Letter from John Couts, a response from Bashir Mann
21st July 2006
In response to John Couts and others (Letters 19 & 20 July) may I begin by saying that, yes, we Muslims believe that the Quran is the unalterable word of Allah and the Sharia the immutable Divine code governing every aspect of the Muslim life. History bears witness, though. that during its ascendancy, from the middle of the seventh century to the end of the seventeenth, Islam and its Sharia not only successfully co-existed but also very amicably interacted with other faiths and philosophies to the benefit of all concerned. This success was due to the vast knowledge and the proper and wide understanding of the Quran and the Sharia of the Muslim scholars and philosophers of that age.
After the demise of the Muslim ascendancy and their subjugation by non-Muslims, they, in their gloom and doom, began to neglect the study or update the vast stores of knowledge their ancestors had left for them. This brought about the ignorance, the intolerance, the extremism and the acute narrow mindedness that is prevalent in the present Muslim Society.
The Sharia, on the surface, does look rigid and �toxic�. However, its implementation with its proper knowledge, understanding and interpretation takes away all that rigidity and toxicity. For example, once a woman came to the Prophet and told him that she had committed adultery and she wanted to be punished for that. The prophet hurriedly moved away from her, as he had not heard her. The next day the women came back and repeated the same words. The prophet again walked away from her. She came on the third day and the Prophet then told her to go away and come back after the birth to her child. She came back nine months later with her child but the Prophet said come back when you have finished suckling the child. She returned after two years and this time she was dealt with according to the Sharia though the Prophet had given her every chance to escape the punishment because there was no other evidence except her own admission, which she could have retracted any time. Consider this with the decision of the ignorant and intolerant �Muslim Judges� of Nigeria who convicted a woman of adultery without any evidence and against her explicit not guilty pleas.
During the reign of Caliph Omar (r. 634-644), a servant of a certain rich man was brought before the Caliph accused of stealing. During the prosecution, evidence was put before the court that his master often kept the servant hungry. On that, the Caliph freed the slave and sentenced his master to pay a heavy sum to the servant as damages. Now that was the true and just implementation of the Sharia law. So it is not the Quran or the Sharia that are incompatible with the modern times, it is the lack of knowledge, the lack of understanding and compassion on the part of the Muslim Jurists of today that is the problem.
The Muslims will again rise above this despondency. Islam is not out of date. Extremism or terrorism is unequivocally anti Islam, anti Quran and anti Sharia. The AlQaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other such extreme organisations or a reaction to their helplessness and weakness in this world where interests of the powerful rule supreme and the weak has no security and no say even in his own affairs. This turn around of the Muslims can be quicker if the Putins, the Dubyas and the Yo Blairs of this world leave them alone, give them a chance to sort out their own affairs and put their house in order.