Me, My Islam and German Society
“Now then, for that call (them to the faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded. Nor follow thou their vain desires; but say: ‘I believe in the book which God has sent down …’ ” (42:15)
With our marriage Mohamed had become a part of my family. He was welcome and also himself began to feel at home with my family. In line with the Qur’an “We have enjoined on man kindness to parents…” (29:8) he introduced a politeness into our family, that hadn’t been there before. Soon my father began to refer to Mohamed when talking to me: “Listen to your husband! You have to respect your father!” So did my grandmother when talking to him: “Listen to your son in law! You have to respect your mother!” At first he was even too polite for them. My father complained: “He never says, what he really thinks!” But still everybody liked him and was glad to welcome us as guests. For our sake my family even adjusted to all the changes, that come about with Islam. Though they were not all too thrilled about it: “That you always have to take everything so seriously…” Still they prepared special food for us. As we don’t eat meat, that hasn’t been killed the Islamic way, they served fish or vegetarian food. They left alcohol out of their cooking. And my mother brought some aluminum forks and spoons, as Muslims don’t eat with silver. At birthday dinners my grandmother prepared dishes with and without pork and tableware with and without silver: “That’s your seat with your forks and spoons. Here is your food. This salad contains meat, everything else you can eat.” They really went through a lot of trouble. Even the dog was tied up, as dog saliva is considered impure in Islam.
And the matter of the headscarf was accepted as well, though to my family it is absurd, how I dress “normal” in front of “my” family – that’s my grandfather, father, brother and uncles – but rush away to cover when my cousin’s husbands arrive. In Islam those don’t belong to my direct family.
Once my cousin’s little daughter asked me: “Please, show me your hair, just once.” So I took her upstairs into one of the bedrooms and took my scarf off. She looked at me for a while,then she said: “Your hair is not pretty!” Well, how is hair supposed to look, after it has been crushed under the scarf all evening. But at least she had seen, that I do have hair.
What makes all this easy for me, is the knowledge, that I am serving God. And I am grateful, that my family is accepting this as it is. The art of getting along has a lot to do with not being judgmental.
My grandmother was the only one still concerned about our souls. She began to fight the evil that had come over me, and she decided to start at its roots. The root, that was in her opinion Mohamed, my husband: “Mohamed, listen! We Christians do believe in salvation through Jesus Christ. What do Muslims believe in?” After all it was he, who had taught me Islam. And I just repeated, what I had heard from him. “You do have Christians in Egypt, don’t you? Did you ever read the Bible?” To my dismay she also was convinced, that my conversion had a whole lot to do with my interest in Mohamed.
Mohamed had read the Bible. So the two began to discuss Islam and Christianity. Soon it became obvious, that Mohamed was much closer to her opinions of morals and adequate behavior than the rest of my “disbelieving” family. “Under my roof I wouldn’t allow any unmarried couple to stay overnight in one room. I don’t care if they are my grandson’s friends and are allowed to do so at home!” Belief unites. Later she started to discuss death and the trust in God it needs to approach it without fear. Up to now she tells us: “I am praying for you, children.” I think that is really nice of her.
Unfortunately society doesn’t show as much tolerance as my family. Islam and Muslims are not really appreciated in Germany. Mohamed and I decided, to do something against this negative image. My mother commented: “There we have the right couple. Two dreamers, who believe they can change the world.” Actually I did still believe at that time, that with an open Muslim approach towards German society, Germans would eventually get used to us Muslims. After all they got used to Italian Pizza and Turkish Pide bread. Once they would understand, what Islam really is…
Actually church people – as my grandmother – show the most interest for their “colleaagues”, or rather “competitors”. Muslim presence is noticeable especially in the cities, where some church youth meetings have to deal with an attendance of nearly 90% Muslim youth. The staff has problems handling this situation. And the financiers are not all too happy to pay for the entertainment of the mosque youth.
So the churches try to get into contact with the Muslim communities. Church people visit mosques and organize lectures on Islam by Muslim speakers. The participants get to know each other and hopefully loose some prejudices. The protestant church even employs a pastor only for Islamic matters.
