiting and preparing society for the application of the Islamic Sharia. This means, of course, tackling the problems of development, unemployment, poverty, housing, education and most of the problems that we have been struggling with for decades without the least hope that they will be solved, since proponents of this approach maintain that Islam and the Sharia offer the only solutions to such problems. Even if we succeeded in solving these problems and surmounting all the economical, social and political difficulties from which our present society suffers, this would mean that we could solve our main problems by means of things other than the Sharia, and thus the reasons that call for applying it disappear. This would surely demolish the second myth whose fabricators hold that the Sharia is the only rescue operation that can solve the problems of life altogether!!


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“I deny and denounce consulting Islam today on any of the problems of this society. Those who consult Islam, in good faith of course, are frivolous people, and those who answer these consultations, and those who talk about the place in which a certain situation of present humanity stands from Islam and its system, are all the more frivolous.”

This is an unreserved appeal to remove the opinion of Islam from the arena of reality, and to dismiss the Islamic solutions from the ring of ideological conflict. It is curious, however, that the one who made this appeal was not from the communist camp, nor the movements supposedly antagonistic to Islam, nor from the Dhimmis who hold grudges against Islam and the Muslims, but rather from the same group that demanded and still demands an immediate application of the Islamic Sharia!

This was the appeal of Sayed Qutb, the luminary of Islamic thought (as some Islamists call him) and author of the greatest transitional commentary on the Qur'an, who was the ideological founder of the group known as "The Muslim Brotherhood," which is the mother of all contemporary Islamic movements. The writings in which he recorded, explained and backed up this appeal thus establishing it as a new theory of fiqh, are among the most widely circulated Islamic publications.

Sayed Qutb realised that Islam can only be applied in a society designated for it and in an environment forged by it. That is why, when he decried the paganism of the society in which we now live in his book Guideposts on the Road, he also declared that it is not fit for the application of Islamic laws. He regarded putting forward Islamic theory in this society as mere folly, inconsistent with the realistic spirit of Islam. This society must first convert to Islam and understand what "there is no god but Allah" means. First they must adopt Islam, and only then will the people endeavour to solve the problems inherent in their society. The propagators of Islam have fallen into the trap of trying to put forward its laws in a non-Islamic environment, which has only succeeded in making Islam look foolish. "The propagators of Islam must, therefore," he says, "not respond to this frivolous mockery called "the development of the Islamic jurisprudence" in a society that does not declare its submission to God but rather must expose it for the mockery that it is, rising above it and rejecting it."

Sayed Qutb launched an attack on the advocates of the Islamic dawa, describing them as "sincere and hasty." Such advocates "fancy that presenting the foundations of the Islamic system and legislation will ease for them the way to the dawa (proclamation or call to Islam) and instill in people a love for this religion; however this is a mere fantasy caused by haste and lack of consideration of the nature of this religion and its divine methodology" (from the introduction of his commentary on Sura al-An`am 6).

Sayed Qutb elaborates upon his appeal in his book Islam and Cultural Problems where he says, "The attempt to set Islamic, jurisprudential, legislative judgements to meet the judgements of the non-Islamic society in which we live is not a serious one at all, and is completely lacking in the serious spirit of Islam. It is amusing to try, for instance, to find jurisprudential judgements for the socio-economic situations in America and Russia, while neither acknowledge the sovereignty of Islam in the first place."

He goes on to say this:

“Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali, Ibn Abbaas, Maalik, Abu Haneefa, Ibn Hanbal, al-Shaafee, Abu Yusif, al-Quraafi, al-Shatbi, Ibn Taimia, Ibn Qayyem al-Juzeyyeh, al-Izz Ibn Abdissallam, and all other such Islamic figures had certain things in common when they made legal decisions:

“First: They all lived in an Islamic society that recognised Islam alone as the arbiter of its affairs, even though there were some minor exceptions to this at certain times.

“Second: They practised Islamic doctrine and methodology in their private lives and within the Islamic society they were living in, experiencing problems and looking for solutions to them through Islamic logic.

