Friday, 10 February 2012



Perspectives of Moral Political Economy - Daud Pidcock - Part 2 - Global Vision 2000

 Dawud (David) Musa Pidcock 

Napoleon Bonaparte
 embraced Islam

England's foe for many years has been France. The legacy remains as seen in the Capital of England, London, where monuments dedicated to defeats over France, are evident. The defeats have been most significant against that of when France was being ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte. (Nelson's Column, Trafelgar Square, Waterloo Station to name but a few.)

Yet, history is seldom seen in the truthful light, and is nearly always partial to the 'winning side' - in whose hand the pen remains, long after both the battle and the war have been won. Yet, recent discoveries have seemed to suggest some interesting facts about Napoleon and his religious beliefs.

In the book, ‘Satanic Voices - Ancient and Modern’ by David Musa Pidcock, (1992 ISBN: 1-81012-03-1), it states on page 61, that the then official French Newspaper, Le Moniteur, carried the accounts of his conversion to Islam, in 1798 C.E.

It mentions his new Muslim name, which was ‘Aly (Ali) Napoleon Bonaparte’. He commends the conversion of his General Jacques Menou*, who became known as General ‘Abdullah-Jacques Menou’, who later married an Egyptian, Sitti Zoubeida - who was descended from the line of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace).

Napoleon did recognise the superiority of the Islamic (Shari'ah) Law - and did attempt to implement this in his Empire. Most of this, as one can imagine, has been removed/replaced by modern-day secular laws in France and other parts of Europe, but some aspects of the Islamic (Shari'ah) Law do currently exist in French constitution as the basis for some of their laws from the Code Napoleone. One publicised case was that of the fatal car accident with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al-Fayed. "The photographers were charged with an old part of the French Jurisprudence, for ‘not helping at the scene of an accident’- which is taken from the Shari'ah Law of Imam Malik." (David M. Pidcock, 1998 C.E.)

Further detailed accounts of this can be found in the book 'Napoleon And Islam' by C. Cherfils. ISBN: 967-61-0898-7" -

*General Jacques Menou-The New Cambridge modern history: War and peace in an age of upheaval 1793-1830 edited by C. W. Crawley


Empereur des Français (1769-1821)

« L’Islam attaque spécialement les idolâtres; il n’y a point d’autre dieu que Dieu, et Mahomet est son prophète; voilà le fondement de la religion musulmane; c’était le point le plus essentiel: consacrer la grande vérité annoncée par Moïse et confirmée par Jésus. (...) 

Il n’y a pas d’autre dieu que Dieu et Mahomet est son prophète. (...) 

Je suis, moi, musulman unitaire et je glorifie le Prophète. (...) 

J’espère que le moment ne tardera pas où je pourrai réunir tous les hommes sages et instruits du pays, et établir un régime uniforme, fondé sur les principes d’Al Coran qui sont les seuls vrais et qui peuvent seuls faire le bonheur des hommes. »

(Extraits de “Correspondance de Napoléon Ier Tome V pièce n° 4287 du 17/07/1799: profession de foi, voir aussi pièce n° 3148; et de l’ouvrage de Christian Cherfils: “Bonaparte et l’Islam” - Pedone Ed. - Paris - 1914 - p. 81 - 127 )

Note : les historiens qui parlent de cette conversion, la qualifie de stratégie égyptienne. Cependant il suffit de lire le “Journal inédit de Ste Hélène, de 1815 à 1818” du Gal Baron Gourgaud -2 tomes- Ed. Flammarion, pour se rendre compte que la persistance de l’Islam chez Napoléon, lors de son séjour final à Ste Hélène, ruinent totalement cette hypothèse. Car, là, nulle ambition ou stratégie politique ne dictaient alors sa conduite.

Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself

Best of Series Award

Religion in Napoleonic France

Part I: Napoleon I and Religion

By Matthew Zarzecny, FINS
Napoleon I, while continuously striving to influence French society and gain new backing from the believers of any faith that lived within his empire, devoted considerable time to his efforts of manipulating an institution almost as old as the Roman Empire.  The relationship between the Catholic Church and the French state deeply concerned the emperor.  Napoleon I greatly understood the power of a religious majority, as first evidenced by his actions during his military campaign to conquer Egypt from 1798 to 1799.  The then General Bonaparte, who liked to compare himself to Julius Caesar, after crushing a violent uprising in Egypt, pardoned the imams and sheiks of the El-Azhar mosque, who had done nothing against the French, while ordering the beheading of the real rebels.  Just as Alexander the Great and his army had marched through the desert to visit the shrine of Amon, Bonaparte treated Islamic sites with admiration and respect during his own desert odyssey.  Bonaparte felt flattered by those Egyptians who called him Sultan Kebir, which literally means the “Great” Sultan.  Bonaparte even went so far as to outright state that the Koran predicted his defeat of the Mameluke caste that ruled Egypt and he also talked of the conversion of the French Army of the Orient to Islam.  In spring 1799, Bonaparte actually had the ulemas of El-Azhar proclaim that Sultan Kebir “loved the Muslims, cherished the Prophet, instructed himself by reading the Koran every day, and desired to build a mosque unrivalled in splendour and to embrace the Muslim faith.”[14]
When Napoleon Bonaparte returned to France in 1799, he made use of his past experiences with religion to gain support from the Catholic majority in France that had been disillusioned by revolutionary excesses.  The activities of the various revolutionary regimes had created religious disunity, which René Rémond sees as “a final religious war,” evidenced by the police’s recording of at least some violation of the laws restricting public worship in every one of the sixty-nine cantons of the department of Yonne between the fall of Robespierre and the coming of Bonaparte.[15]  In the aftermath of the left-wing coup d’état of September 1797, France had endured a comprehensive two-year dechristianization campaign, which lasted until December 1799, when Bonaparte overthrew Barras’ feeble government known as the Directory.[16]   In that year, Bonaparte recognized what the directors did not: he understood that only the Catholic religion stirred the emotions of the people, could effectively mend the religious divisions of the revolution, provide a basis for morality, and support the authority of the new Consular regime.  Within two months after the coup d’état of 18 brumaire an VIII,[17] First Consul Bonaparte allowed non-alienated churches to reopen and began to grant amnesty to deported priests.[18]  As generous as these efforts appear, Bonaparte only intended to restore Catholicism to a certain extent, without returning the Catholic Church’s full ancien régime privileges.  Evidence exists suggesting that although Bonaparte did not personally adhere to any definite faith, he nonetheless wisely wanted to pour water on the fires of animosity that had erupted against the Catholic church, so that a united Catholic church in France could serve as a veritable fortress of order and social peace.
The Concordat of 1801 best exemplifies this policy by making reference to Catholicism not as the “state religion,” but as the “religion of the majority of the French,” wording contributed by none other than the wily Talleyrand.[19]  From 1801 to 1802, Bonaparte and his diplomats negotiated and had passed into law this concordat with Pope Pius VII that reversed anti-clerical revolutionary laws passed in the 1790s and reestablished Catholicism’s preeminent religious position amongst the French.  In some respects, the Concordat went back to the earlier concordat of Leo X and François I in 1516, which allowed the French government to supervise the appointment of the higher clergy and the payment of the lower ones.   This new concordat of Bonaparte and Pius VII lasted until 1905, when the anti-clerical backlash following the Dreyfus Affair made the separation of church and state palatable to French political-religious taste-buds.  Still, that the Concordat of 1801 endured for over one hundred years indicates that the Concordat can be justifiably regarded as Bonaparte’s most durable civil achievement after the Napoleonic Code.
The Concordat contained many important components.  Amusingly, Bonaparte allowed compulsory priestly celibacy to be reversed in his concordat with Rome, which shows Bonaparte’s wish to determine even the sexual behavior of his subjects.[20]  The Concordat also significantly incorporated an agreement establishing special relations between France and the papacy that made Pius VII available to sanction Bonaparte’s acceptance of a crown at a coronation.  This arrangement foreshadowed an event that plays a key role in illustrating the power of religion in Bonaparte’s propaganda efforts.[21]  This historic event occurred on December 2, 1804, when Pope Pius VII attended Napoleon I’s coronation in Paris.  Napoleon I’s coronation did not include the traditional sacramental rites of other imperial or royal coronations, which meaningfully indicated a decrease in the papal role in consecrating the new emperor.[22]  Furthermore, although Pope Leo III had crowned Charlemagne in December 800, Napoleon I crowned himself during his coronation rather than allowing Pius VII to retain this millennium old honor.  This ground-breaking act symbolically meant that Napoleon I did not owe his crown to any divine power and that the pope correspondingly did not hold a position higher than the emperor.[23]  Subsequently, Napoleon I continued his attempts to supersede the pope’s authority by publishing the Imperial Catechism in April 1806, summoning a national council of French and Italian bishops in Paris in June 1811, and negotiating the Concordat of Fontainebleau on January 25, 1813.
Through these actions and through others, Napoleon I exploited the Church to glorify himself, more so than God.  Three Church feasts, Ascension Day, All Saints on November 1, and Christmas, became State festivals, while the Church sanctified two state occasions, July 14 and December 2, the anniversary of the coronation and the victory of Austerlitz.[24]  Perhaps the most poignant example of Napoleon I’s efforts to aggrandize himself in the religious sense can be seen with how the Imperial Catechism proscribed the veneration of the Emperor’s name day.  While the ancien régime attached the feast of St. Louis, the patron saint of every king from 1610 to 1792, to August 15, the feast of the Assumption, Napoleon I replaced the royal saint with St. Napoleon.[25]  The catechism went further still by asserting that Napoleon I had been “raised up by God in difficult circumstances, that he was God’s anointed, and that good Christians must love him, pay taxes, accept conscription or go to hell.”[26]  Thus progressively, Catholicism had become a religion of imperial grandeur under Napoleon I.[27]

[14] Timothy Wilson-Smith, Napoleon: Man of War, Man of Peace (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002), 125.
[15] Susanne Desan, Reclaiming the Sacred: Lay Religion and Popular Politics in Revolutionary France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 29; Rémond 47.
[16] Desan 11.
[17] November 9, 1799.
[18] Desan 13.
[19] Jean-Marie Leflon, “A Compromise for Mutual Advantage” in Napoleon and his Times: Selected Interpretations, edited by Frank A. Kafker and James M. Laux (Malabar: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1989), 82.
[20] Dagmar Herzog, Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 26.
[21] Paul Johnson, Napoleon (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002), 46-47.
[22] Rémond 48.
[23] Rémond 128.
[24] Rémond 81.
[25] Rémond 81.
[26] Wilson-Smith 178.
[27] Bernard Semmel, The Methodist Revolution (New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1973), 193.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2003

The French Revolution and the Catholic Church

By Gemma Betros | Published in History Review 2010 
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Gemma Betros examines the problems the Revolution posed for religion, and that religion posed for the Revolution.
In this caricature, monks and nuns enjoy their new freedom after the decree of 16 February 1790In this caricature, monks and nuns enjoy their new freedom after the decree of 16 February 1790In 1789, the year of the outbreak of the French Revolution, Catholicism was the official religion of the French state. The French Catholic Church, known as the Gallican Church, recognised the authority of the pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church but had negotiated certain liberties that privileged the authority of the French monarch, giving it a distinct national identity characterised by considerable autonomy. France’s population of 28 million was almost entirely Catholic, with full membership of the state denied to Protestant and Jewish minorities. Being French effectively meant being Catholic. Yet, by 1794, France’s churches and religious orders were closed down and religious worship suppressed. How did it come to this? What did revolutionaries hope to achieve? And why did Napoleon set out to reverse the situation?

The Decline of Catholicism?

Historians are divided over the strength of Catholicism in late eighteenth-century France. Some suggest that it was still flourishing after the efforts of the Council of Trent (1545-63) to reform and revitalise the Church, as witnessed by its well-educated clergy, numerous and varied religious orders, and renewed forms of worship. Others trace a period of decline, with a small but noticeable decrease in religious observance in the decades before the Revolution. Regional studies of religious belief and practice reveal significant differences between urban and provincial France, between elites and the rest of the population, and, to a lesser degree, between men and women. What is clear, however, is that the eighteenth-century Church was attracting growing criticism from the philosophes, the intellectuals of the Enlightenment who systematically questioned every aspect of French government and society.

The Enlightenment quest to promote reason as the basis for legitimacy and progress found little to praise in the Church. While the philosophes appreciated the value of religion in promoting moral and social order, the Church itself was condemned for its power and influence. The scandal surrounding the divisive theological movement of Jansenism, exacerbated by the heavy-handed treatment of its followers earlier in the century, furnished one reason for attacking the Church’s authority and its close links with the monarchy. France’s lack of toleration for religious minorities provided another. Although the philosophe Voltaire managed some praise for the young nuns who devoted their lives to caring for the sick and poor, the clergy were seen as less useful. The writer Louis-Sebastien Mercier complained in 1782 that Paris was ‘full of priests and tonsured clerics who serve neither the church nor the state’ and who were occupied with nothing but ‘useless and trifling’ matters. Criticism was specifically directed at monasteries where monks and nuns spent their days in prayer, much to the ire of philosophes who thought they should instead be reproducing for the good of the nation. The solemn vows taken by these men and women, binding them to the religious state for life, also led to concerns about individual liberty. Denis Diderot railed against the lifelong nature of these vows, warning about decisions taken too young in life and, in his novel La Religieuse (The Nun), raising the spectre of a young woman forced to be a nun against her will. Although most philosophes promoted reform rather than destruction, their comments gave encouragement to a growing anticlericalism whose spite was sharpened by resentment of the Church’s wealth.

