Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction
is an extensive study of the contents of Islam by Javed Ahmad Ghāmidī (b. 1951).
It is an effort which spans almost two decades of both creative and critical
thinking. This attempt to expound the contents of Islam is not a new one.
Preceding Ghāmidī is an illustrious series of names who have ventured forth to
present Islam the way they have understood it. All these efforts are commendable
and merit deep deliberation. A serious student should perhaps conduct a
comparative study to gauge the approaches followed by each.
Ghāmidī is a prominent pupil of Amīn Ahsan Islāhī
(1904-1997), a profound exegete and a distinguished student of the prodigious
Qur’ānic scholar: Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī (1863-1930). Ghāmidī draws heavily on the
approach and research of his two eminent predecessors. However, he has not only
developed and lent precision to their approach and views, he has also made some
original contributions in this regard.
The entire effort is a fresh interpretation of Islam from
its original sources on the basis of the principles delineated in the first
preamble. The reason that it has been undertaken is that interpretation of
sacred texts has always remained a human endeavour and thus can never remain
fault free. It is as a result of this principle that the author has continued to
evaluate and re-evaluate even his own findings. He is of the opinion that no
view or interpretation is acceptable if it cannot stand up to criticism. It
should not have any value merely because a certain great scholar or authority
presented it. Even the greatest of scholars are not immune to error; therefore,
it is arguments and reasoning based only on the original sources of Islam that
should be the basis for accepting or rejecting a point of view. Thus, just as
the author has differed with authorities of the past, he has also differed from
his two predecessors whose approach and research are foundational to this work.
Some distinctive features of the author’s approach evident
from this book are summarized below:
1. The Qur’ān is regarded as the mīzān (the scale)
and the furqān (distinguisher between right and wrong), a status which it
itself claims. It is the scale in which everything related to religion must be
weighed and the decisive word in every matter of religion. Everything in
religion must stand in subservience to its verdicts. It is as a result of this
supreme status of the Qur’ān that the author has made the following inferences:
i. There is only one reading of the Qur’ān called the
al-qirā’at al-‘āmmah (the general reading). It is only this reading which
has been transmitted through tawātur and can thus be called the Qur’ān.
All other readings cannot be regarded as the Qur’ān and none of them stands up
to the criteria of tawātur.
ii. The muhkam and mutashābih verses of the
Qur’ān are distinct and easily discernable. The latter are verses that mention
things which are beyond the grasp of human knowledge and observation or belong
to matters of the Hereafter. Such things are mentioned in the form of comparison
(tashbīh) to things which we are aware of in our own language and through
our own experience. The denotation of these verses is clear. However, human
intellect is unable to understand the reality to which they refer.
iii. The Qur’ān is a univocal book that conveys its
meanings with absolute clarity and there is no ambiguity about them. The
intentionality of its text is certain and unmistakable. Its words convey what
they stand for with full certainty. Differences in its interpretation have
arisen not because there is any defect in its language or style. They have
arisen because human beings at times falter in their understanding which may be
due to a lack of knowledge or a lack of deliberation or both.
iv. The Hadīth is a historical record of Prophetic
teachings. It cannot change or modify the Qur’ān in any way. Its scope is
confined to explaining and elucidating religion or in delineating the exemplar
of the Prophet (sws). The Qur’ān is not dependent on the Hadīth for its
explanation; On the contrary, the Hadīth need to be interpreted in the light of
2. The Sunnah is treated as an independent source of
religion. It is distinct from Hadīth. Since at times the Hadīth also contains a
record of the Sunnah, people have erroneously equated the two. The Sunnah refers
to that tradition of Prophet Abraham’s (sws) religion which the Prophet Muhammad
(sws) instituted among his followers as religion after reviving and reforming it
and after making certain additions to it. The Sunnah was transmitted to the
ummah by its perpetual adherence and thereby carrying the same stamp of
authority as the Qur’ān.
3. The sharī‘ah portion of the book has been
entirely cleansed from fiqh. It is based purely on the author’s understanding of
the divine law. Areas of fiqh like the application of sharī‘ah to
specific circumstances or judgements in which the sharī‘ah is silent and
ijtihād is needed are not touched upon. This is because all these areas
belong to human intellect and are prone to change with change in circumstances
and to variation because of a variance in intellect.
4. The sunnatullāh (dealings and practices of God)
have been separated from the sharī‘ah. These dealings and practices
emanate from God Himself and as such must not be undertaken by human beings in
any way. In this regard, the most important of these divine practices: worldly
punishment of the direct and immediate addressees of messengers of God who
deliberately deny the truth is distinctly reflected in the contents of the book.
Its specific nature is highlighted so that it is not confused as a directive of
5. The scheme of the book is based on the categorization of
the Qur’ān regarding the contents of Islam. According to the author, the Qur’ān
(2:231; 4:113; 62:2) itself divides the contents of Islam into two categories:
al-Hikmah and al-Kitāb. While the former refers to topics related
to the philosophy of religion, the latter to those that relate to divine law (sharī‘ah).
