Sheraniland: Sharia law needs saving from Mr Sherani
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.