There seems to be considerable difference among various Muslim groups in matters relating to the strategy as well as the content of the implementation of Islam, through regulations and laws. This is an issue, which many groups of people seem to be somewhat confused about. As on other issues regarding Islam, the Taliban seem to claim a monopoly on this understanding.
What methods can be adopted for resolving these differences?
I will try to briefly explain why and how such differences may exist among various individuals and groups and what methods may be adopted for the practical resolution of these differences.
The basis of all such differences is primarily a difference in the interpretation of the directives of the Shari`ah or that of any events or incidents from which any rules of the Shari`ah may be derived.
Take, for instance, the example of Abraham (pbuh) breaking the idols. The Taliban seem to have interpreted the incident to depict Abraham’s strategy of cleansing the world of idols (and subsequently idol worship). I, on the contrary, feel that the opinion of the Taliban is not correct (as I have explained in one of my earlier responses1). Now, the Taliban – interpreting the incident as they do – are likely to consider it necessary (or at least very desirable) to follow Abraham’s example and to break as many idols as is possible for them. On the other hand, interpreting Abraham’s incident as I do, one is likely to consider the general desecration and breaking of idols to be contrary to the spirit of Islam.
The strategy of the implementation of Islam of a particular person or group is greatly influenced by the interpretation and the placement of the directives of the Shari`ah by that particular group or individual. A group which interprets that an Islamic state MUST implement each and every directive of the Shari`ah, whether it is addressed to the individual or to the collectivity, is likely to try and develop strategies for the implementation of the directive of ‘kindness toward parents’ as well. On the other hand, another group may feel that the state should (and can) only implement those directives of the Shari`ah, which are addressed to the collectivity, rather than the individual Muslims.
All such differences naturally result in a difference of opinion relating to the implementation of the Shari`ah at the state level, viz a viz its strategy as well as its contents.
One may ask that under such circumstances, how would we decide about the correct approach and content of the implementation of the Shari`ah at the state level. We need to deal with this question from an academic as well as from a practical approach.
From an academic perspective, it is simply a matter of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the bases on which each of the differing opinions is being presented. Thus, one would obviously and naturally ascribe to that point of view, which he (according to his understanding) feels to be based on a more correct understanding of the directives entailed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the Shari`ah). This obviously implies that if at a later time, the person realizes any weakness in the opinion, which he had previously understood to be correct and had therefore ascribed to or appreciates the strengths of a different opinion, this realization and appreciation would alter the individual’s own opinion.
From a practical perspective, we seem to have two options: 1) Any given individual in the state (most likely the head of the state) be given the authority to implement all the laws according to his personal understanding of the spirit, nature and content of the directives of the Qur’an and the Sunnah; 2) The opinion based on the understanding and interpretation of the majority of the Muslims residing in the state in question, be implemented. These seem to be the only two options available for practically and effectively resolving any differences of opinions in issues relating to the collectivity.
The Qur’an, however, has prescribed the second of the two options.
I hope this helps.
May 29, 2001