Each point is linked to original Islamic sources like the Quran or to articles that explain these sources. These points prove that these laws are bad for all societies and need to be scrapped in the modern world.
This article is Part 16 in the series on sharia.
This list of shariah laws is intended to be read by judges, lawyers, legislators, city council members, educators, journalists, government bureaucrats, think tank fellows, TV and radio talk show hosts, and anyone else who occupies the “check points” in society.
You initiate the national dialogue and shape the flow of the conversation in society. You are the decision and policy makers.
As intellectuals, you believe the critics of shariah exaggerate (and maybe some are guilty of it). They’re just “Islamophobes.” Ignore them. Islam is a worldwide religion, after all. It deserves respect.
You like what Thomas Jefferson said, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my legs.”
Live and let live.
It is a true that beliefs that do not harm us monetarily or physically should be tolerated. Shariah has positive aspects to it – or, rather, they do no damage in those two ways. Therefore, parts of shariah should be tolerated in a religiously diverse society like America.
The Five Pillars are examples. They are part of shariah – divine Islamic law, which traces its origins ultimately back to the Qur’an (or Koran) and Muhammad’s example or life, the sacred traditions, which were eventually written down in the hadith or traditions. None of those five rituals and policies picks our pockets or breaks our legs, if the five are done privately or in the mosque.
Unfortunately, however, this list is not about the harmless parts in shariah, but the ones that are incompatible with the modern era.
Even Thomas Jefferson had his limits. He sent the marines to take back captured American merchant sailors and to open up the trade routes that were hampered by the Muslim Barbary pirates in North Africa, who had sold the captives into slavery or demanded ransoms.
In some cases, a religion does indeed pick our pockets and break our legs.
Each item in the list has one or more back-up articles. Readers should click on them to find out that the thirty points come right out of original Islam and are not invented out of thin air. Each back up also has a section on modern Islam, mentioning Muslims – too few – who advocate reform.
And if readers would like to see various translations of the Qur’an, they may go to the website quranbrowser.com and type in the references. If readers are in doubt about the meaning of a verse, they may go to the tafsir (commentary) written by Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), one of the most authoritative and highly regarded classical commentators in the Sunni world, at qtafsir.com; or the readers may search through the modern commentary by Sunni Indo-Pakistani religious scholar and politician Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi (d. 1979) at englishtafsir.com.
Here are the four divisions of this article:
Marital, Domestic, and Women’s Issues
Let’s begin the list.
1.. The mosque and state are not separate.
To this day, Islamic nations that are deeply rooted in shariah, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, do not adequately separate the two realms, giving a lot of power to courts and councils to ensure that legislation does not contradict the Quran (never mind whose interpretation).
Most of the laws listed below come from this confusion.
See Mosque and State.
2. Jihad may be waged against injustice or an unjust nation, as Islam defines the terms.
Classical texts say Islam is justice, and no Islam is injustice. Therefore, a “just war” can be waged against a nation or people who do not submit to Islam.
Yet we are told in the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, which is based on shariah, that humane rules must be followed (Article Three). Does that article offer hope that modern Islam can move past old Islam? Maybe.
However, the Quran, sacred traditions, classical law, and historical Islam contradict or balance out some elements in Article Three. Would there be a conflict between the old Islam and modern Islam, if war broke out? Many Islamic clerics issue fatwas (religious rulings) to wage jihad.
3. Jihad may be waged to spread Islam and force conversions – a holy war.
Yet, we have been told for many years now that holy wars and forced conversions were never done in Islam. That’s a myth imagined by Westerners.
4. A captive in jihad may be executed, enslaved, ransomed for money, exchanged for other prisoners, or released freely.
Qur’an 47:4 and 33:25, 26, 27 (especially v. 26); 4:24 says those things (and the last option – free release – is positive). Yet we are told that in a jihad today everything must be done humanely and justly.
5. A woman captive of jihad may be forced to have to sex with her captors (now owners).
Qur’an 4:24 and especially the sacred traditions and classical law allow this. The sacred traditions say that while out on military campaigns under Muhammad’s leadership, jihadists used to practice coitus interruptus with their female captives.
6. Property can be destroyed or confiscated during jihad.
Qur’an 59:2 and 59:5 discuss those rules. Sacred traditions and classical law expand on the Qur’anic verses. Modern Islamic law officially improves on the Qur’an: see Article Three of the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, which is nonetheless based on shariah, but it outlaws wanton destruction of property. Would there be any conflict between old Islam and modern Islam in a war today?
