By Mass L. Usuf –
The Muslim community was flabbergasted to read a sweeping statement made by His Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith which hit the headlines in a local newspaper dated 04/12/2020. In bold letters it read, “Easter Attacks, Sharia Law Played Major Part – Cardinal”. The report inter alia, stated:
“Muslims may consider Sharia Law important, but that does not mean it could be interpreted or introduced as the law of the country and forced on other communities or used to intimidate and influence other communities, Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith insisted.”
Three points are of relevance in this statement.
(1) The sharia being ‘interpreted or introduced as the law of the country’.
(2) Forcing sharia on other communities.
(3) Sharia being used ‘to intimidate and influence other communities’.
These are preposterous allegations reported as coming from His Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo. It is surprising and inexplicable. There has been some misunderstanding somewhere. There is no record of anyone interpreting or introducing the corpus of Sharia Law as the law of the country. Naturally flowing from this unequivocal denial, the sharia law could not have been forced on other communities nor used to intimidate or influence any other community. None of the above is true. And, we know His Eminence will not utter falsehood.
“……. You shall not lie to one another.” (Bible: Leviticus 19:11)
“Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!” (Bible: Psalm 34:13)
When the Quran categorically states that there is no compulsion (forcing, intimidation or coercion) in religion, only an insane or stupid person can force Islam on any other community. To force Islam on others, be it a single person or a community, is doing exactly opposite to what the Quran teaches.
“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.” (Quran: Chapter 2/256).
Sharia Law Is Impossible
Further, a condition precedent for the implementation of Sharia law is the existence of an Islamic government. Renowned Jurist, Christopher Weeramantry writes in his book, “This epitomises the approach of Islam to the question of government. The ruler’s power is held on trust from God. Apart from that relationship and compliance with God’s law, he has no right to rule.” (Page 124, Islamic Jurisprudence). It would be clear now that the blabber from certain fringe quarters about Muslims trying to introduce sharia to this country is absolute nonsense and a huge, huge lie.
It must also be stated that the Sharia law is a blessing on mankind. It upholds equity and justice as ordained by the Creator Himself. Certainly not like the frail and imperfect man-made laws which need to be amended all the time. Just in passing, with regard to the contribution of Sharia to the field of international law, even before Hugo Grotius (1625), who is considered to be the father of International law, the great Sri Lankan scholar and jurist Justice Weeramantry in an interview said,
“Like wise in the world of Islam there was much thought and writing about what we would today call international law – the treatment of prisoners of war, conduct on the battlefield, the sanctity of treaties, the privileged position of diplomats and the likes. All of these were elaborately discussed on the basis of the Holy Quran and the numerous traditions of the Prophet Mohamed known as the Hadiths, dealing with these matters. These were assembled in treatises on international law by writers like Al Shaibani which appeared around eight centuries before the work of Hugo Grotius, the celebrated Dutch Jurist who authored the great work on War and Peace in 1625”. (The right livelihood Foundation, Sweden).
Several hundreds of scholarly researched books have been written by internationally prominent Muslim and Non-Muslim jurists on Sharia law. In contrast to this, many in our country ignorantly utter this word, “Sharia” to spectacularly impress an equally ignorant audience listening with gaping mouths. As much as it sounds hilariously funny, there is the hidden danger of people being misled.
For the benefit of His Eminence, the following Scriptural references are made which encapsulates the monotheistic essence of the Path (Sharia) of the Christian and Muslim religious beliefs. The greatest Commandment for both religions – the Oneness of God:
Christianity preaches, “And Jesus answered him, the first, of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:28-29)
Islam preaches, “And your God is One God, there is no god but He, the Most Merciful, the All-compassionate.” (Quran, Chapter 2:163)
Christians and Muslims believe in this Oneness. In Islam, this belief is part of the Sharia. In this case, even the Christians are following the Sharia of the Lord. And, what does this word Sharia mean? It literally means, “the path”, “the path leading to the watering place” – the law that guides towards the Divinely ordained path of conduct. Therefore, if a Christian speaks against the Sharia, in essence he will be denying the very purpose of Prophet Jesus’ mission on earth – to establish the greatest Commandment – belief in One God.
