What exactly is Sharia? Ask a believer and you will be told that it is “God’s” law. Now, what makes this interesting is that if you attempt to drill down into the details, you make the fascinating discovery that there is no actual agreement on it. Modernists, traditionalists and fundamentalists all hold different views, as do adherents to different schools of Islamic thought and scholarship. Even when its the same school, if you look across different countries and cultures you find varying interpretations.
Apparently God can’t quite make up his mind.
A long term goal for many Muslims is to enforce Sharia, but without being able to nail it, you end up with a specific interpretation being the goal for those who pursue this.
Anyway, why am I babbling on about all this? Well, because of the latest news out from Iran. Here are the details …
In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, Iran is ready for the first time to blind a man with acid, after he was found guilty of doing the same to a woman who refused to marry him.
Majid Movahedi, 30, is scheduled to be rendered unconscious in Tehran’s judiciary hospital at noon on Saturday while Ameneh Bahrami, his victim, drops acid in both his eyes, her lawyer said.
Bahrami who had asked for an eye for an eye retribution in the court, was disfigured and blinded by Movahedi in 2004 when he threw a jar of acid in her face while she was returning home from work. “He was holding a red container in his hand. He looked into my eyes for a second and threw the contents of the red container into my face,” she told the court in 2008.
According to Iranian media, Bahrami’s lawyer, Ali Sarafi, has said: “A very good sentence has been given and an appropriate method has been adopted so that the convict will be blinded by few drops of acids in eyes after he is rendered unconscious.”
You can read the full story here.
So, is the observation that Islam is wicked and evil, and here is another example to make that case? Er no, that is not the reason to condemn Sharia. The first real problem with Sharia is its diversity, there is no true understanding or consistency as to what Sharia actually is; so any Islamic faction can more or less make up anything, and then impose it as “God’s” will. The second problem is that once one specific faction gains traction, it cannot be challenged or even refined. Individuals can (and do) challenge laws imposed by democracies, using evidence to refine and improve what works, and discard what has been proven to be a bad idea. However, in a culture where it is “God’s” law, it becomes in effect a theocratic dictatorship. Those who dare to question anything are told it is not the law of men, but rather the law of God, and so by opposing it, you are opposing God.
Where does it all come from? Sharia itself is derived from two primary sources. The first consists of precepts set forth in the Qur’an, the other is derived from the example set by Muhammad. Both introduce huge ethical issues.
The Qur’an is claimed to be the revelation of God give via an angel over a 23 year period, so there is no scope to challenge it in any way. The most obvious observation is that the claim is complete nonsense, it was not scripted by a supernatural entity, there is not one single jot of evidence to support that claim, so it quite clearly came from the minds of men of that time. As a result, Islamic believers are stuck with 8th century ethics and cannot move beyond that position, any attempt to do so would be a direct challenge to their imaginary God. Advocating anti-gay beliefs, and a system of thought that identifies half the human population as inferior ethically dooms such a system from the start, and yet because it is a belief driven system, it prevails and thrives within many minds.
If we also consider that the other source for Sharia, the life of Muhammad, then you need to consider the stark reality that he was human flesh and blood, just like anybody else, there is nothing special or supernatural about him – yes of course he has a special authority in the minds of believers, but there is no evidence to support such claims. His life has as much authority as your’s, the only difference is that you don’t have as many people believing that you do.
Humanity is quite clearly evolving and our ethics has not been an exception to this process. We no longer accept slavery, most would quite rightly condemn it as a truly abhorrent piece of human history. Yet, the major juristic schools of Islam have traditionally accepted the institution. A similar pattern repeats across a broad range of topics, including the rights of woman, gay rights, freedom of speech.
Sharia, needs to be condemned, not simply because some variations of it are truly outrageous, but because it is by its very nature an invariable theistic immoral dictatorship that is not open to being challenged and lumbers its adherents with a truly primitive set of basic ethics that nobody is permitted to refine and improve.