Friday, November 30, 2007

Sudanese Justice 07-11-30

Travesty of Justice - Sudanese Caricature of the Islamic Law

Mirza A. Beg

Friday, November 30, 2007

Indian Muslims, Friday, November 30, 2007

American Muslims, Friday, November 30, 2007

Counter Currents. Org, Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sadly a majority of people practice double standards. They tend to judge others more harshly, but find excuses for their own failings. Collectively, other races, countries and religions are judged harshly, while we turn a blind eye to whatever we construe as our own.

I suffer from a reverse malady. I am sad at injustice to anyone anywhere, but it offends much more when it is done in the name of my country, society or religion. That is why abjuring popular sentiments, I am more critical of injustices done in the name of Islam, the United States and India.

When others condemn, some times genuinely, and some times maliciously, the knee-jerk reaction is to criticize the critic that they are equally bad or worse. I hear this often, when I write about the immoral war in Iraq, based on lies; the Pogrom by the state government of Gujarat in India or the horrible things that the Talibanist mentality has done in the name of Islam.

Recently, a woman in Saudi Arabia was gang-raped. She was seen in a car with a person not of her family. She was also found guilty along with the rapists and recommended punishment under the Saudi Law. That is bad enough, but to call it Islamic is travesty of truth and reason.

In Sudan, a British teacher was arrested for the “sin” of helping her class of seven year olds to name a cuddly teddy bear, Muhammad. Yesterday, after a court trial, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail, and it is reported that a crowd was clamoring for a death sentence. In a closed dictatorial country a crowd does not gather, it is allowed or urged to gather.

The problem springs from a misunderstanding of cultural norms. In the West people often name their pets after the people they love, including their parents, friends, and even prophets. In the East people give their pets loving precious names, but not the names of people they love and respect. It is considered an insult, akin to calling one’s best friend or a prophet a dog or a cat.

All Muslims consider Islam to be a just and humane religion. The most popular stories that children grow up with are about the kindness, humanity and mercy of the Prophet.

One of the most popular stories is that the Prophet was reviled and cursed by many Meccans, just after his call to Islam. There was a woman who routinely threw garbage on him, when he passed through her street. For a couple of days she did not. He inquired and learned that she had been sick. His reaction was to go to her house to console her.

A well recorded fact of history is that after conquering Mecca he forgave all, including some who had said and done vile things, including a woman, Hinda, who desecrated the corpse of the Prophet’s uncle. There are many other such stories and recorded historical events.

An average person may be forgiven for being impetuous, emotional and blinded by the love for the Prophet, but the Sudanese judge and the government ought to know better. This is complete ignorance and disregard of the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence. It is an insult to Islam, humanity and justice.

All Islamic scholars would agree that the Islamic laws are based on four principles, in the following order of importance, with a strong caveat that the act is punishable based on intent, and when in doubt mercy over-rides the blind word of the law.

1. The edicts of Quran.
2. Not finding in Quran, the actions or sayings of the Prophet, compiled as sets of Hadeeth by a few scholars about 150 years after his passing.
3. Qiyas – analogy from similar rulings emanating from the first two.
4. Ijma – the consensus of the scholars.

In view of the above, as reported, the British teacher was in Sudan serving the populace. 1-Though the Quran condemns harming or insulting the Prophet, it does not recommend a temporal punishment. 2- The Prophet was the best interpreter of Quran. The life history of the Prophet illustrate that he was kind to even those who insulted or injured him. 3-The teacher was clearly serving the people and her intent was not to insult. 4 - Most scholars in the Islamic world would be at variance with the Saudi and Sudanese interpretation, because not only they violate the intent and mercy clause, but also the 2nd principle.

As children we laughed at a collection of jokes under the loosely translated ditty:
Strange land - Stupid ruler - they sell - Cow for a dollar - Hay for a dollar.
One of the jokes was - a very fat man was condemned to hang. The rope was not strong enough for his weight. So they found a thin man and hanged him, to satisfy the letter of the law.

That was a joke, but this is an insult to all sense of justice, Islam and humanity.

Mirza A, Beg can be contacted at or

Response to critics of my article,
“Travesty of Justice - Sudanese Caricature of the Islamic Law”.

