The other day, in a discussion of events in Egypt, I noted — once again — that there is no one Islam, no monolithic version of the same faith. The same thing is true of Islamic law, even among people who believe that they want to live in a society that is ruled in accordance with sharia. Click here to go back and catch up on that.
This is a very complex subject and, even as I wrote that piece, I looked around a link or two that offered more information on this topic. And, yes, I wondered if former Time and Associated Press religion pro Richard Ostling (now semi-retired) had taken a look at this puzzle, writing at his “Ridgewood Religion Guy Answers Your Questions” site elsewhere in the Patheos universe.
As it turns out, he has. Thus, here is another GetReligion post under the banner of WWROD?
Let us attend.
As always, one of his readers posed the start-off question for the mini-essay:
What would sharia [Muslim law] look like if implemented? Would there be differences by country or region?
I immediately thought, “Implemented WHERE? In Egypt or in Tennessee?”
But I digress:
THE GUY ANSWERS:
Fundamental starting point: In principle, Islam draws no distinction between the spiritual and the secular such as Jesus’ famous biblical dictum “render therefore to Caesasr the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
It’s often said that Christianity centers on theology while Islam centers on law. Sharia (or “shariah”) covers personal morals (e.g. truth-telling), behavior (abstinence from alcohol), and religious duties (charity gifts, fasting, prayers, the pilgrimage) but also encompasses the entirety of existence.
If you have spent some time in the Muslim world, you can already see some of the issues that some Muslims want to carve into civic stone and others do not. The Guy has been around the religion-beat block multiple times in multiple decades and knows that.
That leads to the crunch section of the piece and an especially provocative not to debates within Christianity:
In the following The Guy cannot begin to treat sharia regarding warfare, terror, and the current turmoil of political Islam in Egypt and elsewhere across the Mideast, Asia, and Africa. But in broad-brush terms, we’re currently witnessing a crucial global struggle within Islam over what sharia mandates, how to interpret and apply the legal tradition, and who has the right to do the interpreting and the applying. This pits rising activists, often figures like Osama bin Laden with thin religious credentials, over against traditional jurists and jurisprudence. The insurgents and amateurs not only hope to upend older authorities but challenge the substance of tradition, for instance discarding the ethical absolutes against kidnapping, suicide, murders of innocent civilians, or destruction of churches on grounds of political expediency.
Is this at all similar to modern Christian liberals’ moral relativism or “situation ethics”? You be the judge.
Read it all. There is much more information ahead and some useful links at The Guy’s site.
Suffice it to say, we are talking about debates that will not be settled anytime soon.