God and Legislation
In our last article, we have seen how secularism has grown as a Christian concept. As the article in Encyclopaedia Britannica has shown, it is a child of its scripture and history. Today in fairness to my readers, I will start to present reasons that make it difficult for Muslims generally to embrace secularism. This is important to make Nigerians appreciate why Muslims all over the world take the shariah issue seriously. It is simply not fanaticism or the desire of the “religious activists” to acquire political power as Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim has alluded in his article.
Our discussion will center on two of the five topics relevant to the issue: the Islamic concept of God and legislation. We will return to the rest later in the series.
God in Islam
Islam has maintained the purely monotheistic doctrine as epitomized in a small Quranic chapter called The Unity. That is the belief in the same God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. This is called the concept of Tawheed.
Of greater relevance to the topic is the role of God in the day to day running of the universe. Muslims believe that it is God who has created the universe (16:3) and He is fully in charge of running it (2:225). They believe also that God did not create the universe without a cause (21:16) or is oblivious of it (18:17). No. “And He it is Who in the heaven is God, and in the earth God..” (43:82)
This leads us to the issue of sovereignty. God is neither sleeping in heaven nor helpless on earth that he could be killed by people like Nietzsche. “Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Sovereignty, and, He is Able to do all things.”(62:1). In a verse that is considered the greatest by Ibn Mas’ud and other scholars of the Quran, God has left us in no doubt as to the extent of his power. He said: “Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His Throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.”(2:225)
The above verse answers a lot of misconceptions about God by various doctrines and philosophies. He is single without a competitor, active not dormant or weary, and sufficient not needy. He is All-knowledgeable not dislodged by discovery, everywhere not restricted by space, eternal not overtaken by time. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.
The implication of believing in His sovereignty in heavens and earth contradicts the theology that ascribes something to Caesar and another to God. In Islam, Caesar himself belongs to God. In fact he dearly needs God for guidance, inspiration and protection. In fact, it would not have been fair if God, after creating him with the purpose of inhabiting the earth, were to leave man to grope in the wilderness of his ignorance and innumerable other shortcomings. He has thus sent Messengers with messages that will save humanity from that ordeal.
The message of Islam is therefore comprehensive. It is meant to guide man in both his spiritual and secular matters. The two must be harmonized. They must be seen to spring out from the same source and leading to the same goal. Man cannot afford to be guided by God on heavenly matters and on earthly matters by something else. That is why if humanity would leave for another million years Islam and secularism will forever remain parallel. And Muslims will continue to baffle believers in other faiths by their intransigence on applying Quranic regulations in every aspect of life.
Now, let us try to answer the question that is central both to our discussion and to the thesis of Dr. Ibrahim. Having mentioned the two essential requirements of legislation and their scope, who then is most eligible to legislate? The answer to this question has been the bone of contention between Messengers of God and their people in the past. Today, it is the line that divides between secularists like Dr. Ibrahim and those he chose to call religious “activists.”
In order to answer this question it is essential to examine the fundamental requirements of legislation. The first three are creation, knowledge and wisdom. There may not be much with the first because man knows that he has no power of creation. Knowledge here is not a LL.B. or a Ph.D. Otherwise people like Dr. Ibrahim and Tilde would have contemplated being lawgivers. It requires a thorough knowledge of the nature of creation – not of man alone – its origin, history, present, future and destiny. Man is just one of millions of creations in the universe. He occupies a tiny planet among other billions. He lives amidst forces that are far more tremendous and enduring. They all have influence on his existence. His survival therefore depends on how he relates to them.
The knowledge of the laws under which they operate is therefore crucial to the formulation of his laws. If he is able conduct himself in harmony with such universal (or say natural) laws his survival naturally becomes guaranteed. However, if he will choose to violate or contradict them, whether out of ignorance or out of arrogance, then misery and extinction becomes his fate.
In addition to a thorough knowledge of the universe, a lawgiver must have knowledge of human nature. Such knowledge must fulfill two conditions: it must be all encompassing and certain. It must be encompassing in that it is extensive, detailed and comprehensive, covering all subjects that are related to human conduct in the past, present and future. It must be certain because a law based on speculation would only spell disaster for humanity if after its coming into operation its theory is discovered to be faulty. The lawgiver must have the foresight to correctly judge the consequences of his law.