The Church’s revenue in 1789 was estimated at an immense – and possibly exaggerated – 150 million livres. It owned around six per cent of land throughout France, and its abbeys, churches, monasteries and convents, as well as the schools, hospitals and other institutions it operated, formed a visible reminder of the Church’s dominance in French society. The Church was also permitted to collect the tithe, worth a nominal one-tenth of agricultural production, and was exempt from direct taxation on its earnings. This prosperity caused considerable discontent, best illustrated in the cahiers de doléances, or ‘statements of grievances’, sent from throughout the kingdom to be discussed at the meeting of the Estates-General in May 1789. Calls for the reform or abolition of the tithe and for the limitation of Church property were joined by complaints from parish priests who, excluded from the wealth bestowed upon the upper echelons of the Church hierarchy, often struggled to get by. When crowds began to gather in Paris on 13 July 1789, the religious house of Saint-Lazare and its neighbouring convent were among the first places searched for supplies and weapons. The Catholic Church may have been the church of the majority of the French people, but its wealth and perceived abuses meant that it did not always have their trust.

The Nationalisation of Property

On the eve of the Revolution, the French state was on the verge of bankruptcy. Repeated attempts at financial reform had floundered but the Revolution opened the way for a new approach that, from the beginning, involved the Church. On 4 August 1789, when the remains of France’s feudal past were abolished in a night of sweeping reforms, the clergy agreed to give up the tithe and allow the state to take over its funding. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, adopted on 26 August, made no recognition of the special position of the Catholic Church. With all authority located henceforth within the nation, the Church now found itself open – and vulnerable – to further reform. On 2 November 1789, France’s new National Assembly, known as the Constituent Assembly, passed a decree that placed all Church property ‘at the disposition of the nation’. Talleyrand, the bishop of Autun and one of the few clerics to support the measure, argued that all Church property rightfully belonged to the nation and that its return, by helping to bring about a better society, should therefore be viewed as a ‘religious act’.
Despite clerical support for the Revolution itself, this decree became the first in a series that targeted the Church in a way that soon cast doubt on the Revolution’s motives. On 29 October 1789, just days before the nationalisation of Church property, the Assembly heard that two women in a nearby convent were being forced into the religious life. A proposal was immediately made to halt the taking of solemn vows. Not only did this development associate the Church with the scheming and corruption featured in the anticlerical literature of the eighteenth century, but it prepared the way for the closure of France’s monasteries and the departure of their inhabitants, decreed on 13 February 1790. It was hoped that the quick sale of monasteries and their contents would help stabilise the nation’s finances. The announcement was met with thousands of letters of protest. The new French state had not only taken control of the Church’s revenue and property, but, through such radical intervention, seemed to be redrawing the boundaries between church and state.

Growing Suspicion

Charged with the Church’s financial administration, the Assembly now took the opportunity to reorganise it. On 12 July 1790 the Assembly approved the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, a constitution whose very name reflected the state’s new control of Church affairs. Among the constitution’s reforms, dioceses were redrawn in line with state administrative divisions, clergy were to be paid by the state according to a new salary scale, and priests and bishops were to be elected by citizens. The pope’s refusal to approve the Constitution, together with growing criticism from conservative members of the Assembly, began to cast doubt on the Church’s support. In an attempt to resolve the issue, the Assembly decreed on 27 November 1790 that all clergy must take a public oath of loyalty to the Constitution or surrender their salary and position.
As Nigel Aston has suggested, this oath became ‘a referendum on whether one’s first loyalties were to Catholicism or to the Revolution’. Figures varied considerably between regions, but over 50 per cent of parish clergy swore their loyalty to the Constitution. For others the oath presented a grave matter of conscience eased only on 13 April 1791 when the pope, who had been hesitating, issued his condemnation. Those who took the oath became known as ‘jurors’, while those who refused were labelled ‘non-jurors’ or ‘refractory priests’. A growing number fled overseas, joining those nobles and clergy who had already emigrated rather than live under the revolutionary regime. The French population gradually split between those who supported the ‘Constitutional Church’ and those who remained loyal to refractory priests, initially allowed to continue practising. Rather than confirming the allegiance of French clergy to a state-operated church, the oath had put before them a decision that, by forcing them to choose between the Constitutional Church and Rome, would cause a schism among French Catholics for the next decade and generate hostility towards the Revolution and its aims.

Meanwhile, support for the refractory Church became increasingly associated with counter-revolution. Émigré priests and bishops preached against the Revolution from abroad, while the refractories that remained became a focal point for broader resentment of the Revolution. The suspicion with which many people viewed constitutional priests, especially in parts of regional France, helped create popular support for the counterrevolutionary cause. This association had immediate implications. In the first week of April 1791, the sisters of a Parisian religious congregation were attacked by crowds of women who accused them of teaching ‘false principles’ to children and plotting counter-revolution with refractory priests. Such sentiments found official expression in the debates of the ‘Legislative Assembly’, formed in October 1791 and determined to carry through the policies of the early Revolution. In November it stopped the pensions of refractory priests and prohibited their use of religious buildings. On 6 April 1792 it banned all forms of religious dress, seeking to abolish this visible reminder of the ancien régime and force people to see priests as ‘citizens like any others’.
France’s declaration of war on Austria on 20 April 1792 and its early losses cast further suspicion on refractory clergy and their followers, now suspected of plotting with the enemy. The fall of the monarchy on 10 August provided added impetus for the destruction of anything connected with the ancien régime. The Assembly suppressed all remaining religious orders, including those staffing schools and hospitals, and ordered remaining non-jurors to leave or be arrested and deported. Concern peaked on 2 September when news arrived that the fortress-town of Verdun near Paris had fallen to the allied Prussian forces. Parisians, imagining that imprisoned counter-revolutionaries were preparing to break out and join the enemy, dispensed their own preventative justice when they descended on the city’s prisons and, over the course of several days, slaughtered over 1200 prisoners, including at least 200 priests. The September Massacres made clear the distrust that would prevent any accommodation between the Church and the new Republic proclaimed on 22 September 1792.

