Islam & Constitutional Rights

Commonwealth Club Speech in San Francisco, CA.

Iftekhar Hai, Director of Interfaith Relations, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance gave a talk comparing Islam and U.S. Constitutional rights on November 20, 2002 at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

He started by reciting the Preamble and comparing it to the verses in the Quran.  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and free speech for all the people and for all religions. The Constitution also says, “Congress shall not pass any law respecting the establishment of any religion, nor prohibiting the exercise of any religion.”  These few words are the mind set for all of us as Americans.

The Quran, the Muslim Holy Book is the mind-set for 1.2 billion people in the world and around six to seven million American Muslims.  The Quran contains verses that are basic and fundamental, they are the foundation of this Book 3:7.  Just like our Constitution is guidance for all Americans, the Quran is guidance for all humanity in 2:2, 87:3.  Further more this message is simplified and clarified 43:2,44:2 and made easy to understand and remember as in 44:58,54:17,54:21.  Here is word by word comparison of the Preamble with the Quran.

People:  is defined in 49:13 “Oh people we have created you from a single soul, male and female (Adam & Eve) and have made you into nations and tribes. The origin of all the people was also described Prophet’s last sermon, “All humankind are from Adam and Eve.  Hence in this context all humanity is part of one family says the Quran. There should be no distinction on racial and ethnic lines.

More Perfect Society:  In order to have a more perfect global society backed with justice, the Quran gives broad guidelines of an ideal judge, ideal witnesses and an ideal jury, which is explained below:   

An Ideal Judge:  “Never let hatred of others lead you to deviate from justice.  Be just for this is closest to righteousness.” 5:8. An ideal judge must be a sincere witness to truth and equity and not have hatred and dislike for anyone.

An Ideal Witness: “Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourself, against your parents and against your children, against people who are rich or poor, because God is the best of all Protectors.  Do not follow your inclinations or your desires, lest you should deviate from justice 4:135.  An Ideal witness must not be a false witness. He should overlook family ties and national interests when testifying to the truth.

Ideal People for the Jury:  “It is not righteousness, that you turn your attention/concentration towards the East or towards the West (supporter of socialism, capitalism, or any other “ism” etc.) But it is righteousness, to believe in God, The Last Day, The Angels, The Book (Quran) and the (all) Messengers.  It is righteousness, to spend out of your income, for the love of God, for the relatives, for the orphans, for the needy, for the traveler, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves.  To be steadfast in prayers, practice regular charity and to fulfill the contracts that you have made.  It is righteousness to be firm and patient in pain, suffering or adversity, and throughout all periods of panic – such are the people of truth, the God conscious (God fearing).” Quran 2:177.  These are some of the characteristics of an ideal jury. 

Domestic Tranquility and Common Defense:  Iftekhar Hai, said that Quran teaches a Muslim to be loyal to one’s country of residence and for American Muslim to protect and guard the Constitutional Rights of all its citizens.  This way American Muslims add to domestic tranquility and been a part of common defense. 

Liberty and Freedom of Religion:  Iftekhar Hai said that freedom of religion is mandated in the Quran that says in 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion, and in 109:6, “To you be your ways and to me mine.”  The Quran goes further in acknowledging the rewards for people of other faiths as is evidenced in 2:62, “Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish Scriptures, the Christians (who follow the teachings of the Gospels) and the Sabians (followers of John the Baptist or Zoroastrians), any (anyone living in any part of the world) who believe in God, the Last Day and work righteousness, shall have their reward from their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” 2:62, 2:112, (repeated numerous times throughout the Quran).  The Quran goes much further in acknowledging the diversity of the human race as in 5:48 Free Speech and Freedom of Press:  Iftekhar Hai said, the concept of shura and ijtehad in Islamic teaching has been the corner stone policy when Islam was at its height.  This is nothing new to the Muslim community.  It perfectly fits in with American values of free speech and freedom of press.

Status of women in Islam:  In reply to a question on the status of women, Iftekhar Hai said, “Culture should not be mistaken for Islamic rules and regulations.  The veil is more common in a traditional society whereas in Islamic countries of South East Asia it is not.  Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Turkey have elected women as Prime Ministers/President whereas the Arab society is far from giving any significant role to women.  The Government. Iran has more women parliamentarians than any other Muslim country.  There is a great deal of diversity in the Islamic world, which the Western media never shows.  The media only reinforces negative images of Muslim men and women, a perfect media conspiracy because it leads to biased opinions influencing policy planning against the Muslim world. 

Iftekhar Hai ended his talk by saying that American Muslims see Islam in America upholding the Constitutional Rights of every citizen and dismantling the theory of Samuel Huntington’s War of Civilizations between the West and Islam. 

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