Common Myth: Seven Laws bring Sharia Law – part 2

OK, here begins part 2 of dealing with the claim that the seven laws is somehow similar to sharia law or that the seven laws will bring about sharia law. Before I give some aspects of what sharia law is, let me just do what I enjoy doing, and that is to state what the Seven Commandments are. At least on this basis, we can compare the Seven to what is taught about sharia law.

– Justice (the prohibition against injustice)
– Prohibition against cursing God’s name
– Prohibition against worshipping idols (anything other than God)
– Prohibition against certain sexual partners
– Prohibition against murder
– Prohibition against theft
– Prohibition against eating the limb taken from an animal whilst it’s alive

Those are the core commandments given by God to all humans. These commandments allow us a place in this world, as is shown by the fact that in a community that follows the seven commandments, and in a righteous court, breaking any of these laws willingly, with intent, can lead to the death penalty. Although there are other good things that people can do and there are ideals that one can strive for, these are the basics. There is no positive core command to worship God. There are no rituals. There are no great or detailed dietary command (making sure an animal is dead before you eat is isn’t a detailed dietary command). In fact, in important ways, the Seven Commandments are not religious per se. In fact, as I quoted in the previous section, non-Jews are forbidden from creating a religion. No, these basic commandments are the foundations of being a decent human being or a civilised community. Although study of the core seven commandments can teach much more than just what the basic crimes are, the core laws don’t tell you all that is good and doesn’t make laws for every ideal in behaviour, just the basics of what can be dealt with in a righteous court of justice. So they are a platform, and foundation, not necessarily an end and ideal for individual and communal behaviour in and of themselves.

There is also no command with regards to how these laws are implemented in the first place in a land or community. That is significant for reasons I hope to get to later.

Now, as I’ve said in previous articles, these core laws do have details and where relevant I’ll bring them up.

OK, from that basis, let’s look at sharia law a bit.

What is sharia law?

Khurram Murad describes the Islamic Shari’ah as:

The Islamic Shari’ah is not merely a collection of do’s and don’ts, nor just a code of criminal laws prescribing punishments for certain crimes. Though it does contain both, its sweep is much broader and deeper, encompassing the totality of person’s life. Shari’ah literally means a ‘clear, trodden path to a source of water’. Since water is the source of life, it means a clear path to life. In religious terms, it is the path to the eternal life. It is the path that a person, in Islam, must walk as he toils and strives to reach his Creator. It is the yearning deep within to seek the Lord and the Master that the Shari’ah translates into steps, concrete and specific, on the pathways of life. The Shari’ah is the fulfillment of the total man- inner and outer, individual and corporate-as he seeks to live by the will of his one and only God. [1]

So for example, Shari’ah teaches Muslims the best way of performing prayers, giving in charity, fasting, eating, getting married, doing business, and more.(emphasis mine, The Islamic Sharia – An Overview, http://islam101.net/index.php/shariah/254-shariah-overview)

This description coincides with the description given in both Wikipedia and in Britannica.

Sharia law is divided into two main sections:
1.The acts of worship, or al-ibadat, called the 5 pillars of Islam: 1.Affirmation (Shahadah): there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. However, Allah is the same God of Isaac and Adam. Allah remains the same throughout time
2.Prayers (Salah): five times a day
3.Fasts (Sawm during Ramadan)
4.Charities (Zakat)
5.Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

2.Human interaction, or al-mu’amalat, which includes: 1.Financial transactions
2.Endowments
3.Laws of inheritance
4.Marriage, divorce, and child custody
5.Foods and drinks (including ritual slaughtering and hunting)
6.Penal punishments
7.Warfare and peace
8.Judicial matters (including witnesses and forms of evidence)(Sharia Law, https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia_law)

In classical form the Sharīʿah differs from Western systems of law in two principal respects. In the first place the scope of the Sharīʿah is much wider, since it regulates an individual’s relationship not only with one’s neighbours and with the state, which is the limit of most other legal systems, but also with God and with one’s own conscience. Ritual practices, such as the daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage, are an integral part of Sharīʿah law and usually occupy the first chapters in the legal manuals. (Sharia law, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Shariah)

So this summarizes some of what sharia law is, but it also gives you a hint at the scope of it.

It has laws covering Muslim interactions with non-Muslims, sexuality, food, rituals, leisure activities, dress, hygiene etc.” (Islamic law, http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Islamic_Law)

So things like fasts are explicitly commanded and enjoined upon Muslims.

Clearly, Ramadan fast is a divine injunction mandatory for all able-bodied Muslims who are free from compelling excuses. (http://sunnah.org/ibadaat/fasting/fast.html)

The primary sources of sharia law is the Quran and the Sunnah or Hadeeth.

“The primary source of Shariah are two: Qur’ān and Sunnah. The Qur’ān is held by all Muslims as the ultimate source of law, being revealed from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad (s), and therefore perfect and infallible.” (Understanding Islamic Law, by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/understanding-islam/legal-rulings/52-understanding-islamic-law.html)

“The Holy Quran and the Hadeeth form the two primary sources of the Islamic Shari’ah. Allah, the One and Only God, the Creator, the Almighty is the Law-Giver. The Holy Quran (Arabic) is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.). Hadeeth refers to the collection of books containing the sayings and narrations of actions of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.).” (The Islamic Sharia – An Overview, http://islam101.net/index.php/shariah/254-shariah-overview)

The part of shariah law that, I think, scares most “westerners” is its laws regarding the place of women and also the judgement for breaking some of its laws. I’m going to avoid remarks of judgment about this, only quote the fact, for example, what women wear is commanded in the Quran.

Islam clarifies that it is simply a sign of faith, modesty and chastity which serves to protect the devout from molestation.