Mohamed and I began to participate at church organized events on Islam. If we don’t talk about our religion, who will? We talked about God, the prophets and Qur’an. About the creation of man out of earth. We consist of the same chemical substances as the earth. Our bodies will eventually fall apart to earth. And the colors of earth reflect in our skin colors.We talked about our belief in angel, created by God out of light and serving Him. (I wonder if they travel with the speed of light?) And we talked about our belief in the Day of Judgment, where we all will meet God.
But we also talked about our daily life, the prayers, the fasting of the month of Ramadan and the problems we have in German society. We used the chance to give some correct information on Islam and build up sympathy. Once after a lecture on Islam Mohamed and I had given in a Baptist church an old gentleman said: “I will pray for you, that God may guide you.” He was meaning well. As well as Mohamed, when he friendly replied: “And I will pray for you, that God may guide you.”
We never try to play down the differences between the religions. No matter how many common aspects we find, Christianity and Islam is not the same. After all both beliefs base on revealed scriptures, that can’t be neglected.
But that shouldn’t hinder us to cooperate, for example in social projects, joined prayers for peace or charity work, as is seen in practice once in a while. Both sides are working to improve the situation. Especially the personal contact and first-hand information are important, as for example Muslim lecturers for school classes or school field trips into the local mosque. Of course in cooperation with the local Muslim communities. Once I participated at a series of lectures, where school kids were taught the basics of Islam in a 90 minute session. Children are a good audience. At an early age they are less prejudiced. They ask: “Where do all the pilgrims stay in Mecca?” Or: “Do you have to purify yourself for prayer after playing soccer?”
Teenagers ask different questions: “What is your opinion on Khomeini?” Or: “What would you say about human rights in Islam?” Actually the older the children, the more questions refer to the media coverage of Islam. And we all know, what the media is covering to raise their quotes… as sensational, as exotic, as provocative as possible. Facts are turned around, distorted or left out. A demonstration of a labor union in Algeria is presented as proof for the enthusiasm, with which the Algerians support Saddam Hussein’s war in the Gulf region. Nobody can read the transparents… A Muslim couple squeezing through a small space next to a parking car is commented with: “The Muslim woman has to walk behind the man.” In the educational channel the “germ” Islam is swapping over from Sudan to Egypt. And “Der Spiegel”, which is a German magazine equivalent to “The Times”, publishes an article on Turkish women in Germany under the title: “Club in the back , child in the belly.”
There are of course some positive exemptions. Especially the radio tries to offer neutral reports and first hand information. They let Muslims talk. The WDR (West German Broadcasting) once even offered a three parts program of Qur’an recitation – in cooperation with professor Falaturi. And once I was invited into a German TV talk show: “Ilona Christen”. The talk show format was still quite new in Germany at that time and the subject “Women and Islam” was quite an experience for the team. That was obvious. Already in the dressing room the first problems occurred. How do you put a microphone on a covered woman? Can a male technician fasten the cable under her blouse? That is out of question. So the technician was just giving the orders to a female assistant: “A little higher. A little more to the right. When it falls you have to take some more tape!” And how do you fasten the microphone itself so that there is no rustle because of the scarf? But after a while even that problem was solved. At least make-up was saved that day. Muslim women don’t wear make-up in public.
And then the show began. Ilona Christen was very friendly. Though she had some trouble knowing us from each other: “You all look the same.” There were four other women: a Syrian gynecologist, a Turkish owner of a boutique, a Turkish law student and a Turkish high school student. The doctor and the shop owner were covering as well as me. Mrs. Christen and her team tried to show, that believing Muslim women can be independent, when they free themselves from cultural oppression. So the first two women were interviewed about being in professional life.
The law student shared her experiences with her traditional oriented parents. To her the “Muslim” customs in her family had been oppressive and discriminating. Ilona Christen tried to point out the differences between the woman’s personal experience and Islam. For example a woman in Islam can’t be married against her will, but the student’s parents had tried it anyhow. Once they had invited a candidate for marriage, but the young woman had managed to get rid of him right away, by putting salt in his tea instead of sugar. The other Turkish girl had been raised in a modern Western way. Islam didn’t have any importance in her life. And I was of course asked about my conversion.
The time you have in a show lie that is by far to short to give a complete picture on a complex subject as Islam. Still, what stays in mind is the atmosphere of the discussion, which was quite positive that day.
Another time the WDR did a program on Mohamed and me for a TV series on religion “God and the World”. We had always been critical about media reports. Now all of a sudden we had the chance to do it better. Fortunately the journalists were also planning to do a good program. We needed hours and hours for preparation.
