Ghada Ibrahim is a Saudi Arabian activist and ex-Muslim. She speaks to Conatus News about Sharia Law and how it affects Islamic societies.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Could you please define what Sharia Law is?
Ghada Ibrahim: Sharia means ‘law’ in Arabic. In this context, it means Religious Law or Islamic Law. It is a set of laws inspired by the Quran and Sunnah (the life and teachings of the prophet Mohammad), the two primary sources of Islamic law.
Jacobsen: Why do so many individuals in Muslim-majority countries want this form of religious laws implemented over secular ones? I’m curious as to their arguments, rather than more Western/soft interpretations of what preachers and jurists state in an open forum with believers in the faith.
Ibrahim: Because it is the only form of law they have ever been exposed to. They also look at secular laws, i.e. man-made laws, as inferior to divine law, which is, according to them, a law that comes directly from God. Religious law is final and true, as it is the word of an omnipotent God, the Creator, as seen by Islamic theology.
If the religious law isn’t imposed, individuals in Muslim-majority countries think, then all hell can break loose in the world. Some of the things I’ve heard about secular law is that it wants to “Strip your mother’s sister” and “Allow you to marry your mother” among other utterly ridiculous arguments. Of course, they have a misconception of what secular law really is, as they have never been exposed to it.
Jacobsen: How does the public deal with those who do not want Sharia in their lands?
Ibrahim: Public smear campaigns if they are from within the community. They’re usually called ‘Western Agents‘, ‘Atheists‘ – a very derogatory term for Muslims– things along those lines. If they are from outside the community, they are called ‘Dirty‘, ‘or “Immoral“. It is considered blasphemy to speak against God or Sharia law.Jacobsen: In more secular, democratic countries, it is the case that such people need to live alongside ordinary Muslims. How does this attitude carry over into minority sections of immigrants who live in Muslim-majority communities, when minorities have no intention of integration?
Ibrahim: I think you are referring to minority sects within Muslim populations. In Muslim-majority countries, there are small courts that deal with minority issues. How does that attitude carry around? I don’t really know. I like to think minority sects see the damage a religious law does and how it discriminates against people, but I don’t believe that is the case. There are, indeed, problems of integration for minorities within Muslim-majority communities, as they need to fully adapt to the standards of these communities.
Jacobsen: How does the Islamic system of jurisprudence manage or deal with women?
Ibrahim: The biggest issue with the Islamic system’s treatment of women is in family law. Women are not given their fair share of inheritance due to their gender; divorce is on the side of the man along with custody. Men are allowed to beat their wives and there is no concept of marital rape. I don’t believe an Islamic court system would ever be fair to a woman. This is simply because Islamic courts follow Islamic teachings, mostly the Quran and the Sunnah, which are inherently against the rights of women, meaning that an Islamic court cannot claim to be fair towards men and women if it is Islamic.
The biggest issue with the Islamic system’s treatment of women is in family law […] I don’t believe an Islamic court system would ever be fair to a woman.
Jacobsen: How many women religious jurists and legal professionals are there, and what is their ratio to men? If there’s a difference, is this due to a simple difference of choices based on professional and individual preferences or explicit bias and barriers well-known to objective observers?
Ibrahim: There are no women religious jurists or legal professionals. In Islam, jurisprudence and religious law is a man’s job. One of the requirements of a religious jurist is to be ‘a male of sound mind and age’ and possess religious knowledge.
Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Ibrahim: The concept of religious law is not entirely foreign to the west. Religious extremists of all stripes will always want to implement “God’s Law” over “Man’s Law“. They warn people of the evils of secular laws. There are, indeed, cases in Western countries where God’s law is being imposed on top of Man’s law, and some Muslims are no different in this regard.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Ghada.