The new Republican government, known as the Convention, responded to growing civil unrest and the ongoing overseas threat with the Reign of Terror. The Revolutionary Tribunal, established on 10 March 1793, aimed to demonstrate that persons of danger to the Republic were being identified and punished. Laws of September 1793 and June 1794 targeting ‘enemies of liberty’ and ‘enemies of the people’ saw mounting numbers of priests and nuns arrested and placed on trial. Their charges included not only counter-revolution but ‘fanaticism’ and possession of items used in the celebration of mass, again demonstrating the suspicion now attached to religious worship. Only a small percentage were guillotined, but their trials – designed to set an example – instead garnered further support for counterrevolutionary forces in the Vendée and other parts of western France and drove religious practice underground.

Revolutionary Religion

Although the Constitutional Church had been permitted to continue its work, the Convention now considered Catholicism in any form suspicious. Its association with ancien régime France, its adherence to values not of the Revolution’s making, and the private nature of worship seemed incompatible with the values of the Republic. From here sprung a movement referred to as ‘dechristianisation’, which aimed to excise religion from French society. Constitutional priests were advised to abandon the priesthood and were encouraged – or in some cases forced – to marry. Any priest that continued to practise, whether constitutional or refractory, now faced arrest and deportation. In October 1793, public worship was forbidden and over the next few months all visible signs of Christianity were removed, a policy pursued with particular enthusiasm by revolutionary armies eager to seek revenge on the institution that harboured so many counter-revolutionaries. Church bells were pulled down and melted, ostensibly to help the war effort, crosses were taken from churches and cemeteries, and statues, relics and works of art were seized and sometimes destroyed. Such iconoclasm caused considerable concern at official levels, not least because of the destruction wrought on France’s artistic and cultural heritage. On 23 November 1793, churches were closed, to be converted into warehouses, manufacturing works or even stables. Streets and other public places bearing the names of saints were given new, often Republicanthemed names, and time itself was recast to further repudiate France’s Christian past. The Revolutionary calendar started with the advent of the French Republic (Year 1). The names of its months reflected the seasons and its ten-day week eliminated Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Although such measures were unevenly applied, and in many cases met with considerable local opposition, they reinforced the message that Christianity had no place in the Republic.

The revolutionary government had learnt, however, that when destroying the past, it was wise to have something to put in its place. The creation of the Republic in 1792 had given rise to ceremonies and festivals that aimed to make a religion of the Revolution itself, commemorating revolutionary martyrs as its saints and venerating the tricolour cockade and red liberty cap as its sacred symbols. Prominent among such revolutionary ‘cults’, as they were known, was the Cult of Reason which recognised no god but instead worshiped the goddess of reason in the former churches, now known as ‘temples of reason’. Robespierre, wary of atheism and the political forces behind certain cults, introduced on 7 May 1794 the Cult of the Supreme Being, which he envisaged as a new state religion. Its recognition of a supreme deity would, it was hoped, attract and harness the persistent desire for religious belief and worship among French men and women while its proclamation of the soul’s immortality would encourage moral behaviour of the type that would ensure a stable and virtuous Republic. But the Festival of the Supreme Being, held on 8 June 1794 throughout France and presided over in Paris by Robespierre, provided little beyond spectacle and, like other cults, it attracted minimal interest outside urban centres. Catholicism had been squeezed out of the Republic, but alternatives imposed from above failed to catch on. The fall of Robespierre in July 1794 brought a thaw towards religious practice. Dechristianisation had forced religious observance into the privacy of the home. With the emigration and abdication of so many priests, and the disruption of regular forms of worship, the laity had become accustomed to taking over services, even performing ‘white masses’ when there was no priest available. The Convention, anxious to achieve some form of stability, recognised that somehow it would have to accommodate this private worship. It did so by announcing on 21 February 1795 the formal separation of Church and State. Churches were reopened, refractory priests were released from jail, and both constitutional and refractory priests were permitted to practise on the condition that they promised to respect the laws of the Republic.

Yet complete separation proved impossible. Religion was still considered a threat and subsequent decrees sought to monitor worship and ban outward signs of religion, such as statues or religious dress, from the public eye. Royalist uprisings led to the reapplication of earlier laws concerning refractory priests, as did the coup of 18 Fructidor (4 September 1797), which saw thousands of refractory priests arrested yet again. Like earlier governments, the Directory (November 1795-99) tried introducing alternatives to Catholicism, notably in the new cult of Theophilanthropy. Yet again, these failed to gain popular support. The Directory instead witnessed a religious revival in which Catholic men – and especially women – played an important role in re-establishing their faith around the wreckage left by the Revolution. Any new regime would have to acknowledge this revival and, if it wanted to ensure the loyalty of France’s Catholics, make a place for a Church that could bridge the divisions, confusion, pain, and bitterness of the previous decade.

The Return of the Catholic Church

Napoleon came to power in 1799 ready to accommodate the continued presence of religious belief and practice in French society, not least in order to dampen counter-revolutionary opposition. Writings from his youth show that Napoleon had little time for religion but, much like the philosophes, he saw its uses for society. He also appreciated its costsaving benefits, demonstrated by the state-sponsored re-establishment of religious congregations to run hospitals and schools. Above all, Napoleon recognised that if relations were mended with the Church, it could be used to promote and consolidate his rule throughout France. Ignoring objections from revolutionary opponents of the Church, Napoleon set about formalising its place in France in a way designed to ensure that loyal membership of the Church and the state were no longer mutually exclusive.

At 2am on 16 July 1801 France signed with Rome a document known as the Concordat, the product of eight months of gruelling negotiations. Catholicism was henceforth to be recognised only as ‘the religion of the vast majority of French citizens’, a description that denied the Church any privileged place within the state, and the Church was to give up all claims to property lost during the Revolution. The Concordat’s most dramatic step, however, was to bring the Church under the authority of the state. In measures that recalled the Civil Constitution of 1790, all clergy were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the government, their salaries were to be paid by the state, and dioceses were again redrawn and aligned with administrative divisions. In addition, all bishops were to be appointed by Napoleon, further minimising Rome’s authority. This trend was confirmed in 1802 with the addition to the Concordat of the ‘Organic Articles’, 27 articles developed and announced without consultation with Rome. Article One, requiring that all instructions from Rome be approved by the government, suggested that in this new relationship, papal authority meant little. Napoleon’s Church, like the Gallican Church of the ancien régime, had its own national identity.