For a change we wanted to show daily Muslim life. So they took shots in our apartment. Mohamed and I were interviewed about our life and opinions on Islam. Later the interview was underlayed with video pictures of our wedding party in Egypt. Mohamed and I are standing in the street in front of my in laws’ house, surrounded by the drummers and our guests.
As it was Ramadan the journalists also wanted to take pictures of a fast breaking dinner party with our friends. Actually they even took a shot of the shoes that the guests had left in front of the door. Where the TV team had left their shoes as well. And everybody liked Mohamed’s food. He still is a better cook than I. The fact that he as the man had prepared the food was later mentioned in the program. “According to reports already the prophet Muhammad used to help his wives with the housework.”
The journalists also took shots at the university. First they wanted to have pictures from my arrival at the campus. As we had met at the campus we had to fake the arrival. Quite easy for a TV team. They prepared the camera at the tram station and had the driver of the next incoming train close the door behind me and reopen it, so that they could get a picture of me getting off the train. “We are shooting!” People stopped, to witness the scene. I felt like a movie star. That feeling disappeared soon after, when pictures were taken in my Arabic class. While the camera was running the teacher asked me for the new vocabulary. Which I busy as I was with the T.V. program hadn’t prepared yet…
And the last location was the mosque, where Sabine and I were interviewed about our experiences with German society.
Mohamed and I did get along very well with the journalists. Still, when the program was about to be broadcasted, we were worried. We didn’t know yet, what of the material they had used for the five-minutes program. Of course we didn’t have any influence on cutting or comments. But the program turned out to be good. Quiet, normal and a lot more honest than the usual programs. And even years after the broadcast I was still occasionally recognized by strangers.
In spite of positive examples the majority of media coverage of Islam is negative and always ends with the same old prejudices: Backwardness, oppression of women, violence and war. And always the same names appear: Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Sudan. Don’t think I am naive and not seeing the reality. To be Muslim doesn’t mean to loose one’s ability to criticize. I don’t think everything is good, that is done throughout the world in the name of Islam. We all know, how much corruption and terror there is in “Islamic” countries.
But people have been persecuted, tortured and killed for centuries in the name of Christianity as well, haven’t they? Throughout raids, slavery and oppression? Just remember the crusades, the colonization and the inquisition. And what about Northern Ireland, corrupt “Christian” politicians or “Christian” warlords?
Dear reader, are you Christian? How can you call yourself Christian and support all this?
A silly question. You are right. We all know, that one has nothing to do with the other. Not everything labeled “Christian” is actually Christian motivated or even in correspondence with the Christian doctrines.
Why then are Turkish children in German schools asked about the Turkish policy towards the Kurdish minority? Or about Saddam Hussein’s war? What do the children have to do with this? What do I have to do with this? Do I have to justify the actors just because they have the same creed on their lips as I do? Not everything labeled “Islamic” is actually Islamic motivated or even in correspondence with the Islamic doctrines.
Please, do look closely. It is extremely flattering for us, that you think all Muslims are self-sacrificing, pious people with no other motive than Islam. But that is not reality. Muslims are human. And too many of them Islam is no more than an innate attribute like one’s nationality. Ask Turkish teenagers for their religion. Many will tell you: “My passport states Muslim.” Besides that passport entry there is not much to see of Islam in their lives. There are “Muslim” communists, socialists, nationalists, secularists. There are even “Muslim” atheists. At least according to the entry in their passports. An “Islamic” state is also no more than a state with a population majority of Muslims. Don’t blame Islam for the injustice in some of these countries. Usually it’s all about politics and power. Every kind of opposition questioning the privileges of the upper class is oppressed there, including the Islamic opposition.
Of course there are also Muslims, who wish for an Islamic state with “Islamic” laws, according to Qur’an and Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad. The logic behind this wish my husband explains like this: “If you’d own a Mercedes car and it would break down, what would you turn to for the repair? A handbook for this type of Mercedes or rather one by Ford or Opel? Of course you would choose the handbook of the manufacturer. After all nobody knows his product as well as he does.
If you want to improve the world, you also turn to the manufacturer’s handbook. God has created the world and added the guidelines, how to live in it: Qur’an.”