Mirza A. Beg
December 3, 2007

Dear Friends


There have been lots of responses to my article “Travesty of Justice - Sudanese Caricature of the Islamic Law”. Most have been positive, but a few have been critical, of those all have been civil, but a couple have been abusive. Thanks to all of you, because I did ask for your response. It is perfectly legitimate to criticize the critic. I had hoped that while criticizing people will try to keep three points in mind, but mostly they have not.

1. I had stated in the first paragraph that “others are as bad or worse” is not a legitimate argument in favor of right, decency, justice or the grandeur of one’s own religion or philosophy. At best it is an argument in favor of tit for tat. But some have spent a lot of time blaming the West for many offences. While they are true, they do not help if the evil is done in revenge in the name of Islam.

2. In my article we are not talking of politics, we are talking of law and justice for an individual. There are flaws in many national laws, in the West as well. Bush administration has misused the laws of US to prosecute many Muslims and their institutions. The wheels of Justice grind slowly, but in most cases the administration has been proven wrong in the judgments of the courts. Yet the justice has not always prevailed. Those are temporal national laws and are often criticized by many. I have written strongly critical articles about them such as my article about the “Patriot Act”. In case of Sudan and Saudi Arabia we are talking about laws that are proclaimed to be Islamic and are instituted in the name of Islam. That is where my ire resides.

3. Now talking of Islamic laws. This one needs a bit longer explanation. Please keep in mind that according to Muslim creed, the Quran is God’s word and the Rasool was the best interpreter of Quran.

Obviously the Quran is not very easy to interpret, such was God’s design and will. If it were easy, there would not have been so many sects in Islam and so many interpretations by good, honest and pious people.

Sunnah and the sayings of the Prophet collected as Hadeeth by many hard working meticulous scholars. Some of the best known are Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi. There are a few narrations in these that are considered spurious, many of them of are considered weak in lineage and many are on general same topic, but in different situations.

It is very important to keep in mind the veracity of Hadeeth and the situation under which the action was taken or the word spoken. It is even more important when they are being used as a part of Judicial proceedings. The judge needs to and has a duty to explain them in great detail for the parties to respect the decision.

I had given the most popular two examples that almost every one knows. Those who claim that the Rasool did condemn a person to death for the crime of insult to Islam or his person should educate us by telling us the antecedents of the action. When, where and under what circumstances.

Please be aware that I am not saying that it did not happen. I am saying that I do not know about it and would appreciate to be educated by those who know. The preponderance of the Hadeeth and the character of the Rasool as it emerges from the well known biographies (Seerat) and the Hadeeth is that of a very logical, thoughtful, kind and just person. If he did some thing that seems to be different than his usual practice, I hope you will agree; it needs much closer examination and understanding.

My general observation is that Quran lends itself to harsher as well as more merciful interpretation. The detractors of Islam selectively and at times only partly quote ayahs to castigate Islam. We resent it, but often without thinking, indulge in similar interpretations when it suites us. I think that is much more egregious. This is even truer of the quoting and interpretation of Hadeeth. It very much depends upon our own propensities. It speaks much more about our own values than the veracity of Hadeeth.

Some are quick to blame those who seek more humane interpretation to be stooges of the West. This is particularly sad, because Islam gave us the freedom to think and not blindly follow our own baser instinct, our dictatorial leaders or the West. At the time of the early Caliphs (Khulefa Rashedun) people used to strongly question, even criticize them. They encouraged it in truth and humility and took pains to answer and explain. We lost that early ethos and became subservient to the power of the rulers, and blind obedience. We do not need to learn this independence of character and courage from the West, we should learn it from our own early history.

I find it amazing that when there are many more instances of Rasool forgiving those who had insulted and injured him and Islam grievously, some may give a greater weight to a single incidence of dubious antecedents. One person even wants to name a dog (Bitch according to him) after me. All I can say, in the foot steps of my Rasool; please do, if it assuages your misplaced anger, and enhances your character and understanding of Islam.

Thanks again. A decent give and take in dialogue makes us think introspectively and critically about our own beliefs, values and helps us grow and be better. Warm regards,


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