Sheraniland: Sharia law needs saving from Mr Sherani

Published: January 16, 2016
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Problems arise when the likes of Maulana Sherani chooses to create a mutant abomination of Sharia that is clearly indefensible Islamically. PHOTO: FILE

In the past 15 years alone, Pakistan has made great strides by introducing numerous laws to help embolden and empower its womenfolk.

Unfortunately, for Pakistan’s women, putting pen to paper only creates the law. It doesn’t actually implement that law. Nor does that law act as a shield against Pakistan’s powerful yet disillusioned institution of bearded clerics with an agenda.

Take for example, the current chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Maulana Sherani, whose favourite pastime (when not fist fighting other maulanas) is undoing centuries of incremental change in women’s rights with a quick brandishing of the religious zealot’s favourite weapon: the mighty, all-encompassing and all too frequently misinterpreted torch of Sharia law.

To be clear, all laws are simply words on paper: controlled, created, and interpreted by imperfect humans charged with controlling and condemning the messy affairs of an imperfect human species.

Problems arise when the likes of Maulana Sherani (who is currently charged with advocating for and interpreting the law of Pakistan, as promulgated through parliament, in accordance with the spirit of Islam) chooses to instead go on a bender and create a mutant abomination of Sharia that is clearly indefensible Islamically (and oft, morally and ethically).

Take for example the Maulana’s (by way of the CII) most recent pronouncements on Pakistani women.

If Maulana Sherani could have his way, there would be no minimum age limit to when a girl could be married (completely overlooking Prophetic practice). A man would not need permission from his first wife to marry a second (or third or fourth – once again, completely overlooking Prophetic practice and wisdom). A court could not dissolve a marriage through a khula without first obtaining permission from the husband (thereby negating the entire point of a khula). Co-education would be abolished. And DNA evidence would be inadmissible in rape cases.

Sheraniland is essentially a miraculous feat of time travel taking us into a long-forgotten, pre-Islamic civilisation of a dusty, distant past.

Mr Sherani’s repeated attempts to legislate the lives, bodies, and marriages of Pakistani women is an example of contorting Sharia law into an abomination that does the opposite of what it is intended to do.

By (mis)interpreting Quranic pronouncements and Hadith, Mr Sherani ignores the fundamental tenet of justice inherent to Sharia (and all laws) leaving us with a remixed, self-serving, bastardised version of Sharia that allows Mr Sherani to wield his power to sanction his own personal favoured brand of religious piety.

Forgotten by Mr Sherani and his fellow inhabitants of Sheraniland is the little known fact that from a strictly Islamic standpoint, religion was never meant to be a matter of the state. Separation of mosque and state is a real thing. Not only does the Holy Quran clearly state that there is no compulsion in religion (2:257), even the most cursory review of Arabia under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is evidence that Sharia cannot be imposed on an unwilling person and is only applicable to a people willing to apply it to themselves.

In fact, Mr Sherani’s attempts to use the CII to influence Pakistani lawmakers and parliament is completely misguided in light of the fact that Sharia Law, at its core, is not meant to promote any specific form of government nor is it meant to be forced through government implementation.

Ultimately, at its core, the Law of Sharia has always meant to serve as a conduit (the literal translation of Sharia is ‘a path to life giving water’) and as a means to achieving a one-on-one, personal relationship between a Muslim and God.

Just like the Law of Contracts or Constitutional Law doesn’t mean anything on its own, but is simply an on-going field of study – a dialogue spanning centuries between lawyers, judges, jurists and legislators applying ideal world principles to the world we live in – the interpretation of Islamic tradition aka Sharia Law is simply an exercise in translating in-a-perfect-world principles into the reality of what we live with.

Of course, providing a lesson in basics of Islam 101 to the determined likes of Sherani and co. is ultimately an exercise in futility. Instead, we can ask ourselves why we allow institutions like the CII to conflate the laws of Muslim countries with Islamic law.

It’s widely accepted that in a society, such as Pakistan, where gender-based violence and discrimination is rampant, participation of women in the public sphere continues to remain low, women continue to languish in subordinate roles within the family unit and workplace generation after generation, and the standard of education and work opportunities available to women is grossly low.

Yet, a simple Google search on Islam and women tells us that Islamic law is designed to provide women with a social safety net and protections. Take for instance, a recent report by Islamic expert Asifa Quraishi-Landes, which argues that several Islamic rulings (from property rights to household division of labour) are far more progressive and empowering to women than current American family laws.

How we can be a country governed by such diametrically opposed versions of the same Islamic law continues to baffle. Only one thing is clear: it is not North America that needs saving from Sharia Law. It is Sharia Law that needs saving from Mr Sherani.