My mother complains about this view: “That Muslims always have to mix religion and politics…”
We do not mix religion and politics. Religion is from God, but politics is made by man. Islam is religion. It is submittance to the one and only God. He created us and to Him we will return. I believe in all prophets, who were sent by the merciful God, to guide us humans again and again: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, to name only a few of them. I believe in the scriptures, that were revealed to the prophets.
And I believe, that religion should be part of our daily life. We live to serve God (51:56). Service to a Muslim is more than prayer, fasting, giving alms and doing the pilgrimage. It also includes learning, working, being friendly. “The deeds are according to the intentions, and every man will earn, what he intends…” The one who does good deeds will be rewarded in this world and the Hereafter.
I believe in the responsibility of every human being, for himself and in society, may he be professor of theology, farmer, sales-person or politician. To be engaged in religion and politics doesn’t exclude each other. On the contrary, it supplements each other. A person, who is aware of his responsibility towards God and man, can’t neglect his political responsibility in society. By voting, by acting, or even by keeping silent and leaving the decisions to others.
We don’t mix religion and politics. We just see reality. Every politician and every voter has a belief – may it be religious or not – that of course reflects on his political opinion and behavior. That is a fact easily observed in the West. Just think about Christian motivated political programs, as in the asylum or abortion debate.
In the same way practicing Muslims wish to enter their belief into politics. Qur’an and the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad do offer – as well as the Old Testament – more precise guidelines than the New Testament. And where a Muslim doesn’t find any guidelines, he looks for a leading case or analogies and uses reason.
A man by the name of Muadh was sent to Yemen as governor. The prophet asked him, what he wanted to base his rule on. Muadh answered: “On the ruling of Qur’an” “And what if you don’t find any rules there?” asked the prophet. “Then I’ll rule according to the Sunnah of the prophet.” “And what if you can’t find any rules in the Sunnah, too?” “Then I’ll try to come up with an own judgment.” Muadh answered. Here the prophet raised his hands and said: “Praise to God, who guided the messenger of the prophet.” In this sense Islamic politics are absolutely imaginable. And also an Islamic state with an Islamic government is imaginable. Why shouldn’t Muslims rule where they are in the majority?
You ask about the minorities under a Muslim government? What kind of minorities are you thinking of? Thank God Islam doesn’t have any problems with racism. Muhammad, the prophet, expressed an opinion that was revolutionary in Arabian society of his time: all humans have the same value. Qur’an states: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:13)
Neither race, nor descend, nor origin, nor wealth, nor strength, nor gender are important. The best before God is the most righteous. So it became possible for an African, a former slave, to be the first person to call the believers to prayer in Medina, and for a woman to become arbitrator on a market or a teacher of religion. The prophet Muhammad said: “Listen to your commander and obey, and should he be an Abbessinian slave who looks like a dried grape.” What a potential there is in this attitude. Everybody, no matter who he is, shares his abilities and contributes to the well-being of society.
But what about religious minorities? What about non Muslims? The Islamic state is a constitutional state. The prophet Muhammad said: “A command should only be followed, if it is in accordance with right and law.” Religious minorities are protected. Qur’an is guaranteeing them respect, a limited autonomy in jurisdiction and else equality before the law. Non Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are of course free from the Islamic Zakat, the obligatory payment, that every Muslim man or woman owning a minimum amount of wealth has to pay. And they are also free from military service. They may serve in the army, but they don’t have to. The thought behind this is simple. The Islamic army defends per definition the ideals of the Islamic state. It can’t be expected from non Muslims to die for these ideals. On the other hand all citizens of the Islamic state, including the non Muslims, are of course entitled to be protected by this army. As well as all are entitled to state benefits, as infrastructure, schooling and in case of necessity state welfare. To balance these payments male non Muslim men in service age, that decide, not to serve in the army, do have to pay a compensatory payment, if they are financially able to do so. The amount is – as with the Islamic obligatory payment – set in relation to the wealth of the individual, but does stay under the Zakat rate.
In the professional area non Muslims have the same opportunities as Muslims. They may even become minister or Secretary of an Islamic State. Only to become Head of State is not possible. What is not really surprising. After all the Head of State is representing the people. Because of that in Argentina for example only a member of the Catholic church can be elected as president or vice president. And also kings don’t have a free choice of religion. The King of Sweden has to be protestant, the King of Greece member of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the King of Thailand Buddhist, to name just a few examples.
