Can you use Western Practices in Shariah?

Can you use Western Practices in Shariah?


Assamalaikum, I hope you’re doing well. Query: When people are going about establishing shariah or what shariah is, to what extent, if any, do you think “western” practices can be adapted or applied? I mean, so people tell me voting is haraam because it contributes to democracy (which is a non-believers’ practice, they say) but applying laws from the 7th century that developed in a particular culture ad verbatim to today seems really problematic. But hey, I’m just a kid, what do I know?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

Alhamdulilah, I am doing well, thank you so much for asking. Insha Allah, I hope you and your family are in the best of health and Iman.

As far as your question, I think the major, fundamental issue is how people perceive of Shariah.

Whether people are opponents or supporters of Shariah, what has always astounded me is that they both have the same conception of how Shariah “works.”

They both think of Shariah as this pre-existing system, this huge book of laws, in which all you have to do is to bring it out, open it, and boom! You have Shariah Law.

The reality is far different, and this is the fundamental issue that I constantly refer back to, because  when people claim to be afraid of Shariah, or who talk about implementing Shariah, neither the fear nor the implementation are based on a firm understanding of what Shariah is.

Now, I have an entire lecture dedicated towards Shariah. I explain what it is, how it works, and a short history of what it is, which you can watch here.

The “cliff notes” version of what Shariah is, it is a Common Law system, and the fastest way I can describe it to you is this: Do you know how the American Legal System works? If so, they’re eerily similar.

So, it is from that vantage point that I question the need to try and talk about what are “Western practices,” and you brought up a very interesting point, one that talks about voting being haram.

In The Qur’an, there is an ayah that is the basis for “Shura” or consultation. It is the following:

“and whose rule [in all matters of common concern] is consultation among themselves;” [42:38] Muhammad Asad

It is this ayah that connects to the larger picture of what a Muslim must do in order to attain and prove their faith, and thus from The Qur’an itself, we have an injunction towards what we would, today, refer to as “democracy.”

Furthermore, (and please, I beg of you all to not make this sectarian, we’re talking history here) when Abu Bakr, Uthman, and Ali were made the Caliphs, they were selected through the process of Shura, which is, voting.

Furthermore, Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious center of Islamic Learning, had elected its leader, Sheikh Al-Azhar, who is the highest authority in Sunni Islam, until the government of Nasser took over the institution and attempted to stifle it.

However, those are just “fun facts” that cast serious doubt over the validity of a position that rules voting to being “haram,” because Islamic history and practice denies that, and this is basic fact not “opinion.”

The issue is that the second part of your question underlines the problem that I opened with, precisely that people think that Shariah is a collection of laws from the 7th century, when it most certainly is not. The Shariah is a Common Law structure, therefore, it is constantly in flux, and it is constantly adapting towards meeting new challenges, like any Common Law system.

So, if we are to “implement Shariah” we are not simply taking the same ordinances set about from the time of The Prophet, because to do so, would go against The Prophet’s Sunnah, in particular, a very strong Hadith of The Prophet, found in Abu Dawud:

The Prophet appointed Mu’adh ibn Jabal as judge to Yemen. It has been reported that on the eve of his departure, the Prophet asked ibn Jabal: “According to what shalt thou judge?”

He replied: “According to the Book of God.”

“And if thou findest naught therein?”

“Then I will exert myself to form my own judgment…”

And thereupon the Prophet said: “Praise be to God Who has guided the messenger of His Prophet to that which pleases His Prophet.”

So, even within the very Sunnah that people claim to be “implementing” they are being selective in howthey are to do this. Therefore, your question can only be problematic if Shariah is indeed as you say it is, but it isn’t, and it isn’t the way that those who think they want it is, and it’s not the way that people who are afraid of it is, Shariah is far different and that is what I hope and pray people can realize in the future, insha Allah.

So, don’t worry if you’re a “kid” or whatever, and if you’re younger than me (I’m 25) you’re way ahead of the curve, so don’t even worry about a thing, man, because I was (and still am) pretty dumb. Your question was eloquent and I really enjoyed it, especially since it is this subject that I have focused my studies on, and it is within that world which the vast majority of my research pours into.

So, thank you for your question, I truly appreciated it.

I hope this answered your question, and I hope that you check out my lecture, as I feel like it could answer many related questions. Again, if not, please do not hesitate to ask me more questions, whether you, or anyone else, insha Allah.

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