Somewhat predictably, relations with Rome soon deteriorated, culminating in what Geoffrey Ellis has described as ‘one of the most extraordinary conflicts between temporal power and spiritual authority history has ever known’. Napoleon increasingly sought to associate his personal rule with the Church, insisting on the pope’s attendance at his coronation ceremony in Paris in 1804, introducing a feast day for the rediscovered ‘Saint Napoleon’, and using the Imperial Catechism, recited by children at Sunday School, to suggest that his reign was authorised by God himself. Yet even as he did so, Napoleon’s disdain for Rome became ever more apparent. Not only did he export revolutionary policy concerning religion by closing down monasteries and seizing Church property, but he introduced the Concordat in conquered territories, bringing the Catholic Church in other countries under his rule. Napoleon’s occupation of Rome in 1808 brought the relationship to breaking point and led to the Pope’s decision to excommunicate him. In retaliation, Napoleon had the pope arrested and later taken to France as his prisoner where he remained until 1814. A new concordat, signed at Fontainebleau in 1813, attempted to ‘put an end to the differences’ between the two, but this also failed. By making the French Church, as well as its spiritual head, so subservient to state authority, Napoleon had created tensions that served over the course of his reign to further divide its members and increase their loyalty to Rome.


The wholesale destruction of Catholicism had been far from the minds of the nation’s representatives in 1789, but financial concerns, when combined with external and internal threats, eventually made a full-scale attack on the Church and all connected with it a necessity for a Revolution that demanded absolute loyalty. Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett see the French Revolution as ‘a watershed for Catholicism not just in France but in Europe more generally’. The French Revolution saw the Gallican Church transformed from an autonomous institution that wielded significant influence to one that was reformed, abolished, and resurrected by the state. In this extension of state control, as well as in the targeted destruction of the Church and religious practice, the Revolution represents a key development in the secularisation that would stretch across Europe. But both revolutionary governments and Napoleon were unprepared for the resentment that met state incursion into spiritual matters and the turn to Rome that followed it. The removal of Catholic institutions and their personnel simply forced religious worship into the private sphere and increased the involvement of the laity, trends that would also mark the religious revival that took place in France in the nineteenth century. The consequences of this drastic experiment in the transformation of church-state relations would reverberate in France until the 1905 separation of church and state and are still felt today as states continue to negotiate the sensitive relationship between church, state and religious belief.

Issues to Debate

  • How far did the nationalisation of Church property reflect hostility towards the Church?
  • In what ways did the requirement of the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy affect France’s priests and bishops?
  • What did revolutionary governments hope to achieve through the introduction of alternative cults?
  • To what extent did Napoleon’s controlled revival of the Catholic Church reflect the Revolution’s failure to eradicate religious belief and practice?
Further reading: 
  • Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett, Priests, Prelates and People: a History of European Catholicism since 1750 (OUP, 2003)
  • Nigel Aston, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780-1804 (Catholic University of America Press, 2000)
  • Derek Beales, Prosperity and Plunder: European Catholic Monasteries in the Age of Revolution, 1650-1815 (CUP, 2003)
  • Geoffrey Ellis, ‘Religion according to Napoleon’, in Nigel Aston (ed.), Religious change in Europe, 1650-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997)
  • Timothy Tackett, ‘The French Revolution and religion to 1794’ and Suzanne Desan, ‘The French Revolution and religion, 1795-1815’ in Stewart J. Brown and Timothy Tackett (eds) The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 7 (CUP, 2006).
Dr Gemma Betros is Lecturer in European History at the Australian National University.

Sharia, Fiqh and Islamic Law

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sharia, Fiqh and Islamic LawAnalysis & Auto criticism

Dr. Yusuf Ziya Kavakci*

Sharia recently became a hotly debated subject. Archbishop of England made a statement at the middle of many statements, that has given the opportunity of Islamic law and Shari to be discussed and debated by westerners and some times the discussion apparently was taken out context. It is, as I believe, a fact that Sharia, Fiqh in its early stages got established and developed in the wide area of the world, mainly where Roman law was dominant.

Roman law (the law applied in Byzantine Empire was Roman law) developed in the Beirut, Istanbul (Constantinople) centuries long before Islam. Fiqh was established, acted upon and developed to answer the needs of people embracing Islam in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, Iran, Egypt, and North Africa where Roman law was dominant for centuries. Actually the relations between these two laws were made subject to theories and researches, as Fiqh’s relation with Judaic tradition and law was done. There was a Roman law text in Arabic at 5th Century AD applied in Syria where Islamic Law later applies, the relation between these two laws also made specifically subject to comparative studies not too long age, unfortunately in Turkish only. Actually the researcher compared the Arabic text of this Syrian Roman Codex, edited by German orientalists more than a century ago, with al-Majmu fi 'l-Fiqh by Zaid b, Ali (circa d. 120 AH), which was edited By Griffini, of which original manuscript is in Milan, Italy. The comparison is made in terms of systematic, subjects, forms and contents.

Abu Hanifa himself was not really an Arab, lived out side of Medina and Mecca that is in Kufa, city south of Iraq, and Baghdad. His grave is in Baghdad which is not well taken care of nowadays. He is the one who really established Fiqh, Sharia, I may say, as codified by his teaching, his two students, among thousands, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad al-Shaibani are the ones who wrote down and took notes and put into book forms the teachings of their ustad. These two taught and transferred their ustad's teaching to Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i. So Shafii is the student of the students of Abu

A few decades ago we have had strong orientalists like L. Massignon, Ch. Pellat (France), Bertold Spuler (Germany), M. Watt (Edinburgh, UK) and Bernard Lewis (England, USA). Before there were strong caliber orientalists like Carl Brockelmann, I. Goldziher, Snouck-Hugronje, and Wensinck, one of the important piece of Islamic literature being “Concordance” edited by his team, in whose time also first edition of Encyclopedia of Islam in French, English and German is produced. Annemarie Schimmel (Germany, US), Graef and Hans Kruse and Walter Hinz (Germany).

Now second edition of EI is continuing to be published only in English and French. But the fact is that not many of the orientalists were specialized in Islamic Jurisprudence and Fiqh area; there were a few of them only in the West, definitely not many in America. American universities were not that much interested in producing and educating specialists in Islamic Jurisprudence. Perhaps they were more pragmatists in approach. One needs to appreciate Brockelmann's GAL, Dr. Sezgin's GAS, also Concordance de La Tradition Musulmane (Mu'jam al-Mufahras li-Alfaz al-Hadith al-Nabawi), all being published by Brill at The Haque (Lahaye, Leiden). These are extremely important manuals Islamic Scholars can not afford not referring to, if we intend to raise research oriented western standard-type academic scholars among Muslim scholarship. George Sarton's chapter on Muslim Period in his magnificent book Introduction to the History of Science also deserves to be noted at this point.
The most important western Orientalists in Islamic Law was/is J. Schacht, who was here in USA but originally from German tradition. Dr. Schacht worked in Sharia and Fiqh area more than half century. His article on Ikhtilafat was published in 1926. His book Origins of Mohammedan Jurisprudence was one of the books yet has to be superseded, albeit criticized from the Muslim perspective. Dr. Sezgin with his Buharinin Kaynaklari must have added and corrected many of the presumptions made by Schacht in his works. His book Introduction to Islamic Law is more general, covering almost all areas of Islamic Law, but briefly with no details. Dr. Hamidullah had a lot of points in his lectures and classes as well in his writings, correcting the basis of Hadith literature. Dr. Mustafa Azami also worked a lot in early Hadith literature. He, too, stands criticizing and correcting many points against Schacht's and the likes' theories.

