A friend of mine once discussed with me about her professor calling out Islam as an oppressive religion to women. Of course she defended her faith as a Muslim. But, this isn’t something new for us. When I asked her what she truly feels about Islam as a muslim girl, she reluctantly admitted that deep down inside she feels that if she digs hard she too would find some ‘misogynistic’ features of Islam! Now, this might be new for us. How come someone who defends her faith in public is not sure whether her faith treats her justly or not?
Before you assume that this essay is about Islam and feminism, I request you to look at the title again. It’s about the Sharia and *us* and not about the Sharia and women or for that matter men. The Sharia is about human beings as a whole and addresses, sometimes, the men and women separately but mostly together. Projecting modern anxiety of gender roles on the Sharia or its analysis is not the aim of this essay.
What I want point out is that many muslims, even practicing ones, feel that Sharia does not take into consideration their wishes, aspirations, and especially not their will. Most of the Muslims are introduced to Islam or Sharia as Allah’s will (alone) and submitting to it is the only option we have as muslims otherwise we end up as hypocrites.
CONCEPTUALIZATION is one of the essence here. Conceiving the Sharia as something alien, inconsiderate of our being and opposite to what we want is the result of such an introduction to Islam or Sharia.
But, this essay is of the opposite of this!
Our teacher reintroduced Sharia to us simply by doing it systematically through deeply rooting it in the Qur’an and sunnah. Most students of Islam learn it haphazardly, without a teacher which leads them to a crude understanding of Islam. Their Islam doesn’t reflect order, wisdom and beauty rather it’s chaotic, random and hence, ugly. Our concept of the sharia hugely depends on our concept of Allah. If we believe in Allah as someone who is authoritarian, imposing, oppressive and revengeful then Sharia is a reflection of that Allah. But if we focus on the book sent by Allah, which starts by introducing Allah as compassionate, merciful, protecting us from harm and sending us His messengers and Prophets to ease our lives and providing us with all the benefits of this world and the next, then, the Sharia becomes a whole different thing. Isn’t this what guidance is all about? The word Rabb in the very first ayah of Surah al-Fatihah that we recite in every rak’ah (read rakaat) of every prayer is a testimony that Allah wants us to believe that He loves us and takes care of us all the time! (To understand Surah al-Fatihah in-depth check this out )
That’s how our teacher introduced us to Allah and then everything fell into perspective. Now the Sharia became something that aims at benefiting us and protecting us from harm because our Rabb loves us. He defined ‘fard’ (read farz) as not some ‘obligation’ alone but as something when carried out benefits us immensely and if left leads to much harm. Similarly what is ‘haraam’ is something when done leads to more harm than benefits. In other words going toward harm is haraam and all of us know, through experience, that we do tend to harm ourselves sometimes!
Now we can better understand the reason why the Prophet sallahu alaihi wa sallam in many narrations told us that a true muslim is the one whose heart is open to whatever Allah has sent. As true muslims we do not see the Sharia as an alien will imposing itself on us but rather in harmony with our own self, facilitating our own well-being in this world and the next. Islam now becomes trusting The One who created you, loves you, takes care of you and knows what is good for you and what is not so good!