He has further classified these two categories into sub-categories. al-Hikmah
comprises two sub-categories: faith and ethics and al-Kitāb comprises ten
sub-categories: The Sharī‘ah of Worship Rituals, The Social Sharī‘ah, The
Political Sharī‘ah, The Economic Sharī‘ah, The Sharī‘ah of
Preaching, The Sharī‘ah of Jihād, The Penal Sharī‘ah, The
Dietary Sharī‘ah, Islamic Customs and Etiquette, and Oaths and their
Consequently, Part I of this book consists of topics
related to al-Hikmah and Part II consists of topics related to al-Kitāb.
Two preambles to these two parts “Fundamental Principles” and “The Religion of
Islam” introduce the reader to the hermeneutics which have led the author to his
interpretation and to the overall framework of Islam respectively.
6. The overall interpretive approach can be termed as
text-based. It is primarily the text of the Qur’ān which determines the purport
of what constitutes Islam. Each section of a chapter of this book begins with a
verse(s) of the Qur’ān which according to the author is the primary and
foundational verse of the topic dealt with in that section. Qur’ānic verses
cited subsequently in that section are of secondary nature to that topic.
Needless to say that discovering the basic verse of a section helps the reader
in grasping the primary Qur’ānic guidance on that topic in a precise manner.
While following the approach delineated above, the author
has documented his understanding of Islam. Some of the important issues
discussed and conclusions drawn in this treatise are briefly summarized below.
Readers can look up the details during the course of their study.
Regarding the overall Framework of Islam:
1. The objective of Islam according to the Qur’ān (62:2) is
neither union with God nor the struggle for Islamic supremacy; it is the
purification of individual and collective lives of the Muslims from
2. Of the two contents of Islam, al-hikmah and
al-sharī‘ah, the former has always been the same in all divine religions. It
is only the latter which has changed because of change in the nature of society
and civilization. This means that the foundations of faith and beliefs and those
of morals and morality are common to all divine religions.
3. Faith in a person entails some permanent requirements
and some contingent requirements. The former requirements include doing
righteous deeds and urging one another to the truth and to remain steadfast on
it. The latter requirements include migration for the cause of religion (hijrah),
helping the cause of religion (nusrah) and adhering to justice (qiyām
Regarding the Qur’ān:
1. What best can be said of the genre of the Qur’ān is that
it resembles an oration. The speaker and the spoken to rapidly change in the
text, and in order to have a deep understanding of the Qur’ān a serious student
must carefully determine the addresser and the addressees of each section of
verses. Moreover, the general and specific verses of the Qur’ān must be
determined in the light of the context because many a time what is stated in
general terms has a specific connotation.
2. According to the Qur’ān (42:17) itself, is the final
authority in religion. Thus instead of interpreting it in the light of
extraneous sources like Hadīth, such extraneous sources are in need of being
interpreted in the light shed by the Qur’ān.
3. There is only one reading of the Qur’ān called the
al-qirā’at al-‘āmmah (the general reading). It is only this reading which
has been transmitted through tawātur and can thus be called the Qur’ān.
All other readings are in fact deviants and none of them stands up to the
criteria of tawātur.
4. According to the Qur’ān (75:16-19) itself, the text of
the Qur’ān was collected and finalized in the time of the Prophet (sws). None of
the reports of Qur’ān collections attributed to each of the first four caliphs
is historically reliable.
5. The muhkam and mutashābih verses of the
Qur’ān are distinct and easily discernable. The latter are verses in which
matters which are beyond the grasp of human knowledge and observation or belong
to matters of the Hereafter.
6. The subject matter of the Qur’ān is the warning
delivered by the Prophet (sws) to his immediate addressees. This warning
culminated in deciding their fate in this very world so that this whole exercise
could become a corroboration of the reward and punishment that will be meted out
to each and every person in the Hereafter.
7. The Qur’ān is not an incoherent collection of verses and
sūrahs. Both the verses in sūrahs and the sūrah themselves
are meaningfully arranged. Thus each verse has a definite context which must
necessarily be taken into consideration while interpreting it.
Regarding the Sunnah:
1. The Sunnah is primarily the religious practices of the
Prophet Abraham (sws) which the Prophet Muhammad (sws) revived and laid currency
to among his followers. As such it pre-dates the Qur’ān and is an independent
source of Islam.
2. The subject matter of the Sunnah is always practices. It
never relates to concepts or to precepts of faith. However, even in this sphere,
if a practice is originated by the Qur’ān, it cannot be regarded as a Sunnah.
3. The personal likes and dislikes of the Prophet (sws)
cannot be classified as Sunnah.
Regarding the Hadīth:
1. Hadīth must be understood in the light of the Qur’ān and
Sunnah, and never contain an independent directive of religion.
