There are two systems in this world which tells us how to decide on the laws by which we should lead our lives not only as an individual but also as a nation. One is secularism while the other is Islam.
Secularism is generally accepted as the best system through which nations and individuals can decide what is good for them and basically how to live their lives. The secular thought is based on the fact that the human mind has the capability to judge what is good for him and what is not. Expanding the concept, they say that a nation can decide on the rules and laws that govern their land based on their collective wisdom or in other words the wisdom of their majority.
The second system which is the Islamic system is a bit different from secularism. It says that the basic laws are created by Allah and taught to us through the Quran and the practices & sayings of the Messenger of Allah Sayedna Muhammad (peace be upon him). The compilation of laws from Quran and Sunnah is also known as Shariah or Islamic Law.
However talking about Shariah nowadays will immediately earn you a label of fundamentalist or more recently a Taliban! You will get to face many reactions, questions and ridicule. Ironically it is not only Non Muslims but also Muslims who will make fun of you. The kindest reply you can expect to get is a brother telling you that Shariah is only there to tell you about the Islamic acts of worship and nothing more. In short a majority of Muslims have accepted that progress and prosperity is only possible through secularism.
In this blog I will compile some arguments against Secularism in light of an amazing talk by Mufti Taqi Usmani which has been documented in Islahi Khutbat Vol # 1 ‘Aqal ka Daira Kaar’. I will also attempt to explain that how it is the secular system and not the Islamic system which is holding the Muslim nations back from progress and prosperity.
Sources of Gaining Knowledge & their limitations
If you want to understand the differences (and similarities) between Islam and secularism, you need to understand the sources of knowledge which these systems rely on to make their laws. While secularism identifies two sources, Islam identifies an additional source of knowledge.
The first source of gaining knowledge are the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste and sound). Although these senses are quite powerful but they have certain limitations. e.g. eyes can help us see, but they can never help us to smell or hear etc. If we ask someone to close his eyes and tell us the color of the object that I am holding by using all the other senses that he has, he will tell us ‘Are you crazy? No matter how hard I try I cannot see with my nose, ear or tongue!’
Secondly each of these senses cannot work beyond their range and scope. e.g. you can smell any perfume if you are within a few meters of the source, but beyond that you might not be able to smell anything.
It is at this time, when our senses have reached their maximum possible range, that we start relying on the second source of gaining knowledge.
Human minds helps us to find answers and/or to gain further knowledge about any subject e.g. there is a big shiny knife in front of me. With my eyes I can see that the color is black and silver, with touch, I can gain knowledge as to how sharp it is. But no matter how hard I use my senses I can never find out how was this knife created. It is with the help of my mind that I will get the knowledge that this knife is not just a simple piece of metal, it has been carved by an expert and joined with a rubber grip. Therefore where my sense of sight and touch were unable to provide further information my mind provided me further details.
However as with our senses our mind too has certain limitations. e.g. how can I know which uses of this knife are beneficial and which uses are not. That is where the third source of knowledge provides guidance to us.
Divine Knowledge Wahi
The source from where we get knowledge which is beyond the scope of our brains, is known as Wahi or divine knowledge.
Basic Difference Between Islamic and Secularism
And this is the basic difference between Islam and Secularism. The secular thinking says that there is no third source of knowledge besides our senses and human mind, while the Islamic system treats Wahi or Divine knowledge as the third and in fact the most important source of knowledge.
In Surah Nisa (105) Allah says,
Thus Islam says that it is the Quran (Divine Knowledge) which is going to tell you what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair. It will help you make judgement between people and decide their conflicts.
Drawbacks of Secularism Human Thinking
While the motive of secular thinking sounds workable but in fact it is not.
First of all there are no two human minds in the world that think alike. Therefore making principles based on collective wisdom is impossible. Decision making in democratic systems, which relies on collective wisdom, is a series of compromises to appease a majority of voters available in the parliament, which in turn create laws which are neither here nor there.
Secondly purely logical thinking cannot help us set limitations on human thinking or define moral boundaries.
Thirdly any insane act can be justified through human reasoning and thinking.
To explain my point I am going to mention some examples below.
Mufti Taqi Usmani states the example of a philosopher going by the name of Obaid Ullah Bin Hassan Qairvaan who relied on the logical analysis of his mind and told his followers that there is nothing wrong with marrying their sisters! His reason; a sister knows the attitude of his brother, his likes and dislikes and therefore she is more equipped to have a happier life with him rather than any other stranger!
Similarly modern proposers of incest give the logic that a girl and boy should have the freedom of marrying each other, even if they are blood relatives i.e. brother sister etc.
