Brutus: Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him I have offended. I pause for a reply.
All: None, Brutus, none!
Brutus: Then none have I offended.
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii)
The majority of Muslims love their religion. There is no doubt whatsoever in their minds about that love. But the Love Laws are a different matter. 'The Laws' that in Roy's words 'lay down who should be loved, and how, and how much.'1
When Love is for God, only He has the authority to lay down the Love Laws2. Anything else would be an 'enforced ceremony'. Enforced upon others.
When love begins to sicken and decay
It useth an enforced ceremony
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene ii)
The question then is: What does He say about His laws? Where to look for them? How to look for them? How to implement them? and very importantly these days, Who is to interpret them? Who is to make them into enacted laws for the state? And who is to implement them?
There is no doubt that the Qur'an and the Sunnah are the only two original bases of the content of religion, because these are the only two undeniable and authentic forms in which the content of our religion was passed on by the Prophet (sws), the only source of the last Divine guidance, to his companions3. Just as the Qur'an was received by the Ummah4 through the consensus of the Prophet's true companions and through their perpetual recitation, the Sunnah was received through their consensus and perpetual practice. The Sunnah, therefore, stands validated, like the Qur'an, for all times through the consensus of the Ummah. There is no doubt or confusion about it.5 The consensus of the Ummah generation after generation that the 'content' of religion was passed on by the Prophet (sws) in the form of the Qur'an and the Sunnah through the consensus of his true companions makes these two bases of religion establish their authenticity for certain. Now, it cannot be said that 'because of such and such reported incident in which the Prophet (sws) is believed to have read this particular verse of the Qur'an in a different style or manner, the verse can also be read in such and such manner'. The veracity of an established fact cannot be undermined by a few isolated narratives. Not even one word or letter or vowel sign of the Qur'an which was received by the Ummah through the consensus of the Prophet's true companions is deniable or alterable. Neither is a single Sunnah of the Prophet (sws).
The result of all this discussion:
1. There is no doubt about the content of Islam in the form of the Qur'an and the Sunnah
2. There is no scope for any alteration in these two on any grounds. Whether that alteration is justified in the name of a reported (and therefore debatable) incident regarding the Prophet (sws) or Ijtihad 6. When an explicit directive of the Qur'an or the Sunnah exists, there is room only for interpretation, not for alteration.
That is the only certainty. The Qur'an and the Sunnah and the 'content' of religion they contain. Through these bases we have His undeniable and unalterable 'words' and 'the rituals' He wants us to follow. However, the interpretation of this 'content' is another matter. The 'content' is from God, the interpretation is ours. The former is Divine, the latter human. No individual can claim that his interpretation does not carry any possibility of mistake. The same applies to a group.7 Therefore, while only the Qur'an and theSunnah are the source of reference for the Divine directives – no scholar, no sufi, no opinion, no interpretation is that source, for none of these contains the 'content' of religion --, only that interpretation of a Divine directive can become the law of the land in an Islamic State which has the support of the majority of the Muslims (see the Qur'an 42:38).
Furthermore, when laws need to be enacted in matters regarding which there is no Divine directive, in other words in matters not related to religion (for example laws for the traffic), any law which has the sanction of the majority of the Muslims and is in accordance with the good conventions of their society is, in Qur'anic terms, Ma'ruf, and its violation is Mun'kar. But such law is not Shari'ah (Divine law). It is the area related to such law where Ijtihad is required. The 'effort' to find the right solution – a law for example – in a certain city for a traffic problem is Ijtihad. If a law is the solution, then it should not be against Islam. It should also not be against common sense. Ensuring this requires wisdom and understanding, especially where in one city the solution may be perfect and in another absurd.
To conclude, the points that need to be emphasised are:
1. The Qur'an and the Sunnah are the only two bases of Divine directives in Islam. These directives cannot be altered through any Ijtihad or on the basis of any narration.
2. Only that interpretation of these two bases should become the law of the land which has the support of the majority of Muslims.8
3. Ma'ruf (good conventions) and Munkar (bad conventions – or violation of good conventions) are not Shari'ah (Divine law). When laws are made on these bases, due consideration must be given to varying circumstances in different places and different times.
4. Any law, even a law which is passed on the basis of a Divine directive, can be changed if the change has the sanction of the majority of Muslims. In the case of a Divine directive, if the legislature is convinced that an interpretation other than the one on which an existing law was made is correct, it can, with the support of the majority of Muslims, change the law based on the wrong interpretation. Similarly, with such support, it can change any other law (for example a law related to Ma'ruf and Munkar)
Interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah is a very serious responsibility. Even when the matter is personal at the level of an individual, it is expected of a Muslim that he will make a sincere and responsible effort to find out the meaning of the Divine directives which relate to his duty to God and to his fellow men. But when the task of making laws for the whole society is undertaken, especially in case of laws based on Divine directives, the responsibility becomes manifold. The spirit of the Divine directive (42:38) 'amruhum shura baynahum' (Their [the Muslims'] affairs are by consultation among them) clearly dictates that this immense task of enacting laws for the land, whether those laws relate to religion or to other matters, should not be left to the whims of one person or to that of a few people, that the responsibility be taken seriously and shared to such an extent – through the support of the majority of the Muslims which manifests itself through their chosen representatives – that the chances of exploitation by any one person or group are minimised, and that the chosen representatives, hopefully pious, competent and sagacious people, should work in a spirit of co-operation even when laws contrary to their desires are enacted and implemented on the basis of 'amruhum shura baynahum'.
Enacting and changing laws, therefore, is not child's play. Changing the procedure for enacting laws and for amending the constitution is a matter of much greater importance. The system of checks in any constitution ensures that the task of enacting and interpreting laws remains serious, responsible and balanced. There is nothing in the condition of approval in both Houses or in the condition of two-thirds majority which is against Islam. In fact, these conditions are quite obviously very much in line with the spirit of 'amruhum shura baynahum'. A negation of this spirit would be a virtual negation of the Qur'an. Furthermore, it is also important to ensure that just as none of the Divine directives should be deleted, nothing should be added to them as well. Even good intentions of rulers, when these intentions take the form of law, should not be presented in such a way that they, with names as Ma'ruf and Munkar, are mistaken for Shari'ah.
There is no doubt that Love needs laws. With laws, it remains within the bounds of decency and ethics. But the laws need wisdom. Without wisdom, the law can, in the words of Dickens' Mr Bumble 'be a ass'. And then there are times and situations when Love needs no laws. It needs sacrifice. The dream of an Islamic society that has lived on in the bosoms of Muslims for generations ever since the Armistice is not merely a dream of seeing Islamic laws take effect. It is also a dream of once again seeing the ruler in virtual rags roaming about to inquire after the people. It is a dream of once again seeing an Umar unable to eat his food in times of starvation haunting his people. It is a dream of seeing a common man walk up to the Head of the State to ask where the extra piece of cloth for the new suit came from. It is a dream of seeing each member of the elite trying to outdo one another in contribution to a common cause: one giving half of everything in his house, the other giving everything except his love for God and the Prophet (sws).
Maybe, just maybe, what is missing for the realisation of the dream is not an amendment, but this sacrifice.
And this manifestation of Love – sacrifice and personal conduct – does not even require a two-thirds majority.