The Lebanese origin Majid Khadduri in US, also wrote in the field of Islamic law. Dr. Vogel, at Harvard, in the field of Law, managed to get a good amount of financing at Islamic Studies area from mainly Saudi sources. John Esposito is also very prolific author in Islamic Studies field in US.
We have In the US, as Muslim scholars and academicians, Dr. Akbar Ahmad, Dr. Mazzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Dr. Laila Ahmad, Dr. Mervat Hatam, Dr. Hussain Nasr, Dr. Ali Mazrui, Dr. Sulaiman Nyang, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Dr. Abdullah Idris and Dr. Jamal Badawi (Canada). I must specifically mention Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah (France) and Dr. Fuat Sezgin (Frankfurt, Germany), both being my teachers, are to be considered giant scholars in Islamic Studies, Hamidullah being in Islamic Law. I don’t think we have today many people in his caliber in Islamic Law area.

Of course, Arabic department of Ann Arbor, Chicago Middle eastern and Islamic Studies, Harvard's related branches, Hartford Seminary's lately caring about Muslim Chaplainry and Islamic Studies programs are to be appreciated. Ann Arbor's Arabic grammar and middle eastern studies and what George Maqdisi and their colleagues did and are doing have to be appreciated. Georgetown University's Arabic teaching and American University's efforts in the field are modern efforts not to be ignored.

When we see the works of Minosrski, Fluegel, Ahlward, Kaziimirski and the likes, we really appreciate them today more than we may do the Islamic countries’ specialists, working as patchy and as culturists or historians. In U.K. Anderson and Coulson were in Islamic Law area. They also have works and articles on Islamic Law, but they seem more interested in generalities, application thereof in English Muslim colonies.

The west always was interested in the east, they have had relations with each other. Orientalism developed because of western interest in the east. East, middle east, gave divine texts, Towrah, gospels, Qur’an to whole world, including the west. East gave prophets, messengers such as Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad to the west and the whole world. But I must say, at no university and no place there is a real and at the same time strong Islamic Law program in US, may be in the entirety of the west, Nobody is teaching Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Khilafiyyat together with strong classical Arabic.

In US, many Islamic Law specialists are having a little training in general Islam, Muslim countries, history of Islam. They have never past any exam in real Islamic Law and Sharia branches in their life. Their Sharia and Fiqh education is some what cosmetics, just colored with glittering words. None of them have mastery of Qur'an. They never memorized it, they do not know how to read and recite Qur'an properly with rules and regulations. Qur'an is the source of Sharia together with Hadith/Sunnah and Ijma, Qiyas al-fuqaha, ijtihad and others. How can any body claim any authority in Sharia and Fiqh without mastering them? For all fairness, it is true that today's Sharia specialists in the West may not have half of the back ground in Islamic sciences of a middle level imam who is trained in a madrasa we all criticize.

Dr. Khalid Abou 'l-Fadl is one of the most qualified ones in US, of course so far what he writes shows that he is more philosophical, perhaps not generally fitting to traditional Islamic jurist category. Dr. Abdullah al-Naeem, in Atlanta, is more in criminal area. Knowing him from PhD days from Cambridge, UK, I can say that he seems to be more at odds with traditional approach to Islamic Law, even perhaps he is part of a reform trend, a trend which is representative of heretic Muslims. But with due respect to all, I must say that many of the orientalists who are writing in Islamic Law, Fiqh and Sharia today and who are considered in one way or another specialized in Sharia, had no education in basic Islamic studies and specifically in Fiqh field even at a Saudi high school level, or al-Azhar 's high school level. They are generally slipped away from Arabic, or history fileds to Islamic Jurisprudence field. They never studied Usul al-Fiqh, Multaqa or ahkam of al-Qur'an. They do not know how to recite Qur'an either. They have never passed any serious exams and have no ijazah in traditional sense at all. Yet they opine and write in Islamic Jurisprudence with extreme sense comfort.

The late Ismail alFaruqi was a strong scholar at Temple University. Dr. Ayyub has also contributed to Islamic field and its teaching. There were several attempts to establish Islamic universities here in the United States, but I do not see much academic work and establishment other than recruitment efforts or certifying already existing talents, and shaping them or forming them. Of course, I believe that this is patchy education, like distance education. There is no real talim and tarbiya and face to face teaching and instructing lasting for months, if not years. They never made an imam who is unable to recite Quran with tajwid rules able to do it, or did not know basic Fiqh educated them well enough. That education is not, in my opinion, real talim and tadris and tarbiya. Of course what Zaituna Institute is doing and attempting to do more is appreciated, but I think that it is not satisfactory at the moment for ummah's need. It needs to be developed more.

However the experience of IQA, IANT Quranic Academy and its Suffa Islamic Seminary in Dallas, Texas worth to be noted. The Quranic Academy was established 5 years ago. In this elementary- high school level school, the students are taken at 5 years of age at KG, and are educated all the way up to 10th grade. At the moment, it has 200 hundred students. Mission is to raise Muslim scholars, both male and female, here in US. They memorize Qur'an, study Arabic, Qira'a, Tajwiid rules, and practice them in the masjid, together with all core and secular subjects taught in public schools.

There is also Alim program, where the students of Quranic Academy study. In this program, students study Aqida form al-Fiqh al-Akbar by Abu Hanifa, Aqida of Tahawi, Aqaid al-Nasafiyya from Arabic original texts, Fiqh from Nur al-Idhah, Tafsir from Qadi Baidhawi. 17 of the students have already completed their hifz. The school is fully accredited as exemplary school. IQA is a whole year academic school, that is to say that, students have only a few weeks of vacation time in the summer. Even during this period they must continue to study under the observance of their parents. Students also lead the prayers in the mosque as traing on the field, they lecture and do presentations for the congregation.

