Islamic Law Essay, Research Paper
The religion and the practices of Islam have often been seen in a negative light in the Western world. This can be attributed to the effects that Islamic fundamentalists have had on society through their attacks on the Western world. For this reason many Westerners have developed an Islamophobia . A direct result of this Islamophobia is a negative perception of Islamic Law. Many Westerners feel that Islamic Law is very unjust, however in reality this is not the case. Islamic Laws may be strict relative to Western society, but their main purpose is to give people a guideline of how to live their lives in a clean fashion (Nasr, 1997). The punishments that people receive for violating Islamic Law are believed to be very brutal by Western Society; but this is not necessarily the case. Most Muslims believe that these punishments are just and also that these punishments are minor compared to the ultimate punishment that will be delivered by the hand of God on the Day Of Judgement. Islamic Law also has a positive impact on society by helping out others through required charitable donations called Zakat. For these reasons Islamic Law should not be perceived as unjust by Western Society.
Islamic Law extends into every aspect on life from how to use water to banking. It is based on the Muslim Holy Book, the Koran. The Koran is the primary source for Islamic Law, as it laid a solid foundation upon which Muslim scholars devised guidelines (Seestani, 1994). Muslims believe that the Koran contains the words of Allah. So, whatever is written in the Koran is considered to be sacred and everything in it is obeyed. But the Koran was not written in detail. The Koran gave people a guideline as to how they should live their lives but not the specifics on how they should do this. For example, the Koran says that people must pray but it did not say how to pray. In order to clear up any confusion caused by the generalization of the Koran, people began to use Hadith (the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad) to make Islamic Law more specific. Another source of Islamic Law is the Ijitihad, which is reasonable deduction. The Ijitihad allows Islamic Law to be progressive and makes it applicable in all times and places (Surayya, 2000). For example, the Koran forbids the consumption of alcohol but it never forbid the use of drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The Ijitihad says that the reason that alcohol is forbidden is because it has a negative effect on the human mind and senses, and since heroin and cocaine have the same effect they are also forbidden (Hathout, 1998).
Islamic Law is considered to be one of the strictest codes of law to have ever been written. Islamic Law touches almost every aspect of life. Islamic Law dictates how to conduct business transactions, marriage, and how to slaughter animals (Mithani, 1994). But there is a reason behind the strictness of this code of law. The reason Islamic Law is so strict is because it is a guideline of how people should live their lives in a manner which is not disrespectful, harmful, or immoral. It tells people what is right and what is wrong and it also has laws in place so that people do not get themselves into bad situations (Crane, 1999). For example, the consumption of alcohol is against Islamic Law because it has a negative effect on the mind. It also is banned because if you consume too much alcohol and become drunk you lose control of your actions and because of this you can perform immoral deeds that you normally would not have performed if you were sober. Due to the fact that Islamic Laws were not made in vain and have good reasoning behind them, it shows that these laws are just even though they may seem a bit strict (Tahir-ul-Qadri, 1999).
Most people who are not part of the Muslim religion perceive that the medieval-style punishments received by offenders of Islamic Law to be cruel and barbaric. This perception of the punishments given to offenders of Islamic Law can be credited to the constant news reports about people in countries such as Nigeria and Afghanistan being caned, stoned, or even having their hands amputated for committing crimes such as theft or consuming alcohol (Nizami, 1999). In countries such as these, Islamic Law is being taken to an extreme. When this occurs, the true purpose of Islamic Law, which is to serve as a guideline for people to live their lives in a moral fashion, is lost in the desire to punish people for the littlest things. For example, in August 2000, two Nigerian men received 20 strokes of the lash each for carrying Muslim female passengers on their motorcycle taxi (BBC News, 2000). In this instance Islamic Law was taken to an extreme and is not serving its original purpose. But nevertheless, in countries where Islamic Law is not taken to an extreme, punishments such as caning and amputation still stand. These punishments act as deterrents to discourage people from breaking the law. Since most people who follow Islamic Law are God-fearing people they feel that these punishments are just and are minor compared to the ultimate punishment of being sent to hell by Allah on the Day of Judgement. Islam explains that death is not the harshest punishment for your actions because these punishments are not harsh.
Islamic Law benefits society by placing strict rules on people so that they do not harm themselves or society. It also benefits society by requiring that their followers donate a percentage of their wealth to charity or other worthy causes. It is suggested that people should set aside 2.5% of their income to donate to charities or people that are poor. These obligatory Zakat donations occur year round and help out people less fortunate in society. Islamic Law does have a compassionate aspect to it as well as a concern for those less fortunate, an attribute which is normally not depicted by Western society (Chaudhry, 1989).
It is apparent that the negative feelings towards Islamic Law by Western society are due to the Islamophobia associated with anything to do with the Islamic religion. The reasoning behind the laws and the punishments of Islamic Law are rational and collectively believed to be just by the Muslim community at large. In this light Islamic Law should be considered just by the Western world instead of the negative manner as it is currently viewed as.
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