“Hence they met the two principal conditions for the establishing of Islamic jurisprudence and for developing it in such a way that it would be able to meet the developing conditions. In addition to this, they also fulfilled the conditions necessary for a person to be able to formulate individual judgements in theological matters (idjtihaad). These conditions include knowing Arabic, knowing which Qur'anic verses are abrogated, being familiar with the Hadith and knowing which are reliable and which not.

“Now, however, with all of due respect to the modern scholars, taking into consideration their sincere feeling, noble desire and the effort they exert, they are surely trying to make seeds sprout in the air. If not, where is the Islamic society for which they are making Islamic jurisprudential judgements through which it can solve its problems?

“Any jurisprudential judgement put forward nowadays to meet a problem arising in non-Islamic societies will not be applicable in a Muslim society because this same problem will not exist, to start with, in an Islamic society (when it is founded). Even if the same type of problem presents itself, it will not be exactly the same, and the way in which it is tackled cannot be the same as when the society was not Islamic.”

This is the conclusion the Islamic luminary Sayed Qutb came to in his writings, which solved a lot of problems put forward in the writings of the Islamists on the topic of "transitional jurisprudence":

1. His appeal for removing Islam from the arena was in keeping with the comprehensive understanding of Islam shown by the Islamists. This heritage of laws and legislation recorded in ancient books passed down to us by Muslims from ages past has come from a Muslim society and has arisen through the efforts of this society to meet the real needs of Islamic life. Furthermore, Islamic Sharia did not give rise to this society, but it was rather Islamic society that gave rise to Islamic jurisprudence. Islam, as presented by Islamists, is both religion and state; Qur'an, sword, worship and leading. Above all, it is an integral religion; this integration is made clear by its legislative codes arising from its environment, so that it is impossible to apply these legislations outside the domain of any environment specifically tailored to it. So if such an environment is non-existent, then the appeal for the application of the Sharia loses its most important support.

2. The appeal for removing Islam from the arena will eliminate the contradiction falling upon the adherents of the Islamic movement when they demand the application of the method of Islam in themselves to be established on their land, without having the environment that would help them do that. For, by virtue of this appeal, they became free of the bonds of the Islamic methods inapplicable in our present-day environment, which they call "pagan".

3. Sayed Qutb's appeal offered the logical solution for the inevitable questions that arose as to the strange principles of the Sharia, such as not recommending or nominating oneself for the occupation of offices, inferred from the statement of the Qur'an: "Hold not yourselves purified" (or "Recommend not yourself") (Sura al-Najm 53:32), and from the statement of Muhammad: "By God, I shall not give the charge of this work to someone that asked for it." Muslim scholars kept looking for a solution for the application of the rules and jurisprudential judgements of the Islamic system, but they found themselves at a loss. How are they to elect the men of loosing and binding or the men to be consulted if these cannot nominate themselves?

How can this be carried out in such societies as we live in, where people no longer know one another closely and are not measured by the criteria of competence, honesty and faithfulness? And how are they to elect the leader (Imam)? Will he be elected from the public or will this appointment be confined to the domain of the people of loosing and binding? And if the leader is to choose the latter, pursuant to the principle of not recommending or nominating themselves, how can they, in return, choose the leader? Won't this affect their judgement? Moreover, if they in turn elect the leader, won't he be responsible to them, although he is ultimately the one in charge? And won't this make him choose persons whose allegiance he can count on, and make him give priority to this in his consideration?

Sayed Qutb refused to consider these and other questions pertaining to the methods of the Sharia, since considering them now and searching for answers for them in the books of ancient theologians would be considered an implicit acknowledgement that the present society is Islamic - which he said was not the case. And this would also be tantamount to a belief that one would come up with rules, a system and jurisprudential judgements to apply them to this pagan society with its present elemental make-up, values and morals. This would not only be impractical, but also contradictory to the spirit of Islam.

Finally, I quote the words of Sayed Qutb from his book Under the Wings of the Qur'an:

“Working in the speculative field of Islamic jurisprudence is agreeable work, since it entails no risk. But it is not a work for Islam, neither does it pertain to the method and nature of this religion. It is expedient for those who seek convenience and peace to engage in literature, arts or commerce. But to engage oneself in jurisprudence in such a manner as a work for Islam is, I believe, a waste of time and effort.”

