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But Which Sharia??

January 3, 2014

..a little off the normal topic here, but this article in Foreign Policy Magazine had a quote in it from a Syrian caught in the crossfire between all the competing Jihadist groups.

“The problem is that now we are facing a situation of multiple sharias [version of Islamic law]. Jabhat al-Nusra has its own sharia, ISIS has its sharia, and now the Islamic Front has its sharia,” Kanjo said. “They all want an Islamic state, but they can’t even agree on one kind of sharia.”
This quote likely went over the heads of 99% of those who read the article but it goes back to what I wrote here.
Just as there is no “real” Islam, there is also no “real” or “true” sharia. The early sources if Islam are so obscure, incoherent and vague that it is nearly impossible to get clarity on anything except the most basic issues. If there were, it would be a lot clearer as to what it is. That is one of the real reasons why there is so much intra-Muslim fighting amongst the militant groups in places like Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya. Each of them believe that their version of Islam is the “true” one. And unfortunately, each of these militant groups currently fighting in those places also believe that the blood of those who disagree with their version is “halal” (i.e., permissible to kill).
Fortunately, most Muslims are not so militant. But more people (Muslim and non-Muslim) really need to understand that there is no one “real” sharia or “real” Islam that stands above all of the other versions. Every Muslim thinks that his/her version of Islam is the “real” Islam. So in fact there are thousands of “real Islams”. It is for this reason that theocracy can never work. One can not force their version of religion on another person.
This is also why the emergence of the more “liberal” versions of Islam is so important. Some of that process is going on now as Muslims slowly rework the meaning of their Islam in a Western cultural context. Some American Muslim groups have so assimilated American religious terminology that they have essentially become operationally “Protestant”. Some mosque leaders today sound more like Rick Warren than some of their coreligionists we see in the Middle East, Arab world and other Muslim majority nations. Religion, because it is followed by human beings, must adapt to local cultural traditions – if it is to survive.
On the other hand, just as the United States denied the Roman Catholic Church any status but that of just another denomination amongst many, so too we must de-legitimatize the claims of “Muslim community leaders” that their view/sect alone represents this thing called “Islam”. These “leaders” only represent a segment of the Muslim population. In fact, given all of the differing sects and ethnic groups, it is far more accurate to say Muslim “communities” than “community”. I suggest we all make this a habit.
Even those of us that are not Muslims should reject all efforts (however indirect) to declare that any group of Muslims is “less” (or even not) Muslim. Here in the United States, Ismailis, Ahmadis, Qadianis, Nation of Islam, Twelver Shi’ites, Salafis of all types, Sufis of all types, Muslim “punk rockers”, “progressive Muslims”, gay Muslims and every other sect/group all have equal claim to this thing called “Islam” and it should be no other way. None of them are “real” and none of them are “fake”. Further, we should break the habit of disparaging liberal Muslims as “less” Muslim than the more militant ones. Bottom line is that if one claims to be Muslims, then they are Muslim – irrespective of their perceived “piety”.
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