Approximately 60 % of the school’s weekly education focuses on Arabic, Qur'an, Qira’ah, Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh while 40 % in on other core subjects. At the moment 70 % of the students are honor roll students and they are at the top quarter at the national level core subjects exams. There is no intention of compromising academic and core subjects with less education. The core subjects, however, have to be connected to Islamic sciences and must be delivered in relation to Islam so that then students may not be confused or left with no guidance in the wilderness of ideas or chaotic ways of thinking.

Ummah needs leaders with strong personalities who are well educated. That is what the Ummah is lacking for some time. This is a unique school in the two Americas, there is no any other school similar to it. The hopes and prayers are that we can have a few buildings with hostel facilities, research supports, places to have students from other countries. This school must not be confused with other general Islamic Schools where 90 % of school program and curriculum is public school core work where academic subjects are managed privately by Muslims to provide a safe environment to the Ummah’s youth.

The education in IQA is and always must be mainstream Islam based on traditional scholarly texts with no indoctrination. The students are freely educated to be “lions and lionesses” of truth, justice and honesty in public sphere for the Ummah and whole humanity. It is planned that after they finish the IQA students may be educated at Suffa Islamic Seminary all in Arabic, in Islamic Sciences like Tafsir, Fiqh, Hadith, Sira, Usul al-Fiqh, Usul al-Hadith, Balagaha, Bayan and Badi with full authority and in the sciences like sociology of religions, psychology of religions, socio-psychology, Latin, Greek, Hebrew with a good deal of history of Christianity, Judaic traditions so they may be able to understand and address accordingly the roots of the Western civilizations in the proper context and act accordingly, and address the needs of Ummah and serve to humanity.

The Muslim scholarship must come up to a level that it may answer the western civilizational challenges, for that a strong education is necessity no doubt. What decades ago Osmania University had to plan in Hyderabad Deccan under Nizam, namely, to raise Muslim scholars well in Arabic, slamic Studies and well in English didn't work properly. Otherwise we could have had today scholars who could address the western mind fairly well. Now, we the Muslims in the USA have this opportunity, to do some thing dramatic for humanity here in the West of the West America.

It has been seen that so called scholarly papers, even theses prepared here in the west for example in Ottoman History without knowing Ottoman Culture, language, without visiting Ottoman Archives, based on the sources by simply picking up from here and there. Also some of the Islam's Orientalists are speaking and writing on Islam, advising the governments, guiding them in Sharia, Islamic law, democracy vis a vis Muslims and Islamic countries without having any strong academic education and knowledge, which is leading to no good results, even harming our country the USA, tarnishing the image of America and the West. This is only making things worse.

We must look at the commonalities and move forward from there. History is replete with evidences attesting to the interactions between east / Islam and the west. The army of the Alexander the Great went to Afghanistan. Napoleon visited Cairo and Azhar, French, English, Germans, Italians, Holland, Dutch, had centuries-long relations with the Muslim peoples. They colonized Muslim lands. The British administration had relations with the Ottomans and their administration. English and thereof American common law appears to be similar to the Ottoman system of administration and legal system in terms of functioning. The Napoleon Code civil of 1804, which is the mother civil code in the west in terms of continental and European legal system had a lot of commonalities with Islamic Jurisprudence. There are books comparing the Napoleon Civil Code with Islamic Law article by article and establising the differences and commonalities. Contrary to what common men may think there are more commonalities between western laws and Islamic law, namely Sharia.

When we say Sharia we must not confine our minds to cutting hands, stoning the adulteress, having four wives, letting women have half male’s share of inheritance. Islamic law is so wide, it covers the entire life of a person. A few needs to be explained type of issues may not even amount to 1/10000) of Fiqh. The amir (Imarah system) or Kahlifa (khilafa) has the immense right and authority of legislating as tazir in the Penal Code of Islam which could be usually more rigid field than any branch of law. There is only a few hudud, 5-6 of them, which are strictly defined and criminalized in Qur'an and sunnah with a lot of strings and conditions attached in terms application thereof in justice and fairness.

Surprisingly there is free bargain in American System if desired by the authorities. Actually the differences between the western laws and Islamic Law, Sharia law are not too rigid or too strict. I may dare to say that sometimes the difference in western codes of law as France, Germany, English or American legal sytems represent, are bigger than their differences with the Sharia laws of Islam. The differences in America among the states are at times so wide that one may wonder are all of these a part of one legal system as it is the case in alimony where it changes from on state to another, or the case of same sex marriages being recognized in one state while it is rejected in others.
It is known that Turkey adapted Swiss civil code which was based on Napoleon Code Civil and put aside Majalla-i Ahkam-i Adliyya of Ottoman Empire. This Majalla was prepared under the leadership of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, a prominent historian and lawyer, together with a committee. It has been worked well by my colleagues in Turkey, mainly by Osman Ozturk as his PhD topic. This code is really marvelous in its content, great work, similar to Justinianus Code Civile or Napoleon Code Civil. Unfortunately, Majalla’s English translation does not reflect att all its Ottoman legal context to the readers. It has a lot of mistakes which necessitates the need of new translation thereof.

This has been well stated in the lecture series given in the subject ( Majalla). The preparation of Majalla came after the attempt of translating of Napoleon Code Civil into Ottoman language and legalizing it at the time of Rashid Pasha in the middle of 19th century. Rashid Pasha is known as a western type of pasha, even allegedly affiliated with the Freemason. Ottomans, as we know already had accepted earlier the Italian penal code as their Ceza Kanunnamesi, their penal code. Also there was Qadri Pasha in Egypt who had developed Qanun al-Ahkam al-Shakhsiyya (Code of Personal Rulings) as answer to western system in terms of codification of laws.

It is interesting to see the similarities between legal systems even during the early periods of Islam. As stated above Islamic Law developed mainly in lands and areas under the jurisprudence of Roman Law, areas such as Beirut, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Istanbul etc. Roman Codex Civile and Novellaes and edictums were commented, annotated by early glossators with their glossas, and later same texts were edited by postglossators with additional glossas, which is almost same method used by Muslim faqihs (jurists) when they commented and annotated the works Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Pazdawis, Kasani, Marghinani, Sarakhsi and their and fatwas by sharh (comment,commentary), by hashiya (footnote/side note/notes on margins) or notes between spaced lines as qaid / muqayyad Fiqh books, which are called in some literature fawaid and hawashi. Sometimes one may have in one bound volume three-four authors’ notes, comments and works, may be centuries difference in their lives. Of course human being always had relations with each other, civilizations, no matter what, had borrowed a lot from each other. Languages are clear examples of that borrowing. German language is structured as Persian, cut must be related with Arabic qat', mosque must be englishized form of Masjid, the place of sajda (prostration), mixer must have come from kasr root, to break into pieces.
Institutions and systems also had that type of relations in the past as they have today. Arabic is a very important source in Islamic Studies, hence for Sharia Law too.