Everybody’s religious feelings have to be respected. In Qur’an we can read: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance…” (6:108) Respect for the “People of the Book”, the believers in revealed religions, is anyhow inherent in Islam as the believe in all prophets and the revelations they received is as binding as the belief in God Himself. “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians – any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62) That’s in Qur’an. So the same standard applies to all human beings: Believe and do good! Judge is and will always be God alone.
Free religious practice is also guaranteed. That is among others important for the Jewish or Christian wife of a Muslim man. He even has to enable her, to attend the congregational service, and if he would have to take her there himself. A marriage between a Muslim woman and a non Muslim man on the other hand is not permitted. As a non Muslim he is not subject to the Islamic law. So he is not obliged to respect his wives religion. The consequence would be that a Muslim woman in a marriage with a non Muslim man would constantly have to fear for her religious freedom. She wouldn’t have any juridical security. The wife would be dependent on her husband’s good will.
Non Muslims are generally not obliged to follow Islamic rules, as far as they deal with personal matters. So Christian citizens in an Islamic state are allowed to consume alcohol, not so the Muslim citizens. Christians are allowed to break the fast in the month of Ramadan, Christian women can dress as they like. But please, not in public.
You believe that to be a limitation of personal freedom? It is the right of every state to limit the personal freedom of its citizens where the general feelings of the people about right and wrong are concerned. Dress code? Well, try to go shopping at your local supermarket without wearing any clothes. What do you think will happen? In Germany that is called causing public annoyance. What exactly is offending the public feelings is defined by a legitimate representation of the people. That isn’t any different in an Islamic state with an Islamic majority government. Every country has the right to set the line between allowed and forbidden according to their peoples feelings.
Alcohol? In the U.S. at the beginning of this century there has been a majority supporting prohibition. Right now there is a law against smoking in public buildings. And so called “hard” drugs are forbidden nearly everywhere in the world. But even here, countries have the freedom of setting their laws individually, as is shown with the example of the liberal Netherlands.
To respect the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in public? Did you know, that the German state as well asks his citizens, no matter what religion they are, to respect the Christian holidays? For example on Sundays and holidays it is not permitted to run a video shop or a car wash. And on “silent holidays” from 5 am to 1 pm respectively from 5 am to 6 pm it is not permitted to run a market, an industrial exhibition, a sports event, a public festival, etc. Breeders of small animals are allowed to hold exhibitions but are restricted not to play entertaining music. It is even forbidden to move. Churches in Germany are considered to be landmarks. Did you know, that it is not allowed to construct a building next to a church, that would be higher than the steeple? And have you ever considered, why Church bells in Germany are less disturbing than e.g. the Islamic call to prayer?
Every state has the right to protect the religious feelings of its citizens. So does the Islamic state.
But as long as public interest is not touched, Jews and Christians fall under the Qur’anic rule, that every community has to follow the scripture revealed to them (5:43ff). Based on this rule a limited autonomy in jurisdiction is derived, that especially includes family law and inheritance law. For example Christian men in Islamic countries are not allowed to marry four wives, but only one, as is the church rule.
Germany does also grant religious communities some autonomy. Article 137, sentence 3 of the of the Weimar Constitution (This is incorporated into the Basic law for the Federal Republic of Germany. The Basic Law is the German equivalent to a constitution.) states: “Each religious body regulates and administers its affairs independently within the limits of general laws. It appoints its officials without the cooperation of the Land, or of the civil community.” Christian churches in Germany generally have the freedom to freely decide on questions of membership, recognition of marriages and divorces or about the usage of the church tax that is collected for them by the state. The church employs officials and worker. Religious instructors at public schools are paid for by the state but employed or fired by the church. As in the case of a Catholic instructor, who did not observe church law by marrying a divorced man. The Federal Employment Court ruled in this case in favor of the church.
The idea of religious autonomy is even more evident in the case of the Jewish “Beth Din”. The “Beth Din” is a religious court, that is ruling independently of state law in questions concerning the Jewish community itself, for example the decision on who is a Jew and who isn’t, or the validity of marriages. Also conflicts between members of the Jewish community, e.g. in business matters, can come to court. The jurisdiction is based on traditional Jewish law. Right now Jewish communities have “Beth Din” in several European countries. In Germany we have a Jewish court since 1994, which can be found in Munich. Of course state courts do still have jurisdiction in cases involving non-members of the Jewish community. Actually the function of the “Beth Din” in Germany is a good example for the idea of religious autonomy in an Islamic state. Community matters are solved by the community according to their own law. The general jurisdiction is available for everyone. There is equality in court for all citizens, no matter what belief they have.