Wisdom is what will ensure the correct utilization of knowledge in lawmaking. Whereas knowledge offers many options, wisdom offers the best choice. Furthermore, legislation on any aspect of life must be done in consideration to other aspects to ensure harmony and avoid contradiction. Laws are too important to tolerate contradiction. Man is part of nature. His laws therefore must be balanced just as nature is.
The fourth requirement is justice. A lawgiver must be able to overcome the shortcomings that would lead to the reflection of injustice in his law. They include individual, gender, family, class and racial interests. He must not possess bias, prejudice and so on. If he possesses any of these imperfections, then they will certainly, depending on the circumstance, tamper with his formulations. Favor of one creation over another is inimical to universal peace just as favor of one class of people over another is destructive to global contentment.
The fifth requirement is ability to enforce his laws. Law without force is a farce. A lawgiver must be able to reward and punish to guarantee compliance. This may be a simple requirement if the violator is just one person or a group made up of few individuals. But when an entire nation or humanity deserves to be punished, the dimension of the requirement becomes extra-difficult.
The last requirement we would like to highlight is reverence. A lawgiver for humanity must be able to occupy a position of respect by his subject for law is obeyed better out of veneration than fear. Humanity has learnt to revere for three reasons: for the debt it owes the lawgiver from his favors in the past; two, for his indispensability to the present; and three, for the future benefits that will result from obedience to his laws.
Any being that is able to fulfill them becomes eligible to formulate laws and dictate values for mankind. Without seeking to prolong the discussion, history has witnessed only two contestants to the position of absolute legislation. They are God and man.
Different civilizations and religions have come out with different verdicts on the issue. Some have chosen man, others God. Some ‘religions’ have chosen both, differing in proportions of responsibility they allocate to each. But Islam has stood resolute over the last fourteen centuries that God alone is qualified to occupy the position of a lawgiver. Not only that, Islam insists that this is the truly original position of earlier revealed religions as practiced by Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (May God be pleased with him (3:84). A Muslim is therefore obliged to believe in all previous Messengers and to obey their laws that are embodied in the Quran (25:13).
Man is never free and it is not in his nature to be so. He has to choose a master for guidance and inspiration. The choice between God and man as source of legislation is one that determines who will be the master that will define the destiny of humanity. One of them is the Almighty, who is responsible for man’s origin, past, present, future and destiny. The other is other fellow human beings who, despite their numerous shortcomings inadequacies and iniquities, have put themselves, at different periods of history, in the privileged position of dictatorship under different guises.
It is important to say that this is not a judgement restricted to Muslims alone, but even champions of American brand of democracy like Tocqueville have made exactly similar observations. We shall see that at the end of the article. I wished space were large enough to allow us examine the credentials of God that the Quran presented for the position of a final lawgiver to mankind. But it is not. We shall leave that until next week. We will now follow the other route to arrive at the same result by examining the credentials of the other contestant, man. If we find him wanting, God is then automatically eligible.
On close examination we have found that man in this respect possesses only ‘Toronto’ credentials. Though his bravado has always fallen short of claiming to have created the universe, he has recently resorted to the strategy of denying God that credit. In Chance and Necessity, the celebrated French scientist said: “The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance.”
What do scientists mean by chance and what is its frequency that was responsible for the creation of the universe? The frequency as mentioned in a famous essay titled the Origin of Life could be just one in hundreds of billions of times. In a reply to Monad, the renowned American Physicist, Freeman Dyson, said in Disturbing the Universe that “chance cannot be defined except as a measure of the observer’s ignorance of the future.. I believe in the covenant. It is true that we emerged in the universe by chance, but the idea of chance is itself only a cover for our ignorance. I do not feel like an alien in this universe. The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.”
Man cannot claim to have the all-encompassing knowledge required in legislation. At his best, and after abandoning God for over three hundred years, he is yet to fully comprehend the universe, much less find answers to existential questions that religion has provided over the centuries. In 1977, the famous American physicist and Nobel laureate, Steven Weinberg, said in The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself.. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.”