This statement of Sayed Qutb, which he made against contemporary Islamic theologians, was a grenade thrown in their faces that not only ended his life, but his movement, as well. For his Islamic movement no longer possessed the element of persistence, since his appeal to remove Islam and the Sharia from society was an implicit acknowledgement that it is legitimate for man-made laws to operate until the desired society should arise. But Sayed Qutb and his associates did not explain to us how such a society can arise and the way that leads to it.


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When the Islamic revolution started in Iran and established complete Islamic rule in a country that enjoyed all the benefits of revival and progress, such as manpower, ample natural resources with vast quantities of oil at the top of the list, and a civilisation with a history going back thousands of years, people looked to the newly born Islamic revolution as an incisive test of all the contemporary Islamic movements. If it succeeded in establishing the "society of justice, freedom and progress," the other movements would, consequently, acquire a tremendous momentum that would be difficult to stop in any country throughout the Islamic world suffering from backwardness and sinking under the burdens of repressive regimes, and yearning for those voices calling for Islamic rule and application of the Sharia. The decisive test was there in that revolution, which took full control of an Islamic country of great consequence, an ancient history, and a future rich in encouraging potentials.

Nonetheless, the signs of failure manifested repeatedly following this Islamic revolution, year after year, were not echoed at all among the advocates of Islamic rule in the rest of the Arabic and Islamic countries. These have not been moved by the aftermath of the Islamic revolution from the time the religious leaders tightened their grip on the country till now. They however continued repeating their claim that Islamic rule does not mean leaving the reins in the hands of the religious leaders. These advocates did not even condemn the operations this government carried out to liquidate the opposition parties one after another, those hurried fake trials, in which Khalqaani issued sentences of execution as fast as a school teacher reads the results of the examinations to his pupils. Nor did they comment on the imposing of rigorous curricula on the university and school education systems. They completely ignored the spirit of depression and gloominess that prevailed over the daily lives of the people and were delineated on the expressions of their faces.

After a few years another experiment was carried out in Sudan, though under totally different circumstances. The Sharia was applied, this time at the behest of a totalitarian ruler, who wove in and out of the different systems and attitudes that ranged from the leftist to the right-wing Islamic ones. The advocates of the application of the Sharia expressed great jubilation at Numeiri's experiment in spite of the striking aspects of injustice, and demanded that their opponents give the man a chance. They completely ignored the famine, the sentences of execution, the continual bleeding of the country's wealth, and the way rulers stole the entire nation's finances. They put this on one pan of the scales and put the nominal application of the huduud (Islamic punishment) of stealing, drinking alcohol and adultery on the other. Thus the second pan went down while the pan of onerous acts of injustice went up.

At the time of this writing, these have been the last in a long series of attempts to apply the Islamic Sharia, including the attempt of Saudi Arabia and later that of Pakistan, not to mention the largely insignificant attempts in Indonesia and Libya. In all these the result was the same: governmental regimes drifting away from freedom, equality and all the values that religions had sought to establish, and which philosophers and reformers from the beginning of time had called for. Notwithstanding, the advocates of the application of the Sharia in our country paid no attention whatsoever to the utter fiascos of these previous attempts, raising their voices all the more, while the attempt to apply the Sharia in Sudan turned into a world-wide scandal.

What does this utter and complete apathy to reality, recent history, and the tangible examples and models indicate? And does any society approve of leaving the reins of its affairs in the hands of groups who close their eyes to things going on around them and neither try to learn from the lessons in front of them nor retrace their steps and rethink their goals in the light of recent evidence?

The stock answer by the adherents of these groups for all those who point out the failure of the application of the Sharia here or there is: "Islam is not so. The mistake of Numeiri or any other is the mistake of an individual; it is not the mistake of Islam in itself." There is indeed truth in this answer; however, it is used to justify an unjustifiable situation. It involves serious distortions because any attempt applied in another society will be in turn "just another application"! I wonder, have our Islamic groups that call for the application of the Sharia exerted any effort to ensure categorically an application free of all these defects?