The system of Islamic tolerance towards religious minorities has succeeded in history. The best known example is Spain. In the deepest European Middle Ages Muslim Spain was experiencing a boom of science and art, that was to enrich the culture all over Europe. Only the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Jews, Christians and Muslims under Muslim rule enabled this development. 800 years of Islam in Spain. 800 years erased by the Christian reconquista, in shortest time. What did happen to all the Muslim people?
On the other hand Christian and Jewish minorities in the Orient have survived 1500 years of Islam. In Morocco you can find up to today the descendants of those Jews, that had fled the ethnic cleansing of the Spanish reconquista and come to Muslim North Africa. In Egypt there has always been the residence of the head of the Coptic church, and in Jerusalem the head of the orthodox church. Church buildings have survived centuries of Muslim dominance without any damage. And church construction sites prove the vividness of Christian communities in the Orient. Christians are a part of society. Muslim children go to school with Christian children, Muslim mothers buy their groceries at the Christian shop just around the corner, and Muslim fathers discuss with their Christian neighbors local politics.
In spite of reconquista, crusades and conflicts with Christian colonialisators Christians and Muslim are leaving together in peace, where the strive for power of different political groups didn’t cover up the religious tolerance.
You think in an Islamic state nobody would be allowed to complain anyhow? How did you get that idea? Of course an Islamic state has the basic right of freedom of speech. Just whoever abuses freedom of opinion, in particular freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the secrecy of mail posts and telecommunications, property, or the right of asylum in order to attack the free democratic basic order, forfeits these basic rights. Freedom of teaching does not absolve from loyalty to the constitution. You can check this in the German Basic Law in Article 18 (Forfeiture of basic rights) and Article 5 (Freedom of expression).
In an Islamic state Qur’an has a place equivalent to the constitution of a Western state. In the same way as the German people decided on the Basic Law, a people, that in free democratic elections elect an Islamic government, do vote for Qur’an and the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad as state constitution. And that is, what the law is based on. The legislation is subject to the constitutional order; the executive and the judiciary are bound by the law. To be found by the letter in Article 20 (Basic principles of state order) Paragraph 3.
The Islamic law, civil law, criminal law, trade law and the like is bound by the borders Qur’an and Sunnah set, but is flexible in practice. A law has to be like that to be applicable.
Generally the rights of each individual have to be evaluated against the rights of society. We Westerners tend to overestimate the importance of individual rights. A German Doctor – non Muslima – told me once: “Freedom is always relative. In Germany I can’t even go by myself for a walk in the park at night.”
Actually personal freedom without law and order is not possible. Everyone has the right of free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral code. As stated in the German Basic Law, Article 2 (Rights of liberty), Paragraph 1. The moral code in an Islamic state may be a little more explicit than in Germany, where nearly nothing offends the moral code anymore. But that doesn’t mean that such regulations are against human rights.
What exactly is wrong with our human rights? That they are not defined by men? That they can’t be adjusted in time? Like in Nazi Germany or in Arpardheid’s South Africa? Our human rights can’t be abolished with a majority of two thirds. Our right of asylum is unalterable laid down in Qur’an: “If one among the Pagans asks thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure…” (9:6)
As unalterable is the freedom of belief: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
The equality before the law: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that ye do.” (4:135)
The right of life: “Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law.” (6:151)
The equivalent in the German Basic Law is Article 2, Paragraph 2 is: “Everyone has the right to life and to inviolability of his person. The freedom of the individual is inviolable. These rights may
only be encroached upon pursuant to a law.”
You ask about criminal law? Of course Islamic states do have criminal law. We live in reality. There are also thefts, frauds and murders among Muslims. Qur’an states: “… Did not God check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated…” (22:40) It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens and their rights. Criminals are persecuted by the state and do have the right of a court trial.
