Common Myth: Seven Laws bring Sharia Law – part 1
Throughout my years involved in the Seven Commandments for humanity, I’ve heard a number of people express certain fears about these divine commandments. One particular fear that is expressed states that having the Seven Commandments be the main international law of conduct would bring about something called “sharia law.” Sharia law is a code of conduct preached about in Islam. Most of the time that I hear this fear or concern put forward, it is coming out of the mouth of a westerner who is in love with the illusion of democracy that the government of his country pulls over the eyes of the populace. Or it comes from someone who is convinced that his government and the papers or words that are meant to be its basis gives him certain freedoms which he cherishes. The idea of sharia law threatens what he cherishes.
ASIDE: By “westerner” I refer to people who live in so-called “more developed” countries. Since that sometimes refers to Europeans and their descendants, like the Americans and Canadians, I use the term “westerner” but I still include other countries like Australia or parts of Africa which wouldn’t be considered “western.”
Now this is just a blogpost. It is not my aim to write an essay (but you never know, I haven’t done a two-parter for a while, so …). I’m not going to come across like some expert in Islam because I’m not. But what I’ll aim to do is to first show the most obvious reason why this equating of the seven laws to sharia law is ignorant. After that, I’ll try to describe or summarize what sharia law is according to the Muslims themselves with quotes in their own words, or words that can be seen as accurately describing what it is. And then I’ll compare that with the seven laws to once again show why equating the two or fearing that the seven laws with bring about sharia law is once again ignorant. And I think I’ll also talk about why people are afraid of the seven laws and why those fears are groundless and unfounded.
And “ignorant” is the best word for my issue with these fears and concerns. They don’t spring from a place of knowledge and experience of a whole community living by the seven laws. These fears don’t come from an in-depth knowledge of the seven laws. They appear to be an emotional reaction to the threatening of a way of life that a person cherishes.
Just to add, I’m not writing this article to go with some anti-Islam or anti-Muslim fad that’s going around today. I don’t care about the hysteria or panic or hatred regarding Islam now. The violence of Islam has been going on for centuries, in much the same way as the history of the violence of the christian church stands as evidence against their “peaceful” religion. Also, the perpetual violence, coercion and slavery caused by secular governments all over the world – the UK or the US governments or whatever governments – make them just as bad as the violence of “religions,” if not worse (although statism itself is a lot like a religion). So no, I’m not jumping on some anti-Islam bandwagon. I’m just dealing with the obtuse way people deal with the seven commandments.
The most obvious
So the codification of the seven laws is found in the Jewish Torah tradition. Muslims do not observe that Jewish Torah tradition as a matter of religious practice. In fact they claim that the books of Moses, the Jewish Bible and the Torah tradition are all faulty and that a person should learn the Koran or Quran and from Muslim teachers. Also Muslims do not claim to follow the seven commandments. Since they reject the Jewish tradition, they also reject the specific set of seven laws, as is shown in the following quote.
Rambam Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:7; Tur Yoreh De’ah ch. 124 in the name of Rashba and the Gaonim; Beit Yosef and Rema Yoreh De’ah 146:5,
all rule that Muslims are not idolaters.
However, see Ritva on Tractate Rosh Hashanah 17a, and on Tractate Pesachim 25, where he explains that believers in post-Sinai doctrines are “deniers of Torah” (defined in Part 1, topic 1:8) and “deviant believers” (defined in Part 1, topic 1:7), and are not among those who keep the Seven Noahide Commandments. (… traditional Islamic doctrine rejects the authenticity of the Five Books of Moses, and of the specific set of Seven Noahide Commandments – even though they may accept some or all of the Noahide Commandments in practice, but not as the basic command of God to mankind.) (Rabbi Moshe Weiner, The Divine Code, pg 195 footnote 185)
So if Muslims do not aim to keep the Seven Commandments, and Islam rejects Jewish tradition, it can never, with honesty, be put forward that the Muslim countries or the strictness in their laws is a result of the Seven Commandments.
One of the prohibitions within the teachings about the seven commandments is that people are not allowed to create a new or innovative religion, especially one where it is taught that God demands or commands that a person keep observances or commandments other that the seven. Rambam brings this down in the following quote.
The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create divine commandments for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the divine commandments or stay with his own Torah without adding or detracting from them. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Judges, Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 10, Halachah 9)
So non-Jews are not supposed to create religions. Islam is an innovation after Sinai. It is a religion that states, with no regard to the seven commandments, that a person must accept a certain prophet and the teachings of his supposed followers and holy book, observe certain practices and religious rites and special days. Although by coincidence they act in some ways that accord with the seven commandments (people of all walks of life do this for different reasons, even atheists), they don’t focus on them and instead focus on the teachings of that prophet. So it, in and of itself, is forbidden for non-Jews. So keeping the Seven Commandments in their proper context on one hand and Islam and its sharia law on the other are two separate and different things. When I go further into the subject of sharia law, you’ll see further differences between the Seven Commandments and sharia law.
So just on this obvious level, there is a distinction between sharia law and the seven commandments which make them totally different things. So fears that having the Seven Commandments as the “law of the land” for the world or for a country is akin to or similar to or would bring about sharia law are totally baseless. At the root, they are different things and therefore lead to different results.
So that’s the end of part 1. In part 2, I’ll go into a summary of sharia law, how it further distinguishes itself from the seven commandments and also why some people, generally westerners, are afraid of the seven commandments.