Travesty of Justice - Sudanese Caricature of the Islamic Law
Posted Nov 30, 2007

Travesty of Justice - Sudanese Caricature of the Islamic Law

Mirza A. Beg

Sadly a majority of people practice double standards. They tend to judge others more harshly, but find excuses for their own failings. Collectively, other races, countries and religions are judged harshly, while we turn a blind eye to whatever we construe as our own.

I suffer from a reverse malady. I am sad at injustice to anyone anywhere, but it offends much more when it is done in the name of my country, society or religion. That is why abjuring popular sentiments, I am more critical of injustices done in the name of Islam, the United States and India.

When others condemn, some times genuinely, and some times maliciously, the knee-jerk reaction is to criticize the critic that they are equally bad or worse. I hear this often, when I write about the immoral war in Iraq, based on lies; the Pogrom by the state government of Gujarat in India or the horrible things that the Talibanist mentality has done in the name of Islam.

Recently, a woman in Saudi Arabia was gang-raped. She was seen in a car with a person not of her family. She was also found guilty along with the rapists and recommended punishment under the Saudi Law. That is bad enough, but to call it Islamic is travesty of truth and reason.

In Sudan, a British teacher was arrested for the “sin” of helping her class of seven year olds to name a cuddly teddy bear, Muhammad. Yesterday, after a court trial, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail, and it is reported that a crowd was clamoring for a death sentence. In a closed dictatorial country a crowd does not gather, it is allowed or urged to gather.

The problem springs from a misunderstanding of cultural norms. In the West people often name their pets after the people they love, including their parents, friends, and even prophets. In the East people give their pets loving precious names, but not the names of people they love and respect. It is considered an insult, akin to calling one’s best friend or a prophet a dog or a cat.

All Muslims consider Islam to be a just and humane religion. The most popular stories that children grow up with are about the kindness, humanity and mercy of the Prophet.

One of the most popular stories is that the Prophet was reviled and cursed by many Meccans, just after his call to Islam. There was a woman who routinely threw garbage on him, when he passed through her street. For a couple of days she did not. He inquired and learned that she had been sick. His reaction was to go to her house to console her.

A well recorded fact of history is that after conquering Mecca he forgave all, including some who had said and done vile things, including a woman, Hinda, who desecrated the corpse of the Prophet’s uncle. There are many other such stories and recorded historical events.

An average person may be forgiven for being impetuous, emotional and blinded by the love for the Prophet, but the Sudanese judge and the government ought to know better. This is complete ignorance and disregard of the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence. It is an insult to Islam, humanity and justice.

All Islamic scholars would agree that the Islamic laws are based on four principles, in the following order of importance, with a strong caveat that the act is punishable based on intent, and when in doubt mercy over-rides the blind word of the law.

1. The edicts of Quran.

2. Not finding in Quran, the actions or sayings of the Prophet, compiled as sets of Hadeeth by a few scholars about 150 years after his passing.

3. Qiyas – analogy from similar rulings emanating from the first two.

4. Ijma – the consensus of the scholars.

In view of the above, as reported, the British teacher was in Sudan serving the populace. 1-Though the Quran condemns harming or insulting the Prophet, it does not recommend a temporal punishment. 2- The Prophet was the best interpreter of Quran. The life history of the Prophet illustrate that he was kind to even those who insulted or injured him. 3-The teacher was clearly serving the people and her intent was not to insult. 4 - Most scholars in the Islamic world would be at variance with the Saudi and Sudanese interpretation, because not only they violate the intent and mercy clause, but also the 2 nd principle.

As children we laughed at a collection of jokes under the loosely translated ditty:

Strange land - Stupid ruler - they sell - Cow for a dollar - Hay for a dollar.

One of the jokes was - a very fat man was condemned to hang. The rope was not strong enough for his weight. So they found a thin man and hanged him, to satisfy the letter of the law.

That was a joke, but this is an insult to all sense of justice Islam and humanity.

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