The Islamic Post Blog

Commentary: Muslim and British Jurists Promote State Tolerance, Mutual Respect by Khalida

By Khadir A. Ghani, Islamic Post Staff Writer

Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, Nicholas Phillips, addressed the East London Muslim Centre (ELMC) last month, regarding Islamic law, termed sharia, as practiced on the island.
“In February this year, I chaired a lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Royal Courts of Justice on the topic of Civil and Religious Law in England,” said the Lord Chief Justice, the highest legal authority in Britain. (The Archbishop of Canterbury, in turn, is the highest religious authority in Britain.) “It was, I believe, not clearly understood by all, and certainly not by sections of the media which represented the Archbishop as suggesting the possibility that Muslims in this country might be governed by their own system of Sharia law(…)
“A point that the Archbishop was making was that it was possible for individuals voluntarily to conduct their lives in accordance with Sharia principles without this being in conflict with the rights guaranteed by our law.”
Nicholas Phillips has been condemned from many Islamophobic quarters, as was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, before him,
Be that as it may, the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales are of greater significance to the Muslim, and also Christian, community at large, as his words spell out a message of tolerance; a tolerance which is equally upheld in the legal realm of Islam.
Muslim jurists say the same.
The scholars of Islamic law have similar messages to the two British officials regarding non-Muslims living in an Islamic realm.
Islam is the founder of democracy; its legal system instituted laws of religious tolerance from the outset, in the 7th century C.E. Europe began to do so only as far back as 1951 when the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteed religious freedom.
Lord Chief Justice Phillips states, “In 2006 the Equality Act extended the prohibition against discrimination on the ground of religion or belief to cover other areas such as the provision of goods, facilities and services, the letting of premises and the provision of education.(…)
“British law has, comparatively recently, reached a stage of development in which a high premium is placed not merely on liberty, but on equality of all who live in this ‘country. That law is secular. It does not attempt to enforce the standards of behaviour that the Christian religion or any other religion expects. It is perhaps founded on one ethical principle that the Christian religion shares with most, if not all, other religions and that is that one should love one’s neighbour.”
Law of the Land.
For the majority of his ELMC lecture “Equality Before the Law,” Lord Chief Justice Phillips dealt with the origins of British law in what could be taken as a detailed plea for the understanding and respect of the law of the land.
Similarly, Abul Hasan al Quduri in his work Al Mukhtasar al Quduri, the most respected book of Islamic jurisprudence, laid down the principles of law derived from Holy Qur’an and the practice of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the 9th century C.E. In regards to non-Muslims living in a Muslim state, tolerance is required by Muslims; on the other hand, respect by non-Muslims for the rule of law is also requested. Under the category “Good character and respect for fundamental rights,”  al Quduri states, “A Muslim is supposed to deal with people kindly and justly, unless they are open enemies to Islam and/or Muslims. Allah does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes.” [Holy Quran, 60: 8] (…) Hence, traits such as truthfulness, justice, kindness, and honesty should be part of the Muslim’s character whether he is dealing with Muslims or non-Muslims. (…)
“Generally, when one has entered their [non-Muslim] lands under a peaceful agreement, he is expected to abide by common standards of decency as long as it does not violate any injuctions of Islam [usury is an example of a such a violation]. (…)
“A Muslim is supposed to respect the human rights, not only of Muslims, but even of non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state. According to a tradition of the Holy Last Messenger, peace be upon him, severe warning is reported for violating the property or lives of non-Muslim residents,” up until the violator [eventually] being condemned to Hellfire.
The Chief Justice concluded his speech with a request for the Muslims to become part of the British legal system and assist in assuring fair treatment of all people in the U.K.
His request hearkens a legal point made by El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani in his discourse on Sura Yusuf, which relates the story of the Holy Messenger Joseph, peace be upon him, in the Holy Quran. Nabi Yusuf, peace be upon him, became the Treasurer and Minister of Agriculture in Egypt, under the realm of a non-Muslim pharoah named Raiyaan, who had not caused problems for the believers living in his country. “Muslims and non-Muslims should join hands with the government and run the country if the government is benevolent to Muslims and not oppressive. There are clear injunctions regarding this,” said El Sheikh Gilani.
Contrary to popular opinion, and distorted extremism on both sides, there is no such thing as an uprising in Islam against the non-Muslim state in which Muslims are living; just as it would be improper for non-Muslims living in a Muslim land to rebel against the rule of law there. Mutual respect is what is encouraged. If the government is one tolerant to all faiths, such a wrong stance is against human decency and religious principles of gratitude.
Therefore, Muslims are expected to follow the Holy Qur’an in all matters, and stay away from those who, in their denial of the scholars of Islamic law and the principals of international secular law as well, have likened themselves to anarchists.


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