Prophet Jesus (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) (PBUH) brought this message:
O Lord, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You. (Bible: Chronicles 17:20).
Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) (PBUH) brought this message:
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; …… And there is none like unto Him. (Quran: Chapter 112:1-4)
The Period Of Jesus (PBUH)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent to confirm the messages of previous prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus, peace be upon them all, as well as previous scriptures such as the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel in their original, unchanged form. The Quran states:
“Allah, there is no God but Him, the Living, the Sustainer. He has revealed the Book to you in truth, confirming what was before it, and He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (Chapter 3/2-3).
We Muslims and you Christians all belong to the same chain of Prophets and the same monotheistic belief in One God. Prophet Jesus (PBUH) came into the world at a time of great turbulence, religious corruption and violence. The custodians of the law were fraudulent, unethical and cheating in the very courtyard of the Temple. (Bible: Matthew 23:1-36).
“And for this the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill him,” (Bible: John 5:16)
His Eminence the Archbishop will appreciate that today, the Muslims are living in a period similar to that of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). The Muslims have been targeted by everyone and from all places. At these times of trials, tribulations and challenges thrown at the Muslims, they respectfully choose the Shariah (path) of Jesus (PBUH) in the Bible, which has resemblance in the Quran too.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Bible: Matthew 5:10)
“And endure with patience adversity and affliction (misfortune, hardship, peril, trials, tribulation). Such people who do these are truly righteous and pious.” (Quran: 2/177)
Easter Sunday Attack
I remember writing a Column just four days after the Easter Sunday attack, “I, Too, Am A Victim” (Colombo Telegraph, 25/04/2019). I am reproducing the pain and anguish that we Muslims as a community went through during that period.
“To those of you who have suffered injuries, you have found a permanent place in my daily prayers. I am certain, there are many out there, in whose prayers also you would be kindly remembered. I beseech God to relieve you from all the pains, aches and discomforts that you have been subjected to. I supplicate to God that He relieves both you and your loved ones from the trauma, shock and anxiety that they must certainly be experiencing now. May God relieve all of you from all physical and mental agony that has befallen you innocent and peace-loving people.”
“It would give me a feeling of immense relief if I could visit you in the hospital. I wish I could stand by your bedside. I wish I could help you to get back your strength. I wish I could caress your hair with filial or brotherly affection. I wish I was able to attend the funeral of our loved ones. It will ease the weight that my soul is burdened with to sit and console those who have lost their dear and the beloved. As you and I know very well, reality will not permit me to be by your side. This is a time of heightened emotions and I understand that.”
These were not weasel words but spontaneous outpouring. I, again, wrote on the anniversary of the Easter Sunday attack to the same newspaper which carried His Eminence the Archbishop’s statement. It was written under the heading, “A Year Has Gone By Without Justice” (Ceylon Today, 21/04/2020) bemoaning the delay in justice.
The Muslim community wants to exonerate itself from being blamed for the actions of a few whose masters, planners and schemers have still not been identified. Both the Christian and Muslim communities are waiting for justice to be dispensed as both have been victims in different ways. Since there is no place in Islam for such behaviour, the Muslims from day one had been continuously stating that these terrorists cannot be true Muslims.
A group of 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals, including many senior Imams and Muftis, issued an open letter in October 2007 to the leaders of every denomination of Christianity in the world, with specific reference to Pope Benedict XVI to engage in a deep dialogue for peace between the faiths.
Locally, I believe, we, the Muslims and Christians including all other Christian denominations have two significant steps to follow:
Firstly, all of us together must make every possible effort to ensure that justice is done to the victims of the Easter Sunday attack. Secondly, both the Christians and Muslims must sit and engage in dialogue to ensure that peace, justice, co-existence and national security is strengthened in our motherland.