Therefore in Islamic Studies Sarf and Nahw, parts of Arabic grammatical studies, are very important tools to study higher desciplines, such as Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh etc. These higher sciences are called al-Ulum al-'Aliyah. Tools and instruments are called al-'Ulum al-Aliyah. This last group comes first in education, the ones who don't have mastery in this tool group may not reach and climb to high levels. Therefore Arabic with its Ma’ani (semantics), Bayan and Badi’ (as literary arts) are very significant. They are sine qua non.
The Usul al-Fiqh, which is Methodology of Islamic Law, or Sharia Law has a lot of innovative service content. Muslim jurists and scholars were very innovative.

They innovated signs of Arabic letters, dots (nuqta), harakats and ashkal almost 100 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They invented grammar, they invented Usul al-Fiqh, to answer to the questions like how to understand the divine texts, conflicts of laws, letters, meanings, semantics, special words, general words, contents. They also pondered upon questions such as is answer a part of question, is the case for which revelation came down a part of the text in terms understanding, is opposite of imperative ordered too? Is mentioned text covering meant but not mentioned? Is there any cancellation or abrogation in the the Scripture and sunnah and is there any modification thereof too? Can a verse or an imperative be understood independently from any other texts related to the same subject? I must say the rules like lex specialis derogat lex generalis as Latin rule were there before Islam too as a part of human wisdom.

In Turkish, there is a proverb which means reason has one way, wisdom gives same one way. This type of maxims (al-qawa'id al-Kulliyya) are very much favorably taken as the first 100 articles of Majalla mentioned above. This Majalla worked well and included written commentaries by Ali Haidar in Ottoman Turkish and taught by Abul Ula Mardin (Mardinizada Abu Ula) in Istanbul University during las decades of Ottoman Empire as well as in Modern Turkish Republican era. Dr. Sharif Mardin who is well known academician in the west gets his last name from this Abul Ula Mardin, though I am not sure how much the efforts of Abul Ula is appreciated by him in his works and the works of others today. With due respect to all of colleagues and scholars, I must say that I see so much chronic ignorance especially in the Islamic Law field, if not fear of unknown and perhaps resistance to know more. The Islam 101 level favorably sought for courses by universities and academics and firms working in Muslim countries are insufficient.
Sharia and Fiqh have strong flexibility by the institution of Ijtihad in the governance and administrative Law. There are very few limitations and defining verses in administration, management of the state in Qur’an and Sunnah. The khalifa/ amir has enormous authority and flexibility to form the rules and regulations, indeed, in fairness, truthfulness, justice and honesty, even when it comes to in Penal Code. I doubt today any legal system may have in our modern world in the east or the west that much flexibility and discretion for thekhalifa. Khalifa has a very wide authority and freedom of doing and acting for the larger benefit and interest of the people (ra'iyya), people under his care. He is ra'i, the one who has to attend, to care and to shepherd others in fairness, honesty, justice and integrity.
Ijtihad has legal ground for khalifa/leader’s authority, as long as mujtahids are qualified enough to sanction the leadership’s rulings and legislatures.

The Islamic governance and Public Law area, as we all know Islamic legal and state management system is very much similar to American presidential system where presidency has authority, secretaries (ministers) are just his representatives who get their authority from president’s original authority, much more different than French, German systems for example. Ijtihad, as said, may legalize new administrative initiatives as long as they are well established. The door of Ijtihad is theoretically at least wide open, its door is munsad as we say it, it is not masdud, which means it is closed by itself because of lack of qualified mujtahids, it is not closed by some other force. It may open any time when conditions meet.

There are many individual issues in Islamic Law. One may speak about women’s equality in shares of inheritance. But each law and legal system must be evaluated in its entirety within a context of the bigger picture. These issues have been studied by the author of this paper and found that these rules are not necessarily against the interest of woman. Woman is cared for by the father, the guardian before marriage. After the marriage, she is cared for by her husband financially etc. She does not need to spend her own money for her own food, dress and shelter too. Her guardian has to provide food, shelter and dress, as it is called nafaqa in Islamic Law terminologies. Woman is like the queen in Islamic legal system. There are many explanation written and said in this context.

As to the issue of witnessing of the women, there are cases where only one woman is enough for testimony. There are many witnesses in courts today but still the truth is not easily found by judges and juries. Where there is no fear from the Creator, a fear he/she will definitely be questioned by Him in the hereafter, nothing may work. Humanity is still struggling to find a humanly and secular way of establishing equality, justice and fairness in this world.

There is also an inherent collective Ijtihad like ijma (consensus) and qiyas al-Fuqaha (analogical analysis and synthesis done by Muslim Jurists) which add another dimension to the adaptability of Islamic Law. Therefore reform in the real sense is not the issue in Sharia Law. Ensuring that the system of Ijtihad functions well is sufficient.

The qazf crimen, one of the 5 hudud crimes in Qur'an, is uniquely interesting sanctions for the protection of woman from slandering, backbiting, accusing her with indecency acts. This crime is unique to Islam. It adds a lot to her honor, nobility, dignity, and integrity.

Yes, it is true that Sharia and Islamic Jurisprudence have to have faith and belief in Allah, in Muhammad as His messenger, has to fear from hereafter, has to have taqwa, khawf, khashya, piety, religiousness, and isitqamah to help Muslims have strong inner control on themselves in obeying Allah, not falling into sins and wrongs that may lead them to Jahannam (hellfire), in the hereafter. That is only good for everyone, this type of snction does not exist in modern secular legal systems. Thus, they have to have laws above laws, controls above controls with thousands ever changing institutions checking and supervising each other.

* Kavakci (, Ex-Professor of Islamic Law and Dean, College of Islamic Studies, Ataturk University, Erzurum/Turkey. He memorized Qur'an when he was 10 years old, passed national exams for Waiz (preacher) when he was 15 years old, Mufti exams when he was 18 years old. He studied at High Islamic Institute of Istanbul and College of Law of Istanbul University. He completed his PhD on the History of Islamic Law and Jurists at the time of Qarakhanid period in Central Asia. He is a board certified attorney in Turkey. He moved to USA for the purpose of providing education to his three daughters freely with their hijabs, when they were denied attending schools with their Islamic head-covering. He currently is a scholar-in-residence with the Islamic Association of North Texas ( He is the founder & teacher of Quranic Academy ( and the founding dean & instructor of Suffa Islamic Seminary ( He is a member of Shura of Islamic Society of North America, and a member of Fiqh Council of North America. He is on the list of speakers for US Department of State. 

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