See Jihad and Qital.
7. Jihad may be waged to collect spoils.
Qur’an 8:1, 8:7, 8:41, and 48:20 show this clearly. Early Islam followed the old Arab custom of raiding caravans, but as its military grew, the raids were elevated to jihad. The spoils of war were coveted. Which Islam would prevail in a war today – the old one or the modern one?
See Jihad and Qital.
8. A second-class submission tax, called the jizyah, must be imposed on Jews and Christians (and other religious minorities) living in Islamic countries.
Qur’an 9:29 offers three options to Jews and Christians: (1) Fight and die; (2) convert to Islam; (3) or keep their religion, but pay a tribute or submission tax, the jizyah, while living under Islam.
In Islamic history, vanquished Jews and Christians became known as dhimmis. This word appears in Qur’an 9:8 and 9:10, meaning a “treaty” or “oath,” but it can also mean those who are “condemned” “reviled” or “reproved” (Qur’an 17:18, 17:22; 68:49). The word “submission” in Qur’an 9:29 can also be translated as “humiliation,” “utterly humbled,” “contemptible” or “vile.” It can mean “small” as opposed to “great.”
See Jihad and Qital.
9. Slavery is allowed.
In addition to those verses, Qur’an 4:24, 23:1-7; 33:52 allow the institution. Muhammad owned slaves, even one who was black (so says a sacred tradition). He was militarily and politically powerful during his later life in Medina, but he never abolished slavery as an institution.
Officially, Islamic nations have outlawed slavery (Article 11, which is still based on shariah). And we are told that “no other nation or religious group in the world treated slaves better than the Muslims did.” The back-up article and next two items in this list contradict that claim.
10. A male owner may have sex with his slave-women, even prepubescent slave-girls.
See Qur’an 4:24 and 23:1-7; but it is classical law that permits sex with prepubescent slave girls and describes them as such. Some Muslim religious leaders and others still advocate this practice, taking the slaves as concubines (though sex with prepubescent slave-girls is another matter).
11. Slaves may be beaten.
That’s what sacred traditions and classical laws say.
12. Apostasy laws, including imprisonment or execution, may be imposed on anyone who leaves Islam (an apostate).
Normally this is classified as a prescribed punishment, but it is also political, since it is about freedom of religion. Surprisingly the Quran does not cover punishing apostates down here on earth, though in the afterlife they will be punished. Does this mean modern Islam can reform old Islam? Quran 4:88–89, 9:73–74, and 9:123, read in that sequence, might deal with earthly punishments for apostasy. Mainly, however, the sacred traditions and classical law permit harsh treatment for anyone who leaves Islam.
13. Blasphemy laws, including imprisonment or execution, may be imposed on critics of Islam or Muhammad.
These verses should be read in historical sequence, for they show that as Islam’s military power increased, the harsh treatment of mockers and critics also intensified, as follows: Qur’an 3:186, 33:57-58, 9:61-66 (here, here, and here), 9:73 and 9:123. Sacred traditions, classical laws, and historical Islam are unambiguous about the punishments, recording the people, often their names, who were assassinated for mocking Muhammad and the Qur’an.
14. Drinkers and gamblers may be flogged.
Qur’an 2:219, 4:43, and 5:90-91, in that sequence, show that Islam gradually prohibited alcohol. The last passage also prohibits “gaming” of sorts. The sacred traditions and classical law discuss punishing gamblers and alcoholics. One tradition says to execute unrepentant alcoholics who do not stop. But usually drinkers were flogged forty or eighty times, with garments, palm branches, or sandals in early Islam.
15. An injured plaintiff (a private citizen) has the options of forgiving or exacting legal and literal revenge – physical eye for physical eye.
Islamic courts, depending on which way the plaintiff directs, today may ask a doctor to surgically remove an eye or disfigure the face or body in some other way. Currently, qisas can be applied to children in Iran.
The whole purpose of courts is to remove the punishment of wrongs and injuries from the plaintiffs who are private citizens; otherwise, blood feuds and personal revenge make punishments uneven – never mind excessive.
