On the November 6, 2010, Minivan News published in its Comments and Opinion column an article titled “HRCM and Islamic Sharia,” written by supposedly feminist local writer, Aishath Aniya.
The article is mainly about Aniya’s objection to a suggestion by the HRCM President who said: “Human rights protection can be successfully achieved adhering to the principles of Islam.”
As such, Aniya has made two daring statements.
In the fourth paragraph, she writes: “For a moment, I could not understand what she [HRCM President] was trying to say. Her words suggested that HRCM – the highest authority to safeguard human rights in the country has joined the religious narrative that poses a clear threat to human rights, social justice and economic sustainability of the country.
And, in the fifth paragraph, she continues: “I am quite assured that if HRCM engages within the confines of Islamic Sharia, as it is understood now, we could be a long way from protecting and sustaining human rights in the Maldives.”
I read the article repeatedly. And what I noticed was that other than making a bold— and perhaps, emotional—statement, Aniya could not prove her point.
I also noticed that Aniya may have not done sufficient research. Because when I read the last sentence of the 14th paragraph, I was convinced that she apparently does not know the difference between Sunnah (saying and living habits of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Ijthihad (the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Quran and the Sunnah).
I understand Aniya’s objection to the adherence of Islamic Shariah. But she has failed to explicitly say where and how Islamic Sharia actually goes against human rights, social justice and the economic sustainability of a modern society.
Aniya has extensively quoted Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law. But it was mainly about the origin of Islamic Sharia, its sources and the developments during the early days.
She has not discussed which Acts of Islamic Sharia are inconsistent with the norm of a modern society, and how.
The two primary sources of Islamic Sharia are the Quran and Sunnah, something Aniya also has acknowledged by quoting An-Na’im. Does she hold a view that the Quran and Prophet’s teaching goes against humanity?
If the objection is to the “traditional interpretation” of Quran and Sunnah— thereby calling for modern interpretation, then who is more appropriate for the task. Should we rely on the view of a single scholar or should we respect the consent of the majority of the scholars?
Aniya is certainly impressed with An-Na‘im work. John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University has the following interesting comment on An-Na’im’s book, Islam and Secular State: “Although An-Na‘im wishes to present his views from within the Islamic tradition, he also states early on that his arguments are not exegetical in nature and therefore do not aim to interpret traditional Islamic sources such as Qur’an, hadith, tafsir, or legal theory (usul al-fiqh).”
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