You believe some punishments are exaggerated and old fashioned? Like what? The death penalty? Death penalty is common in a lot of states, including some of the states of the U.S. that is often set as an example for the Western world. And also the German Basic Law theoretically sees the possibility to forfeit one’s right of life “upon pursuant to a law.” But to kill a man can never be taken easy. “… if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people…” (5:32) Sunnah defines only three cases, for which a court can sentence death penalty. These are cases that endanger the essential order of an Islamic state: 1st: Life against life. Intentional murder doesn’t only endanger the right of life of each citizen, but could even result in a blood feud endangering the peace of the country. Intentional murder is punished with death penalty (2:178+179). 2nd: The leaving of the Islamic religion. In case the person leaving Islam is openly rebelling against Islam, which is the elected constitution in an Islamic state, depending on the circumstances this might be called at least disloyalty to the constitution if not treason. In case there is not any regret shown by the rebel, this offense may lead to a death sentence. 3rd: adultery committed by married persons. Adultery destroys families and endangers the basis of society. Marriage and family enjoy the special protection of the state. As the German Basic Law states in Article 6, Paragraph 1. In an Islamic state adultery is persecuted in case there are four dependable witnesses with good reputation, that have clearly seen the act of adultery itself. What will hardly ever happen, unless it has taken place in public, what would be an additional offense against the moral code. If there are only three witnesses, those three are persecuted for slander. And punishments for slander are high. Even the spouse, who happens to find his partner engaged in the act of adultery, can only initiate a divorce, but no persecution. I guess sentences are in practice only possible in case of confession. That happens, as Muslims believe, to receive a punishment in this life will spare them a punishment in the Hereafter.
By the way, according to DER SPIEGEL magazine fornication will be also persecuted in Idaho again. An old states law from 1921 is supposed to be reapplied, which suggests for sexual intercourse between unmarried persons up to 6 months of prison.
Cutting off of a hand in case of theft? The logic of this punishment is of course a warning for others. It is hardly ever executed. It doesn’t apply to any little thief. To get this sentence there have to be high values involved, that the thief takes repetitive without any necessity. The second Caliph Omar is reported to have suspended this punishment temporarily because of a famine. And theft out of state funds is completely excluded from this punishment. State property is people’s property. And the thief is one of the people. So in a way he is stealing from himself. At least he has part in the ownership. Anyhow, that doesn’t touch his duty though, to repay the amount he has taken. If ever applied, the cutting off of a hand – if nothing else – is a protection from turning criminal again. It doesn’t only protect society from criminals but also the criminal from himself. One advantage is, that the thief will not be isolated and locked away for years, but rather stays with his loved ones. So he gets the chance to start his new life right away.
And civil law? Men are allowed to beat up women? The often quoted passage in Qur’an is the following: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefor the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For God is most high, Great (above you all).
If Ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace God will cause their reconciliation: for God has full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.” (4:34+35)
Actually this verse is characteristic for marriage in Islam. The man is responsible for his wife and family and their material support. In return he expects from his wife loyalty. The ideal case.
But what should be done in case the marriage is not an ideal one? Even couples of the best families might get into a fight. And all around the world such a fight might end in a crying wife and a regretting husband, who in a moment of helplessness and anger has let out his aggressions and beat his wife. Modern psychologist will point out ways, how to handle such aggressions: “Talk about your problems.” and “Do try to get a little distance from each other for a while.” Exactly that and nothing else is the advice of Qur’an, when we read “admonish them” and “refuse to share their beds”. Aggressions are directed into calm water. It shouldn’t even get to the beating in the first place. The prophet Muhammad said: “A number of women came to the members of my family and complained about their husband’s ill treating them. Those (men) don’t belong to the good ones among you.” And: “… and those are the best among you, who treat there wives in the best way.”And: “Strong is not that one, who throws someone to the ground, but that one, who keeps in control of himself, when he is angry.”
In case the couple is not able to solve their problems, arbiters are appointed from both sides. Still the fight stays in the family and isn’t out in public. The most important goal is to save the marriage and family. That aim is also addressed by the three months waiting period before an announced divorce has full validity.
But if there is really no way to come to terms, Qur’an supports a clear finishing line. “Thus when they fulfill their term appointed, either take them back on equitable terms or part with them on equitable terms; and take for witness two persons from among you, endued with justice, and establish the evidence before God. Such is the admonition given to him who believes in God and the Last Day. And for those who fear God, He (ever) prepares a way out.” (65:2)
Muslims may marry four women at the same time? That’s also no command, but rather a situation based permission. Qur’an states: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one … that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.” (4:3) So the Qur’an does rather discourage men to marry more than one woman. And the prophet Muhammad asked his son in law Ali in public, to not marry a second wife besides his daughter Fatima, please.
