Sharia in NWFP

I am not in a mood to comment on the whole Sharia thing. The NWFP provincial assembly passed a Sharia law a few days ago. I found the following quote from the NWFP Law Minister to be really funny:

“We will also make laws to persuade youngsters to obey their parents.”

You can do that?

Categorized as Pakistan

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. Salaam,

    Here is a prime example of where our Ulema seem to confuse a “moral” act (which can only be enforced inside the court known as the human conscious) with a “legal” act. Can we make “legislation” to force children to be morally “good” to their parents? Does this make sense? Why not, instead, teach them at school to be “good” to their parents? There must be something wrong with the entire education system, if youngsters are developing an antipathy towards their parents, so much so that there needs to be a ‘law’ to combat it. Making up a new law, which seems the favorite pastime of our Ulema, and like-minded people, is not about to help.

    (As a side note, why aren’t our Ulema out promoting, as opposed to legislating, good moral and ethical behaviour, and encouraging these youngsters to have a sense of dignity in being an Insaan? Where is their concern for poor literacy rates, and the lack of health care for these youngsters and their parents who they feign so much concern for? Why are they acting like politicians, promoting their sectarian “religious” parties, in much the same manner as the very people they claim to hate?)

    Oh, but of course, I forgot: school is for indoctrinating youngsters into promoting their sectarian affiliation, teaching them about hating the Kaafir, and making sure they can never think for themselves (what a dangerous thing that would be, indeed!).

    It would be inetresting to see if sister al-Muhajabah can provide us with a modern definition of the word “law” (inside the scope of “the legal” that is). My understanding leads me to believe that the Shari’ah, or at least a “normative Shari’ah”, consists of both law and moral pinciples, where the latter is the “spirit” of the entire faith. And surely this “spirit” must have more importance than the dry letter of the law? (Though law in my opinion should be “organically” related to morality – to borrow a phrase from the late Pakistani academic, Prof. F. Rahman.)

    Thanks (to you and Aziz) for your kind words regarding my comments further down.

    All the best and Salaam

  2. I’m not quite sure what you mean by modern defintion of the word “law”. Do you mean in the Islamic context or the American context? I have plenty of ideas about what things laws should be made about and what things they should not, but that is either a political question (in the American context) or a matter or interpretation (in the Islamic context). I’ve posted extensively to my blog on why I think that an Islamic state should only make laws against what harms other people, and leave the rest to Allah.

  3. “Do you mean in the Islamic context or the American context?”

    Law, AFAIK, means “rules established by a governing authority to institute and maintain orderly coexistence.” (I took this from a legal lexicon online – .) This is, AFAIK, a “modern” definition of ‘law’.

    The question is: Does Shari’ah mean the same? I’m not too sure it does. Imho, Shari’ah does have a set of “rules established by a governing authority to institute and maintain orderly coexistence” (apologetically denied by some Muslims), but these are clearly marked out in the Qur’an, and to which we cannot, of course, make additions. But, more importantly, the Shari’ah also seems to contain moral/ethical teachings, upon which the ‘laws’ rest. But it is the latter which are far more siginificant. Large parts of the parent-child relationship seem to fall into the latter category, where the child is to be “good” to his/her parents, and not to be “rude” to them. But if a child refuses to, say clean his bedroom because his parents asked him to, then can you have a ‘law’ or a ‘rule’ imposed by the ‘State’ which forces the child to do so?

    In the “Western” tradition, Jeremy Bentham and Herbert Hart, two jurists and philosphers of law, wrote about the separation of laws and morals. In contemporary Islam, Fazlur Rahman repeatedly talked of the “spirit” of the faith, and how the “morals” of Islamic teachings should be distinguished (as opposed to separated) from our “laws”. The entire Farahi-Islahi school bases its understanding of Islam on the “Shar’iah” (to them this means the ‘law’), and the “Hikmah”, that is the “spirit of the law”, the “philosophy of the law”, “the moral behind the law”. I think our Ulema should take this, what you might term “positivist”, approach to our philosophy of law. It’d help, imho.

    But God knows best!

  4. This may seem as a step towards Pakistan becoming more of an Islamic state, but it does not make any sense at all. I’m not quite sure if it would be better or worse than Saudi Arabia where Shariah is supposedly fully, but in reality selectively applied. It makes no sense. Without having total rulership of the land, when you have the prime minister of the country making the decisions, how can you say the region will be returning to Shariah? Has Shariah boiled down to just enforcing basic acts of praying and individual actions like respecting your parents (?!?!) ? “Shariah will take precedent over secular provincial law.” Isn’t that a contradiction – having both laws in effect, with one taking precedence over the other. Some people might say that this is a baby step towards an Islamic state or whatever, but its just really sad. The intentions may be good but it seems to be making a mockery out of Shariah. You can never force a people to live by Islam, (at least if you want a peaceful, progressive country). People have to want to live by it, at least the majority. If taken into affect, I would hope that this doesn’t turn into another Afghanistan under Taliban (which would be kind of difficult given that this is not a separate country! —- doesn’t it sound crazy? If you are going to apply shariah like this, how can you apply it in one province of the nation, and not the rest? Doesn’t that seem a little wierd?)

  5. Thebit & A-M: I agree. Unfortunately most people invested in political Islam don’t differentiate between legal and moral spheres. Also, there is some ambiguity about it from great scholars of the 4 mazhabs as well. e.g., punishment for habitually neglecting prayers.

    Tora: I am not upbeat about it. I have seen the antics of these guys for a long time and I am sure they’ll make NWFP just as much of a laughingstock as Afghanistan was under the Taliban.

    rabs: IMO Saudia is an example of what NOT to do. Basically what these MMA leader will do is put social restrictions, like banning music, requiring sex segregation, etc. Things which are not important in the grand scheme of things will be implemented and important stuff like justice, education, economics, etc. will stay down like always.

  6. Zack – yes i agree , Saudi Arabia is a good example of what not to do.. I guess my first post wasn’t clear when I wasn’t clear because what I was meaning to get across is that Saudi is just as bad – a living hypocrisy of an Islamic State. Unfortunately, these people are going to make it harder for anyone else who seriously would like to bring some sort of INTELLECTUAL revival…while they unsuccessfully attempt to enforce choti moti (small, insignificant for non urdu speakers) social laws which no one will willingly follow anyway..causing more unrest and frustration….already people in pakistan supporting the coming of Shariah in NWFP are causing riots….

  7. One more comment I have to make on the absurdity of the quote that you posted. I dont know if something was lost in the translation or something, but last I heard, laws were meant to “enforce” not “persuade”.

  8. rabs: I agree.

    These tearing down of billboards reminds me on the time when religious goons (i.e. youth groups) used to go on a rampage new year’s eve smashing car windows etc of people they thought were celebrating new year’s.

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