From a purely religious perspective it is very odd that you could buy alcohol or open bars in the lagoon of Hulhumalé, but not on the land. But that is exactly what the existing regulations on liquor have allowed.
Religiously, it is also very strange that you could open hundreds of ‘human bars’ in houses, but not in city hotels with more stringent regulatory measures. Again, that is exactly what the existing regulations on liquor have allowed.
A lesson from history
Going back to the last Muslim caliphate, it is very awkward, from a purely religious point of view, that the Ottoman sultans sanctioned the Hanbali School of jurisprudence over all others.
Going back to the very early period of Islam, from a purely religious point of view, it is a bit strange that Caliph Abu Bakr would allow the Wars of Apostasy (Ridda wars), but that leading companions such as Umar or Ali would oppose it.
Again, it is very revealing that his own brother Sulayman Ibn Abdul Wahhab and his own father would so strongly oppose Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab to the extent that Sulayman would write a whole treatise against his brother Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab.
Reflecting on our society, it is equally revealing that Islamic Ministry disagreed, for instance, with Jamiyathul Salaf over health insurance and over the religious unity laws.
Why does Abdulla Saeed (Maldivian professor at Melbourne University) think there should be complete freedom of religion without worldly punishment while Jamiyuthul Salaf came out against this in the penultimate day of Hassan Saeed’s bid to become president?
Similarly, we could learn a thing or two from the disagreements over burqas and female heads of state between the double master’s degree-holder and winner of ‘Order of Merit, First Class in Arts and Sciences’ from Egypt’s Al-Azhar university, and the rest of our sheikhs.
We could also learn from the disagreements between Dr Afrasheem Ali and the rest over dancing, singing and dress codes.
…and the norm
Do we not wonder why there have been so many different interpretations of Sharia, including all the sects, Shiites and Sunnis and so on?
Indeed, inconsistencies, contestation and disagreement are the norm in every religion.
The European wars of religion and the Inquisition and Al-Mihna of Caliph Ma’mun were only the bloody face of such disagreements in religion.
To err is human
Now, could we not reflect on the incident when the Prophet (PBUH) was wrong about the grafting of date-palms and his subsequent distinction between Muhammad as Prophet (PBUH) and Muhammad as a human being?
The Qur’an, and more so the hadiths, constitute an overwhelming collection of information. Since the Prophet’s death, there has not been a divinely-guided interpreter of this information.
Hence, what we must know that it is us – all humans – who read the Qur’an and hadiths to come up with rulings and judgments.
As Caliph Ali is reported to have said, the “Qur’an is but ink and paper, and it does not speak for itself. Instead, it is human beings who give effect to it according to their limited personal judgments and opinions.”
And as humans we all are subject to various sorts of burdens in our judgments and rulings, including:
- The evidence involved in a particular religious matter might be complex and conflicting
- The weight each group gives to particular evidences might be different
- The issues themselves might be vague and that may lead to different interpretations (what is qawwamun, for example?)
- The way each group weighs the issues are differently affected by their total life experience, knowledge, and so on
These limitations could be part of the explanation why we have so many reasonable disagreements even within religion.
So, because people may reasonably disagree on religion, is it not a good reason not to let the State – which has the monopoly on legitimate use of violence – become the arm of any religious faction?
…the unreasonable and the selfish
In the political sphere, disagreements on religious issues can be amplified to even bloody levels by ‘pure politics’ itself.
Stepping to political sphere, motivated by your own political aspirations, it is not so difficult to be so inconsistent on religious issues.
“It is the next election, stupid!”
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