But do have a look at reality. How many men do actually have two “wives” and want to keep both of them. At least the second “wife”, the one without marriage license, usually does know the situation quite well and does accept it as it is. A second “wife” without any legal rights. Very convenient for the man. But not for the woman.
And do think about the children of such exmarital affairs. Sure, the German law guarantees them the same rights as legitimate children. But what is there to be done, when the mother just doesn’t want to name the father? How can in such a case the Basic Law guarantee in Article 6, Paragraph 5: “the same opportunities for their physical and spiritual development”?
In summer 1990 the German constitutional court discussed the rights of a child to know his father. The case had been brought before the court by mothers, that were fearing an intrusion into their privacy. How about the rights of the child? How about the rights of the father, who might not know, that he is a father? Please, isn’t it a better solution to give people the chance to legalize a second relationship?
Laws have to be oriented at reality to stay practicable. Problems don’t disappear by denying their existence. We do need practicable solutions. That’s what the Islamic law offers.
Maybe you have heard somewhere, that Islam doesn’t forbid slavery. In theory that is even correct. At the times of the prophet Muhammad slavery was the general practice in Arabia as well as everywhere else in the world. So there were slaves. Islam guaranteed them a status, that didn’t abolish slavery by name, but de facto changed the status of slaves by giving them rights. Slaves became famous educators, artists or even rose into high positions with the government. They had the right to free themselves through work. Generally the freeing of slaves was highly recommended as a good deed and prescribed as atonement. According to Qur’an even the collected money of Zakat can be spend on freeing slaves (9:60). As on the other hand enslaving of free people is not permitted, slavery early lost its importance in Islamic societies.
On the contrary to e.g. the U.S. Only in the last century the U.S. have tried to abolish slavery. It turned out that a bitter war had to be fought. And the results of the abolition are still felt in today’s society. The former slaves, the African Americans, largely belong to lower social classes, have less education and less opportunities on the labor market. They are not even close to having equal starting conditions.
You may also have heard, Islam is a religion of war? Islam does support the right of self defense: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged – and verily, God is most powerful for their aid.” (22:39) Everybody has the right to defend himself, his family and his property. Is the existence of Islam on stake, this right becomes a duty. Total mobilization. “Fighting is prescribed upon you and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you. And that you love a thing, that is bad for you. But God knows and you know not.” (2:216) In the West you will also have trouble finding people who when hit on the right cheek will hold out the left cheek as well. Or the high spending for the defense household would hardly be necessary.
Of course the right of self defense isn’t a green card for crimes of war. Qur’an is very clear on that matter: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. For God loves not transgressors.” (2:190) Aim is always to reestablish justice, order and peace. Revenge or feuds are not Islamic: “But if they cease, God is oft forgiving, most merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those, who practice oppression..” (2:192+193) “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace and trust in God: for He is the one that hears and knows (all things).” (8:61) “If one among the Pagans asks thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.” (9:6)
And the often mentioned term “Jihad” refers to all kinds of efforts to please God. It has more to do with fighting ones own laziness than with military confrontations.
In Islam there is also no mission by force. “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: Whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (2:256) Of course we wish our fellow humans all the very best. And that is in our opinion Islam. But “mission” in Islam is “dawa”, the invitation to faith. We tell you about God and Islam. But you should think for yourself. We don’t believe in brain-washing. Consequently -to my knowledge – there aren’t any groups of anonymous ex Muslims around.
Nobody tries to force something upon you, that you don’t want. Also with a Muslim share of only 3 % of Germany’s population a Muslim government is out of question. We just ask you, to use the brains, that have been given to you. Beware of quickly condemning people. Think about it! Do take on the challenge of Islam. And do get first hand information, before you make up you mind.
The biggest reproach against Islamic law is always its age. But not everything older needs to be worse. The Roman Law, the “Corpus Juris Civilis”, on which our Western Law bases, also goes back to the 6th century A.D. And Moses’ Ten Commandments are even dated back to the second millennium B.C. Nevertheless they are still up-to-date. The human nature doesn’t seem to have developed so much throughout the last few thousand years, as we’d like to make believe. Please, do also consider this some time.