O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their c1oaks over their bodies (when outdoors) so that they be recognized as such (decent, chaste believers) and not molested…” (Quran 33:59)

(The Veil Unveiled: The True Status of Women in Islam (part 1 of 3) By AbdurRahman Mahdi, http://www.Quran.nu, (edited by IslamReligion.com), http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/287/veil-unveiled/)

And its justice system includes punishments like the following describes.

Theft is haraam according to the Qur’aan, Sunnah and scholarly consensus (ijmaa’). Allaah has condemned this action and decreed an appropriate punishment for it. The hadd punishment for a thief is to cut off his hand. (The hadd punishment for theft, http://islamqa.info/en/9935)

Allah has ordained that the punishment of the zaani (fornicator) who was not previously married should be one hundred lashes, and the punishment for the one who was previously married should be stoning to death. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment”
[an-Noor 24:2].

(“She has been living with a man for several years and she wants to do Hajj then go back to him” – https://islamqa.info/en/159349)

It would make this article way too long to go into all the details of sharia, or at least to quote them from Muslim sources. You should be able to see that I tried to minimize quoting those who were against Islam or who were not believers in it. That way it cannot be said that the quotes given here don’t represent Muslims because they are generally all from Muslims.

Anyway, so sharia law is sourced from Mohammed and his followers and covers a great deal of human life and interactions.

How can they be the same?

Now that was just a glimpse of Islam’s sharia law. Now I’ve never said that sharia law is something wholly and completely different to the Seven Laws. I had said in the previous part in this little series that Muslims can, by coincidence, refrain from doing some of the acts prohibited by the Seven Laws. But even with this glimpse, it should be apparent that they don’t refrain from this acts because of the seven commandments, any more than an atheist refrains from certain prohibited acts because he thinks God commanded him. It’s just coincidence. But the similarities in the refraining from certain acts is not because there is a section in the sharia law – in the quran or the sunnah – that states “keep this commandment because it is one of the seven given to all humanity.” In fact, there are similarities between many conflicting walks of life. For example, atheists, statists, Jews and christians and muslims can all think that theft is wrong. So most ways of thinking have at least some similarities. But there are also differences that make them worlds apart. And the differences between the seven laws and sharia law are stark and clear.

So first let’s consider the root of things. As I’ve said before, in a strict sense, Muslims don’t keep the Seven Commandments because of where they actually come from. Muslims honour a prophet that has nothing to do with the Seven Commandments, and a book that has nothing to do with the Seven Commandments. In fact, the prophet and the book and the religion that surrounds both is actually against the teachings that surround or buttress the Seven Commandments.

And because Islam is actually a religion going its own direction, a direction inconsiderate of the seven, the basic code of morality, it has created something much more elaborate, distinct and different, something that is not an outgrowth of the seven laws, but rather is a foreign, novel entity.

I want to quote Rambam again because what he said is extremely relevant.

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. (emphasis mine, Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Judges, Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 10, Halachah 9)

In fact, let me add another word from Rambam that encapsulates the teachings of the oral law very well.

Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die. Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a [religious] festival for himself. (ibid.)

As further explained by rabbi Yoel Schwartz,

So it seems that the establishment of a new religion [or religious festival – DD] occurs only when a person comes and says that he has been ordered by G-d to fulfill such and such a law … (“Noahide Commandments” by Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, Translated by Yitzhak A. Oked Sechter, http://www.okbns.org/pdf/Noahide_Commandments3_503107.pdf)

In the face of this I’ve given quotes above that show that sharia law has God (Allah) commanding fasts. And similar to a Sabbath, we have the following quote,

Friday is a very important day for Muslims. It is more significant and more beneficial than any other day of the week. It is the day that Muslims gather together to pray in congregation. Directly before the prayer they listen to a lecture designed to empower them with valuable knowledge about God, and the religion of Islam. It is a blessed day that has been designated as such by God, Almighty; no other day of the week shares its virtues. (Friday – The Best Day of the Week, By Aisha Stacey, http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10170/friday-best-day-of-week)

So either this is something akin to the Sabbath specifically in the way that it is a day that, they say, God blessed and Muslims perform a special rite in it, or it is the Muslims creating a weekly religious “festival.”

Compound that with the compulsory, “commanded” fasts, prayers, rites of worship, ways to treat a woman, judgments for certain crimes (such as imprisonment, amputation of limbs, etc), with the commandments and directives about “war and peace” and child custody and circumcision and everything else that comprises sharia law, things I haven’t even discussed in this brief series. After that, take a look at the seven. There are no commanded rites. Prayer is not commanded. Worship is not commanded. The place of women is not commanded. There is only one judgment given for breaking each of the seven which is the maximal punishment IF the act meets a certain criteria, and other punishments are left in the hands of the nation (although it should be added that no permission is given for people, which includes the people that make up a government or judiciary, to cut off each other’s limbs in judgement for crimes). Also the sharia law is one that also covers the relationships between “believers” (Muslims) and non-believers (non-Muslims). There is no such relationship in the core Seven Commandments which only focuses on what a person does, not what they believe. There are no “believers” and “non-believers” per se just people, law-abiding or not.

After all this – and I’m sure I’ve missed quite a bit – I just don’t know who in their right minds and who uses reason would think that sharia law is somehow linked with the seven commandments. There’s not a strong enough link between the two. When I talk about the blunt core seven laws to someone and that person says “oh, I don’t want sharia law,” it’s almost like talking to someone about how to play the guitar and someone refusing to respect guitar playing because they don’t want the theory of relativity to be involved. It’s two fairly different subjects.

So essentially, the seven laws aren’t sharia law. They are two distinct standards that have similarities (as many other standards do), but not enough to justify the link between the two.

OK, as this was quite long, I’ll continue in part 3. Who knows? I should finish it then, right?

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