See the Law of Retaliation, which shows how Muhammad (and Muslims today) misunderstood this “punishment” as he interacted with Jews of his day. For a Christian interpretation of the Old Testament see, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth: law of retaliation in the Old and New Testaments
16. The hand of a male or female thief may be cut off.
Qur’an 5:38 imposes this punishment. The traditions and classical law clarify that the theft has to be a valuable item; or mutilation might not be inflicted during a famine.
17. A highway robber may be crucified or his alternate hand and foot cut off.
Qur’an 5:33 permit these punishments. Yes, from that verse other punishments can be inflicted, but the point here is that execution for first-degree murder with aggravated circumstances is one thing, but mutilation and crucifixion is excessive.
18. Homosexuals may be imprisoned, flogged, or executed.
Surprisingly, the Qur’an is not all that clear on this subject, but the traditions and classical laws are.
20. Fornicators may be flogged.
Qur’an 24:2 says this. The hadith (traditions) and classical laws can impose additional penalties like exile of the male for a year.
21. Adulterers may be stoned to death.
The verse that says to stone adulterers to death went missing from the Qur’an, so says Umar, a companion of Muhammad and the second caliph (ruled 634-644). But he left no doubt that this penalty was done under Muhammad’s direction, and the sacred traditions and classical laws confirm it. But a few rules of evidence must be followed, like confession of the adulterer or four eyewitnesses. In some interpretations of the law, if a woman is raped, but cannot produce four just and pious men who witnessed it, then she is slandering the alleged rapist (or gang rapists) – never mind that the four just and pious eyewitnesses did nothing to stop it, but stood there and watched it.
21, False accusers may be flogged eighty times.
Qur’an 24:1-4 (here, here, and here) speak of corporal punishment for sexual sins. Verse 4 says that if an accuser cannot produce four eyewitnesses to corroborate his accusation, then he will be flogged (see Qur’an 24:13).
MARITAL, DOMESTIC, AND WOMEN’S ISSUES
Qur’an 2:228 and 4:34 states that mankind is superior to womankind in a variety of legal and domestic contexts. Qur’an 2:223 says wives are fields, and their husbands can go into them whenever and however they like. How does this inferiority work out in the law and society?
22. A woman inherits half what a man does.
Qur’an 4:11 says it, and the hadith (traditions) and classical law confirm it.
23. A woman’s testimony in a court of law counts half of a man’s testimony, since she might “forget.”
Qur’an 2:282 says it in the context of business law. But the hadith (traditions) explains that women’s minds are deficient; classical law expands this curtailment to other areas than business.
24. A man may legally divorce his wife by pronouncing three times “you are divorced.”
Qur’an 2:229 says this, and the traditions and classical law explain and confirm it. A judge in a modern Islamic country will ensure that the husband did not speak from a fit of irrational rage (anger is okay) or intoxication, for example. Then the court will validate the divorce, not daring to overturn it, since the Quran says so.
25. A wife may remarry her ex-husband if and only if she marries another man, has sex with him, and then this second man divorces her.
Qur’an 2:230 says this, and the traditions and classical law confirm it. Supposedly, this rule is designed to prevent easy divorce (see the previous point), but it produces a lot of pain, in Muslims today.
26. Husbands may hit their wives.
Qurn 4:34 says it, and the traditions and classical law confirm it. There is a sequence of steps a husband follows before he can hit her, but not surprisingly this rule creates all sorts of abuse and confusion in Islamic society today.
27. A man may be polygamous with up to four wives.
Qur’an 4:3 (and 33:50-52, here, here, and here) allow this, but only if a man can take care of them. The traditions and classical law confirm it. Modern Muslims still push for this old marital arrangement even in the USA, and many Islamic nations still allow it. But some Muslims are fighting polygamy. The hadith paints a picture of Muhammad’s household that was full of strife between the wives.
28. A man may simply get rid of one of his “undesirable” wives.
Qur’an 4:128 says this. The traditions say about the verse that the wife whom Muhammad wanted to get rid of was “huge” and “fat.” She gave up her turn to his favorite girl-bride Aisha, but at least he kept the corpulent wife. There is heartbreak in Islam today.
29. A mature man may marry a prepubescent girl.
As difficult as it is to believe, Qur’an 65:1-4, particularly verse 4, assumes (but does not command) the practice. The hadith says Aisha was six years old when she was engaged to Muhammad (he was in his fifties), and their marriage was consummated when she was nine. The hadith indicate she was prepubescent at nine. She never did bear him any children. Classical law says a father may give away his prepubescent daughter, but she also has a few rights.