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed Akram

    The Sharia Law is for our day to day life and the ‘state’. Please stop talking about Islam without research.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Absolutely agree…..with people like Sherani and his boss Fazl-u-Rehman Pakistan really needs no enemies.Recommend

  • mehmood ul hassan

    dear madam, The point raised by Sherani regarding khula has already been raised by Mufti Usmani. The point of contention is “Khursheed Bibi v. Baboo Muhammad Amin PLD 1967 SC 97”Recommend

  • shaukat

    The minimum age for marriage in Islam is when either boy or girl reaches puberty. A man does not need permission from any of his wives to get married a second or third or fourth time, but there are so many provisos on this matter, that it is better to marry once. Marriage stand dissolved when Khula is implemented, no need to confer with the husband if the wife is adamant in getting one. Religion is a matter of the state, as Islam is a complete code of conduct, though there is no compulsion in Islam, but if a country is based on Islamic teachings then Islam cannot be separated from matters of the state.
    I think you are a little confused regarding Sharia, it is a complete code of jurisprudence conduct. If a person no matter belonging to which religion commits robbery or murder within an Islamic state then punishment under sharia law will be applicable on him or her, they cannot choose.
    Now regarding Mr Sherani, what can one say about idiots and goofs like him and his ilk, blame the bloody government who set up such a forum and allowed this person to head it. BTW CII has lost its mandate long time back and the FSC is the right forum to discuss all such matters. I suppose people like bungling up matters for their own interests.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Sir, same applies to you as well, stop commenting without research…..Recommend

  • thinkpositive

    do you know that Sherani is actually labeled by many close-minded Molanas and even by some from within his own party as Secular and nonclerical because he doesn’t have the same conventional orthodox mindset. I think he’s very unlike to other Molanas. At least he’s trying to break some ice like on the issue of Veil and followers of Mirza Ghulam Qadyan. You can’t expect him to reform everything overnight. Recommend

  • thinkpositive

    PS: He doesn’t run the counsil aloneRecommend

  • Ali

    Of course, i should have known. People like you will come out of nowhere. People like you have no knowledge of deen.
    The “sharia” practiced by many muslim countries is based on culture and mullahs who dont know what Islam actually says. I know you like to worship mullahs, but thats not what islam is all about.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    Please lets not reinvent Islam !!!

    Separation of Mosque and State?
    Separation of Church and State is western concept it has not thing to do with Islam. Islam is a complete code of life with highly defined personal and state laws. Islam is only religion code of law for every aspect of life. There is no separation of mosque and state.

    To learn about Shariah and Islamic society you don’t need to search Google but rather look into Quran, Hadith, Sunnah and Fiqa. Internet is full of wrong information so lets go to authentic sources and if you do that then the minimal age of marriage for female is clearly stated in Hadith and Sunnah.

    As per Mulana Shreeni, I am not a fan of him but lets agree to one thing he knows about Islam much more than author of the article and commentators know. So please lets not talk about issues we don’t know about.

    RegardsRecommend

  • Ramchand

    You forgot!! You normally post your comment
    under Akram Ahmed. Now it’s Ahmed Akram?Recommend

  • JP

    Man has bad teeth.Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Yes Sharia law is for our day to day life, but it is not the responsibility of the state to impose it upon us but it is our own responsibility from our free will to follow and implement it in our lives. Otherwise why would God give us free will to select. Stop living in a farce.Recommend

  • vinsin

    “there is no compulsion in religion” – already been abrogated. Is love Jihad legal or illegal in Islam?Recommend

  • Parvez

    The problem seems not to be with Sharia Law per se….but with the dilemma as to who’s interpretation of Sharia Law are we to go with…….keep in mind people like Sherani represent a political party with their own agenda, that misuses religion instead of correctly using it. It has been debated that politics and religion do not mix…..the truth of this becomes apparent just by looking at Pakistan as it stands today.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You got me……care to explain.Recommend

  • Ramchand

    No wonder! His teeth hurt. He cannot concentrate,
    or do a reasonable job, when his mouth is hurting
    all the time.Recommend

  • Patwari

    It all depends on the INTERPRETATION !! And who does it !!
    If the Mullah doing the interpretation is a fanatic living in the
    7th century. Or a normal reasonable average scholar, who takes
    into account the current world.Recommend

  • Khorramshahr shehzad

    All the mullahs should banned and only PhD scholars will be given chance of work Recommend

  • JP

    The moderators wont let me.
    Either they love Sheeroni, or are scared of him.Recommend

  • siesmann

    An average person knows more Islam than these bigoted Mullahs.Recommend

  • Imran

    Why do we stop talking about Islam without research? Religion is and should be personal matter. Who the hell these Mullahs are to tell me how to eat, how to dress, how to sit, how to walk, where to go, where to invest, when and to whom with I should sleep and so on…………………………… everybody have a common sense and will manage to deal with these things. State should just focus on society’s betterment.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    That is what an average person who never opens up Quran and Hadith in years think!Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    so you want a Patwari to do the Interpretation !!!!
    Who is too busy counting what ever he makes on top of his salary.

    As common cant interpret medical symptoms of pathology same way a common can’t interpret Islam.Recommend

  • Hamza

    So a state can impose american law on all of us and we should accept it but when someone uses word Shariah we should not accept it and do whatever we want
    …………….. hmmmmm…………. well……. thanks for guiding….Recommend

  • Shahid

    Wow, look at his picture… Recommend

  • Zia Rehman

    Discourse on religion, any religion, is an inconclusive exercise. Discourse on Islam is no exception. Why Pakistanis are so obsessed with religion and women’s status in Islam? Forget it. Ignore it completely. All that was for another time and another age.
    That was 1,400 years ago. Times have changed. Go by the modern needs of society. Sideline the mullahs. Defy them by do what suits you and your women best; burn your burqas, your hijabs, your niqabs en mass in every city and village. That’s the way to beat them.
    Recommend