Some would perhaps say that these have veered away from the essence of Islam, to which we would reply: Have we already forgotten that both of them assured the world, and still do, that their attempts are the true expression of the essence of Islam, and that the religious leaders and information officials in their countries furnish the most detailed proofs to back up such a claim? What assures us that this will not be repeated in our own attempt? On what basis do we hope, out of all the others, to be able to avoid the deviations of application and achieve the core and true identity of Islam?

Complete indifference to history and closing one's eyes to the lessons offered by actual fact is the characteristic that marks Islamic movements throughout Islamic history. They depict a portrait of Islamic history taken from religious texts only. If we depend on these texts when we talk about social justice, for example, we will have many Qur'anic verses and traditions of the prophet that call for this equality, but never go beyond that. Such texts are supposed to prove the main issue, namely that Islam calls for social justice and that it is realised in Islam better than in any other system. But, is quoting texts by itself a sufficient proof of this issue?

The advocates of the application of the Sharia make a terrible mistake when they concentrate their efforts on Islam as it is in the Qur'an and the Sunna, ignoring Islam as it is embodied in history. They do that when they are content with "Islam the texts" and ignore "Islam the reality". This mistake becomes all the more great when we realise that the pivot around which their appeal rotates is the problems of government, politics and the application of the Sharia, which are all of a practical nature. In dealing with these problems, one is not to be content to refer to quotations, but should continually couple this with the utilisation of actual experience as a guide. For in this case we are not confronting a philosophical or a theoretical, logical problem, but one that concerns the heart of practical life of man. Hence it is unforgivable to ignore all the events and attempts to attain Islamic rule, both in earlier history and in recent times.

A colloquium was held in 1986 in Cairo on "Islam versus Secularism" in which Professor Fuad Zakaria gave a speech. Here I quote a part of what he said:

“Some of the advocates of the application of the Sharia repeat catch-phrases of an immense emotional [impact] on the masses. These catch-phrases pass without being intercepted and discussed by anyone. They pass from mouth to mouth keeping their jelly-like contents until they spread out among the public as if they were final, established facts, though they prove vague and confused in the light of mental analysis. It will be enough to mention two of these catch-phrases: "theocracy versus human rule," and “the efficacy of the judgements of the Sharia for every time and place”.

As for the first catch-phrase, I admit I'm unable to understand the meaning of "theocracy," namely the falling back in every situation upon the divine law, or "sovereignty" or any similar expressions. Referring to the divine Scriptures in the matter of government does not prevent the intervention of the human element in selecting and interpreting the fitting texts in such a way that goes along with the interests of the ruler, as it occurred during most of the earlier and present history. We are entitled to talk about theocracy at the times of the prophets only. But throughout subsequent history, when there were no prophets or apostles, the task of governing became, and will always remain, human, even if the judgements we fall back upon are divine. The most sublime of constitutional principles do not keep a tyrannical ruler from oppressing his subjects and spreading terror and injustice amongst them. In a like manner, the most elevated, heavenly legislations do not, and never did, keep despotic rulers from interpreting them as they liked. The simple lesson we extract from this is that the application of the judgements of the Sharia is not in itself a guarantee for a government any better than these regimes that have haunted and oppressed us throughout the history. The thing that is important, essential and substantial is the guarantees that prevent a ruler from deviation. The conception of "guarantees" is a purely human one, which developed through history and was subject to the method of trial and error. Mankind was to cultivate and enhance its perfection after long and bitter experiences, many of which failed and only a few relatively succeeded. Yet people are still learning and benefiting from each experience.

The meaning of the second catch-phrase, namely "the efficacy of the judgements of the Sharia for every time and place," has been confused in people's minds. I have a strong doubt that there is a single direct religious text carrying the meaning that those who voiced it understood! And I believe that mulling over this phrase with a bit of rational and deep thought will uncover two essential contradictions:

The first refers to the fact that man is a changeable being, hence the judgements regulating his life have to be changeable. This necessitates that the regulations, to which he is to be subject, must be in turn changeable. Simple and direct minds do not accept that there is something within the human domain that is fit for every time and place, as long as man himself has essentially changed with the passage of time, from the stone-age until the rocket-age. Likewise substantial changes have occurred in the domain of place — a shift from the primitive tropical environment of a peninsula to a very intricate, urban and industrial one.