Both arguments, no matter how disgusting, are irrefutable and cannot be challenged if only our senses or human mind are to be used. If one says that this is an immoral act, then the answer can be given that morals are something that were created by the society and this is not an immoral act if both brother and sister agree. If one says that medically it is not a healthy practice, then ‘findings’ and ‘research’ of many doctors can be presented which do not support this statement!
If you are thinking that the above example is a fragment of my imagination and the human mind can never reach such a level, do take some time to review the below links.
1. Switzerland considering to legalize incest. Click here
2. Legalizing adult consensual Incest and addressing the counter argument. Click Here
3. Switzerland is considering repealing its incest laws because they are “obsolete”. Click Here
Reasoning the atomic blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Hiroshima and Nagasaki received atomic bombs from American airplanes when the fate of the war was already decided and it was only a matter of days when the war would have reached an end. The logic provided in Encyclopaedia Britannica of this deplorable act was that this bombing saved millions of lives! How? Because it ended the war and if the war would have continued it would have cost the world millions of more lives! Now who can challenge and debate on this argument. The most you can do is to provide a point or two against the bombing and the debate will be settled as a tie that you have a point and we have a point.
Championing the slogan ‘Freedom’
Another creation of human logic is the slogan known as ‘Freedom’. That people should have the freedom to decide what is right and wrong for them. A person should be ‘free to chose his own way and his own destiny’. It is a noble thought, but what is scope of freedom? No one has been able to define it ever. Every champion of Freedom will provide his/her own parameters and scope. e.g. Is a poor man allowed to rob anyone he likes since the state is not taking care of him? Is he allowed to drive on the wrong side of the road? Is he allowed to wear anything or nothing? Surely the answer is no. Then what are the parameters of this ‘Freedom’. Which areas allow a person to act freely and which area bounds him to certain laws. Who determines and creates those laws. And if there are laws, then doesn’t it mean that there is no ‘true’ freedom?
A parliamentary committee in Britain which was asked to provide its thoughts on whether homosexuality should be legalized or not, stated to the effect that ‘Although there is no doubt that it is an immoral act and we do not feel that it is the right thing to do, but since we have decided that ‘Sin’ is not a ‘Crime’, therefore we have no option but to legalize consensual homosexuality’
Islamisation of Laws (Sharia)
However when we talk about Shariah and Islamisation of all laws, we accept that sin as defined in the Divine Knowledge, is also a crime. There is no difference between the two. We accept that no law can be created unless it is in conformity with Quran and Sunnah. We treat the divine knowledge as supreme and use our reasoning skills only where divine knowledge provides no specific guidance.
Below are some common objections raised towards Sharia or Islamic Laws.
What is the ‘Logic’ of a particular Islamic Law
The Islamic ruling created from the divine knowledge is something beyond the boundaries of human mind and therefore logic and reasoning might not always provide an answer. However once you implement an Islamic law with sincerity then benefits can be witnessed and then logic or reason can be derived. e.g. Capital punishments in Islam decreases the crime rate considerably. This logic/reason is only known to us when we see the crime rate in countries where the Islamic laws are implemented with sincerity.
Does Divine Knowledge shed any light on Science and Technology
Q. If divine knowledge is supreme, shouldn’t it have told us how to build computers, medicine, surgical procedures, going to the moon etc If the divine knowledge does not provide any guidance towards that. How can we accept divine knowledge as supreme.?
A. The answer is that development in science and technology requires experimentation and reasoning which is the domain of human mind and not the domain of Divine Knowledge. So it is in this area that humans will use their minds to progress in science and technology. Although Quran does not provide any steps to progress in modern sciences, however it does encourages humans to explore the sciences as much as possible.
But Islam is more than 1400 years old
Q. But Islam is more than 1400 years old, how can its laws keep with the changing times and modern trends.
A. The answer to this is that Islamic laws can be broadly categorized into three types. First type are the ones where the Islamic laws are absolute and cannot be changed. Second type are the laws which are not absolute and provide only some guidelines, in this category Ulema, scholars, parliamentarians etc can give final shapes to laws through reasoning and Ijtihad. Third category is the area where there is no mention whatsoever. This area is left for the human mind to explore and explode into. Using reasoning, logic and experimentation.
The blog has explored the topic in detail so that the basis of Islamic law (Sharia) and the reason why we do no accept secularism is clear in our mind. Also the purpose is that we do not adopt an apologetic attitude when we talk about living our lives by Shariah. May Allah guide us and help us achieve this objective.