Is Shariah law applicable today?

Sharique Naeem from New Civilisation questions whether Shariah law is applicable in the modern era.

An oft-repeated notion by some liberals, and self-styled secular intellectuals, is the assertion that the demand of a comprehensive Islamic government today which would implement Shariah law, is a “reactionary” stance. They deduce that the demand for political Islam is merely an “emotional outburst”, which originated out of colonialism.

As such they assert that Islamic law and the caliphate state model which originated in seventh century Madina, lacks the practicality to be setup again in the modern society, and its changed variables. For example: the incompatibility between its punishments as compared to the international law, and its economic prohibitions being incoherent with the global economic model etc. Some Liberals, refer the call for return of Islamic State as altogether a modern “innovation”.


However, the weakness of this notion is revealed upon a rational study of Islamic history. The irony of this notion is: Today the very thought of questioning the applicability of Islamic law in every place and time is itself a modern innovation, produced as a result of Colonialism.

A famous scholar, Sheikh Mohammad al-Khidr Hussein (head of al-Azhar 1952-1954) refuted this assertion by the secularists in his work “The Islamic Shariah is applicable to every time and place”.

Evaluating the opinions of the scholars, throughout the timeline clearly reveals, as Hussein writes – “Before the recent Western colonial invasion of Arab lands and the Islamic world, not one of the scholars of Islam occupied himself defending Islamic law, and neither did anyone write to prove they are valid for every time and place – it was an instinctive part of Muslim thinking and the Islamic way of life, and was rooted in the reality, its application tested (and proven) over centuries of history”. This holds valid as much in the distant history as it is to the recent pre-colonial history.

Non Muslim scholars

In addition to this, even western non-Muslim scholars and authors (even the critics) viewed the Muslim civilisation as one where the legislation, law, governance and state apparatus were all formulated based on the religion of Islam.

In 1877 Edward A. Freeman in his Book “The Ottoman Power in Europe” wrote: “The successor of the Prophet, the Caliph, is Pope and Emperor in one. In the Mohommetan system there is no distinction between Church and State, no distinction between religious and civil duty. Every action of a good Mussulman is not only done from religious motive, but is done directly as a religious act.”

Therefore today, the secularists and liberals who assert that Islam is pluralistic in its approach, compatible with the idea of separation of “Church and State” and in harmony with the idea of democracy, are in fact intellectually isolated in terms of their assertions. Their argument lacks credibility, due to the absence of even a reasonable number of citations from scholars of Islam and scholars of other faiths, who have written on the history of Islamic civilisation.

A sincere review of these assertions by the secularists may well lead to a change in their opinion and an appreciation of the facts in history; thereby it will enable a better understanding between them and those who view politics as an integral part of Islam.

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