As for the second contradiction, it is the restriction of man and the sentence passed on him for the everlasting state of inertia or apathy entailed by their statement. God, they say, set at a certain time laws by which men are to live forever and ever. What he can do, at best, is to renew the interpretation of one passage or the exposition of another. The outlines that govern the subsequent course of humanity are, however, already set and fixed. The contradiction here is found in the fact that the holders of this reason assert, at the same time, that God appointed man as his successor on the earth, and honoured him above all beings. Is the concept of succession, then, consistent with fixing the course of the human race beforehand? Does it go along setting rules, which man cannot violate however he develops or changes? Is it possible that a father mindful of the welfare of his children's mental and psychological growth should resort to setting fixed rules and prescribed commands, from which they are not supposed to veer their whole life long? Would it not rather be consistent with his consideration of them to leave them a wide margin within which they can be free to act?

In the human sphere there is nothing fixed or final. Many have admitted this fact, even implicitly, when they distinguished between the general judgements of the Sharia and their applications, and affirmed that the general judgement tolerates interpretations that require adaptation by individual effort (idjtihaad) according to the demands of the age. Even though this was a proper attitude, yet we need to be very careful of the ensuing results. It is a fact that the more complicated an age is, (which means newer, with more advanced practical, technological, social and economical conditions) the more important the role of idjtihaad becomes and the less the general principle grows, so that the greatest part of the effort exerted for the administration of our affairs becomes human. Then we will have to depend on our intellects and understanding in most of the affairs of our lives. And the more distant it is from the time of revelation, the more we are in need of human idjtihaad. There will be always a conflict, therefore, between the detailed nature of the Islamic texts and the extent of their inclusiveness. The more detailed it is, the more difficult it will be to apply it under the ever-changing circumstances of human life. If we resolve this conflict by adopting the most general principles of the Sharia, this will require filling in the details from sources other than the Sharia, i.e. the demands of the age, the requirements of society at a certain era, trial and error of man, and the experience he can get from other societies and nations. If you bear in mind the changeability of human conditions you will understand that the texts ought to have been less inclusive and more confined to generalities. Insisting on the detailed application of the texts means that you ignore the fact of changeability.

The religious texts will, therefore, remain in need of mankind in order to be an accomplished fact and be applied in a tangible human field. Despite the non-existence of a priesthood in Islam, and the denial of an organised clerical body that serves as a legal "mediator" between the word of God and the acts of man, still the interpretation of the religious text by man is inevitable, if this text is to become a reality. Thus it seems necessary to have some sort of human "mediation" between the text and reality. In the process of mediation, all kinds of mistakes and prejudices inherent in human nature manifest themselves. For although the text is holy and divine, yet he who applies and interprets it is a man subject to all aspects of human weakness. The most dangerous part is that the man who undertakes this application and interpretation invests himself, more or less, with a portion of holiness with which the religious texts are characterised. Further he offers his commands or fatwas (legal opinions) as an expression of the opinion of religion itself, not as his own understanding of religion, and describes his opponents as enemies of religion, not as enemies of his own way of interpreting it.

Government is a strictly human experiment that may succeed or fail. When we acknowledge this principle from the very beginning, the possibility to correct this attempt will always be there. But the government that rests on religious authority, which is always human government cloaking itself with a supermundane authority, does not correct its mistakes easily, and may invest itself with a sort of inerrancy that prevents it originally from admitting any mistake.

The previous pages and the questions I set down in them about Islamic Sharia were not propounded by the Christian debater alone, but also by Muslim scholars. Sayed Qutb and al-Mauduudi head the list, along with a number of professors of Islamic history, jurisprudence, and the Sharia, not to mention the secular movement headed by Dr. Fuad Zakaria, with whose words I concluded my search.


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