Common Myth: Seven Laws bring Sharia Law – part 3
So over the past two posts in this series, I’ve summarized a bit of what sharia law is about, contrasted it with the seven laws, and, for myself, I’ve drawn the conclusion that sharia law and the sevens laws are very, very different things. They are different to the point that it seems ridiculous to me for people to express fears about the enforcement of sharia law when what is being discussed is the Seven Laws for humanity.
Then why are they afraid?
Why is sharia law sometimes brought up when the core seven divine commands are discussed? Why talk about something so unrelated, even by those who are supposed to know something of the seven?
Some of it could simply be ignorance of what sharia law is. This is to be expected in this current climate of government propagated fear and a culture of arrogant ignorance. Although this is the age of technology and easy access to information on the internet – and these things can cause a sense of pride in the superficial advancement – the amount of actual wisdom within the population is shockingly low. The fast-food, quick satisfaction, “twitter span of attention” state of mind that is encouraged in this generation means that people can pick up memes and headlines and sound bites about what a certain religion believes or another philosophy adopts without having a real grasp on what the real content is, or at least without having thought about it a bit deeper. Thus, with such gaps, no, chasms in knowledge, people can make illogical links between several different ideas or worldviews. Quick conclusions can be drawn based on relatively nothing and which lead to error.
Another point is that the seven laws, if kept faithful, are still a significant divergence from what most governmental laws attempt to govern and from the fantasy people have built up about the values of their country. There are laws in the seven that prohibit idolatry and blasphemy, and these are commonly understood as “religious laws” which most secular governments and societies are repulsed by. And since such laws are heard of in Islam, and with the current anti-Muslim views that are going around, a person makes the unwarranted link between the two.
A concern that I’ve heard is that the only way the seven commandments can be implemented today is top-down, by some dictator forcing it on people against their will. Due to some views of Islam, people think one way for Islam to spread is through conquering and violence. And due to the unfortunate (and obtuse) idea that the seven laws is somehow linked to how Muslims live, there may be a fear that the seven laws should be spread using the same methods.
Another fear that they have, even people who call themselves “Noahides,” is the conscious or unconscious belief that the laws or at least the punishment for breaking them is too harsh. I’m mean, think about it. How does it sound to the normal Joe Bloggs down the street – it must sound barbaric – for a person to be put to death because they had committed adultery, male homosexuality or incest, especially in our day and age of “tolerance?” Just imagine going up to someone and saying, “Guess what! You could get the death penalty for eating meat that was taken from an animal while it was still alive!” I don’t think they can swallow it so easy. I personally believe that people, certain “Noahides,” treasure their “freedoms” or nationally granted privileges so much that the standards of the seven laws still seem strange.
I can say all this stuff because not only have I seen people bring these issues up when discussing the seven laws with me, and not only because I’ve seen what people are like in general with different worldviews and standards, but also because some of these thoughts have run through my own mind.
I don’t know if what I say next will quell any fear or sufficiently answer any concern. I can only express my point of view and that’s it. I obligate no one to “buy” what I’m saying.
I said in part two of this series that the seven laws for humanity do not command upon non-Jews how the knowledge and observance of the laws should be spread. There is not one word that states that what is needed for worldwide submission to these laws is some dictator, some tyrant, to come along with an army subjugating an unwilling people, forcing them under pain of death to keep the seven. It doesn’t even say that people must “proselytise” others, like a religion (something that the seven laws don’t seem to be).
[Now I could stop here. I mean, there’s no basis in the Seven Laws for some fear of this top-down oppressive form of subjugation. So already, this concern can be cast into the bin of a person who’s willing to let it go. But let me just add some thoughts.]
At best, there is an expectation to learn the seven laws, which is interesting.
Why is it interesting, David?
I’ll tell you why. (Yes, I’m talking to myself again.)
One person I consider a teacher pointed out something as he was expounding on Rambam’s depiction of the seven laws. It was regarding the part about inadvertent crimes not making one liable for punishment and what “inadvertent” means. It says the following.
When does the above apply? When he inadvertently violates a command without sinful intention; for example, a person who engages in relations with his colleague’s wife under the impression that she is his own wife or unmarried.
If, however, one knew that she was his colleague’s wife, but did not know that she was forbidden to him or it occurred to him that this act was permitted or one killed without knowing that it is forbidden to kill, he is considered close to having sinned intentionally and is executed. This is not considered as an inadvertent violation. For he should have learned the obligations incumbent upon him and did not. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 10, halakhah 1, can be found at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188355/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-10.htm)
My main point is the part that is underlined. What is assumed by that line? That people are expected to learn what their core responsibilities are. The point is education. Another passage which praises learning is as follows:
… you can learn that even a non-Jew who studies the Torah is like a high priest! — That refers to their own seven laws. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 59a)
Without trying to make too much of a story out of some phrases, I just want to highlight the importance and praise given to education regarding the seven laws – that a non-Jew studies his laws – and that it is an obligation of the non-Jew to learn his obligation. This, and other signs in the tradition, show that there is more said for a grassroots approach to spreading the knowledge of the seven through education and learning rather than oppression and force.
I’ll leave it there. But just to say again, there is no basis in the seven laws for fear of a dictatorship.
And yes, it is true that the seven laws are divergent from the current national and international laws with different stipulations on idolatry, blasphemy, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. But it can be acknowledged right now that the Seven Laws are not going to be the basis of national and international law until there is a internal change in the individuals that make up the world at large. And without that change, the laws cannot be enforced or imposed on the people. Once the internal change has taken place, whether it be through some amazing spread of a deeper appreciation for knowledge and wisdom amongst the masses, or whether it be through whatever it takes for the promised Davidic king come, once that change has taken place, then it will no longer be something to be imposed, but rather something to be accepted willingly, by choice.
Until that time, it is just about learning for oneself and incorporating it into one’s life and living consistent to those divine laws. It can also be sharing through peaceful methods, if the opportunity ever arises.
And that answer also tackles the points about the opinion that these laws are somehow harsh and also the fact that people these days cling longingly and lovingly to a modern system that undermines and abolishes many of the core details of the Seven Commandments. How so?
Well, the reason why the laws are seen as harsh is because people these days are habituated and indoctrinated into their own national system or personal philosophy. In this current system, the quagmire basis for morality is the opinion of men. And then we live our lives how we want, setting as important whatever we deem to be so. Hence the messed up world of “tolerance” where, in fact, if you show anything more than indifference (of course, praise is accepted) to certain behaviours, you are seen as a bigot, no matter your rationale or logic. If what God says is different, then that is not our Creator telling us how things were meant to be, or showing us something deep, but rather it is cruelty and harshness. When humans dictate morality and the value of life, then the Creator gets condemned. That’s another reason why there needs to be a change in perspective not only for the future, but for right now, for those of us who embrace the Seven Commandments as God’s commandments right now! For us to say that God is harsh is to set another standard in front of or above God’s. That’s just upside down and backwards!
The same goes for those who hold modern political or philosophical systems (things which contradict parts of the seven) in a higher regard than the basic bedrock standards for human society and communities. Although we may have to tolerate such systems, such constitutions, such philosophies and law codes for the world to continue in its moral schizophrenia and foundational fragmentation, to hold them up as ideals, as things to shout praise for above the Seven Commandments betrays the heart’s true allegiance.
Anyway, the fact is that the sharia law is not the seven laws. And although there are similarities – as there are similarities between many contradicting worldview – they are two separate things. There is no strong basis for someone believing that sharia law can result from the observance of the Seven Commandments.