Tragedy! Hmm. If this is a word that a scientist used to describe the result of human effort in solving existential problems, disaster would be the best word to use in describing his shortcoming in meeting the second prerequisite of legislation – wisdom. Man has over the past three centuries discovered many things in various fields. Yes, he has used his knowledge in science to invent drugs to cure various diseases, which in many instances he was responsible for creating. He has built facilities to meet his physical needs on land and sea; explored the near heaven above; and so on.
The question is that if these discoveries have added to his convenience, how much have they added to his happiness or guaranteed his future as a surviving species in the universe? Happiness was the cornerstone of the French Revolution. Under the philosophy of the revolution this was to be achieved through three cardinal principles: equality, fraternity and freedom. All this would operate in the new dispensation under man-made ‘laws’, without any resort to religion. The fact remains that these principles have since their proclamation failed to go beyond the level of rhetoric. The ‘law’ which is purely a product of human perception and which the likes of Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim would wish to replace religion forever has brought a chain of disasters for humanity.
Politically, since after the French Revolution, humanity under the leadership of western civilization has tasted the most disastrous consequences of its shortcomings and iniquities. It has watched helplessly how the world is made blissful for a few among the inhabitants of Northern Hemisphere but brutally difficult for those in the South. Even the recent concept of democracy is nothing but a means of subjugating other nations. It is allowed to hold only where it serves the West while it is stamped out wherever it attempts to improve the lives of the impoverished billions in the Third World.
Certainly, mankind has not blended its knowledge with wisdom. Scientists, social and natural, have not kept the promise they made to humanity when they were separating it from God during the Enlightenment. They have not proved responsible enough to carry or guarantee our destiny. For example, they could not resist the temptation of inventing and using the gas chambers and the atomic bomb. Earlier on, the knowledge of the gunpowder has served as a decisive weapon in the hands of European colonial powers. Ask the South Africans about the evils of apartheid, the Jews about Awstwich and the Japanese about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The knowledge of genetics and the theory of evolution were used to justify the subjugation of blacks and Asians for centuries. Today genetic engineering is deeply involved in manufacturing bacteria that would be used in warfare and viruses like HIV that are specifically targeted to eliminate populations of the Third World. If values are not immediately introduced into science, genetic engineering will alone have the potential to make humanity nosedive soon into the bottomless pit of extinction. But values are what scientists in the West hate most. That is why they run away from religion in the first place. “Any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden”, said the biologist Jacques Monad.
Ecologically, human laws have succeeded to jeopardize the existence of man and put him in direct conflict with other forces in the universe. Two examples. The Malthusian theory has led to population control through projects like family planning. Europe embraced it in the last one and a half centuries. The result? Listen. In its millennium documentaries, the CNN covered a town in Italy (there are many others in Europe) where there is only one birth for every thirty deaths! A young woman was asked why she does not want to give birth. She replied: “A child is a responsibility. I am not ready for one. I want to remain free!” For the first time in history, a civilization has failed to link freedom to responsibility.
Take the depletion of the ozone layer as another example. Every nation knows the source of the problem, but economic interests have prevented the industrialized nations responsible for the emission of the deleterious hydrocarbon from legislating against it. As a result, we have witnessed ecological disasters like El Nino that claims thousands of lives through floods and drought.
Economics is another area that the ‘law’ of Dr. Ibrahim has failed humanity. The distribution of resources since after the Enlightenment is not dictated by the fraternity and equality rhetoric of the French Revolution. Rather, the ‘secular’ and ‘free’ man is ever ready to abandon reason, knowledge and humanity when it comes to economic interests. Today, the policies of the World Bank and IMF are responsible for the perpetuation of poverty in the Third World. I do need to say more here. Every one of us is feeling the crunch. Thanks to our zombie leaders.
Thus, the freedom that man tried to achieve by distancing himself from religion has only lodged him in direct servitude to other human beings. Two hundred years ago, de Tocqueville has said in his famous book, Democracy in America that:
“When a people’s religion is destroyed, doubt invades the highest faculties of the mind and half paralyzes all the rest. Each man gets into the way of having nothing but confused and changing notions about the matters of greatest importance to himself and his fellows. Opinions are ill-defended or abandoned, and in despair of solving unaided the greatest problems of human destiny, men ignobly give up thinking about them.. Then not only will they let their freedom be taken from them, but often they actually hand it over themselves.”
God save us from secular laws!