Officially many Islamic nations have raised the legal marriage age, but pockets in the Islamic world still follow this old custom. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia okays marriage to ten-year-old girls. Work is still needed to be done for the rights of girl brides, particularly for their sexual health.
30. A woman must wear a head covering and maybe a facial veil.
Qur’an 24:31, 33:53 (a curtain or screen), and 33:59 are not as clear about the veil as one might think. They say to dress modestly, but should the head be covered or just the neckline? What about the face (except the eyes)? Thus, modern Muslims are now in a big debate over the veil. However, the traditions and classical law are clearer than the Quran: the veil over the face (except the eyes).
Compiling this list would not have been necessary if modern Muslim religious leaders and jurists argued that all of those laws have expiration dates – back in the seventh century. Instead, they are eager to impose those archaic laws today (with the exceptions duly noted as the list went along). They believe the Quran is universally good and timeless.
Are all of these laws on the brink of being imposed on the West, by the next day? No, but many of them, especially the ones about marriage and family, can gradually be lobbied for and slowly make their way into our culture and legal system and advocated in school curricula, in the name of multiculturalism.
But will modern Islam reform old Islam? Will the Western elites encourage reform, or do they believe Islam is fine the way it is? Rather than they and traditionalists defending the thirty laws and calling the critics “Islamophobes,” traditionalists and their allies should work hard to reform the laws or set them aside completely.
In the meantime, while we wait patiently for this Islamic Reformation and Modernization (if it happens), the elites may want to remember three universal rights that are self-evident, according to the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Their hallmarks are, among other things, freedom of conscience to follow a religion of one’s choice (or none at all) without being harassed. Freedom of speech – even the kind that criticizes the Quran and Muhammad – are signs that democracy and justice have taken root. Equality before the law for both sexes also defines the three universal rights.
However, all of those thirty laws suppress everyone’s highest quality of life before the law and in society; they suppress our maximum liberty; and they suppress individual pursuit of happiness as he or she defines it.
It may seem strange to the intellectual elite who have pretty much chucked religion out the window that people often ask me about the Old Testament. Doesn’t it have severe laws? How can I talk about shariah?
Reply: no one today advocates bringing those severe Old Testament laws forward to the modern era, with the possible exception of the death penalty for first-degree murder with aggravated circumstances (yet countless traditional and ultraconservative jurists and religious scholars today are eager to see those thirty laws followed). Second, in the very last endnote to each back-up article is a brief discussion of the question. Basically, Christians believe that the New Testament reinterprets the Old. See my studies How Christ Fulfills the Old Testament and How Christians Should Interpret the Old Testament. And Jews today don’t read the severe old laws without the Rabbinic and Talmudic literature.
There should be no straight line between 3,500-year-old laws and the modern era, without a reinterpretation of them (can modern Islam reinterpret those thirty laws that are 1,400 year old?). They (should) have expiration dates.
Finally, a religious utopia imposed from the top down, which harshly punishes sins or crimes by disfigurement or mutilation or flogging and denies the basic human dignity of the female sex, is the wrong direction for modern society.
Over the centuries, and after many mistakes, the West has learned from its mistakes and is still learning. Let’s preserve our cultural and legal advancements without compromise. Islam must bend to us, not we to it. Tolerance of religions in their harmless aspects is one thing, but capitulation to their civilly and socially oppressive parts is another.
Not one word, phrase, or clause of shariah should ever enter our legal system and way of life, by legislation, policy formulations, or school curricula.
Let’s keep religion and the state separate.
And let’s keep (or return) to our three universal and foundational rights.
This article first appeared at Jihad Watch on Sept. 5, 2012 as “Thirty Shariah Laws That Are Bad for All Societies.”
Articles in the Series
Marital, Domestic and Women’s Issues
- Women’s Status and Roles
- Domestic Violence
- Divorce and Remarriage
- Marriage to Prepubescent Girls
Sexual “Crimes” and Punishments
More Punishments (offsite):
- Alcoholism and Gambling
- The Law of Retaliation
- Thieves, Give Muhammad a Hand!
- Crucifixion and Mutilation
Dec. 1, 2015.
Dec. 3, 2015.
Dec. 5, 2015.
Dec. 14, 2015.
Mar 9, 2017