2. While understanding a Hadīth, it is essential that all
its variant texts on one topic be collected and collated to draw a conclusion
3. Hadīth which contradict the Qur’ān and Sunnah cannot be
Regarding Faith and Beliefs:
1. God’s being cannot be comprehended by human beings. They
can only comprehend His attributes and practices. The latter are in fact some
specific laws and dealings with human-kind which the Almighty has set upon
Himself to follow. These laws and practices enable a person to experience God.
They include his laws regarding trials and tests, providing guidance, remorse
and repentance, rise and fall of nations, divine help and worldly reward and
2. Prophets and messengers of God have been sent for
completion of guidance already found in human nature, and to conclusively
communicate the truth to their followers.
Specific criteria have been set-forth to judge true
Messengers of God of whom Muhammad (sws) was the last and final of the series.
Prophets never falter in delivering to their followers what
has been revealed to them by the Almighty.
Although prophets of God may hold some degree of
superiority in some sphere between one another yet all of them deserve equal
respect, and no prophet of God should be regarded superior to others in absolute
Intercession of the prophets only means that they can pray
in support for the forgiveness of a believer. It can never violate the
principles of justice.
3. The testimonies of the Hereafter are found in history,
in human nature and in the world around man. Some of the signs of the Day of
Judgement are very general and others are in the form of specific incidents and
happenings. Of the specific signs only one is mentioned in the Qur’ān (21:96-97)
and it relates to the rise of Gog and Magog. Therefore, this only is the certain
Regarding Morals and Morality:
1. Man is innately aware of good and evil and does not need
any external guidance to determine it.
2. The Qur’ān (17:22-39) has described in its ten
commandments the mandatory morality which must be followed by every Muslim.
3. The Qur’ān (33:35) has also outlined the pinnacle of
morality which the Almighty wants the believers to strive for.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to Worship Rituals:
1. All worship rituals of Islam crystallized in the time of
Abraham (sws). The Prophet (sws) only revived them and where needed cleansed
them of innovations that had crept into them. These worship rituals are thus a
Sunnah of Abraham (sws) which pre-date the Qur’ān, and for this reason
their details were not needed to be mentioned in the Qur’ān.
2. Certain practices and utterances of the prayer are
obligatory and others that are optional. One must be careful in making a
distinction between them. Similar is the case with the rak‘āt of each prayer.
3. The qasr prayer (shortened prayer) can be offered
in all situations of fear, discomfort and unease.
4. The Friday and Eid prayers are the prerogative of the
rulers and their representatives.
5. The rates of zakāh range from 2.5 percent to 20
percent depending upon the nature of zakātable items.
6. There is no basis for tamlīk (exclusive personal
possession) in zakāh, and it can be spent in all cases which relate to
the welfare of state and religion.
7. The obligation of the fast is meant to produce taqwā
in a person and so important is this objective that except for patients who can
never fast, all missed fasts must be made up in later months.
8. In their overall capacity, hajj and ‘umrah symbolize
man’s war against Satan.
9. Each component of hajj and ‘umrah like
ihrām, tawāf, sa‘ī, hair-cut and ramī has deep symbolic
significance and philosophy which must be understood by a pilgrim if he or she
wants to reap the real benefits of these worship rituals.
10. The significance of the ritual of animal sacrifice is
that it is a symbolic expression of pledging one’s life for the cause of God.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to the Social Sphere:
1. For two reasons stated in the Qur’ān (4:34), husbands
are the heads of a family set-up. Specifically stated, these reasons are: (a)
husbands are entrusted with providing for the family, and (b) they are
temperamentally and physically more suited to discharge this responsibility.
2. A husband can only punish his wife if she starts to
challenge his authority and threatens to disrupt the family set-up. Before
resorting to physical chastisement, the two previous stages mentioned by the
Qur’ān (4:34) must elapse. Even after these stages, it never becomes obligatory
upon him to physically punish her. He must exercise prudence in using this right
by considering the circumstances of the society he is living in.
3. It is incorrect to conclude that Islam has allowed a
Muslim to keep up to four wives at one time since keeping four wives is a man’s
essential physiological and psychological need. In normal circumstances, a
family comes into being through wedlock between one man and one woman. Islam has
neither encouraged nor stopped a person from polygamy. It has not imposed any
restriction in this regard except that the number of wives must not exceed four
and that a husband must justly deal with them.
4. It is clear from the context of the Qur’ān (5:5) that it
is desirable though not binding for Muslim men to marry women from among the
People of the Book in areas where Islamic values reign supreme. It is evident
that in such conditions and circumstances, there is virtually no possibility of
the Muslims being influenced by their moral values and cultural traditions.
5. The consent of the parents/guardians is not a legal
requirement of marriage. The legal requirements are only two: the man and woman
who intend to get married must be chaste and a man must pay dower (mahr)
to his wife. However, the consent of the parents/guardians is a cultural and
social requirement of marriage.
6. It is erroneous to conclude that a mature child can be
suckled and hence treated as a foster child. The misconception has arisen by
generalizing a Hadīth of the Prophet (sws). As per the Qur’ān, a child can only
be regarded as a foster child if he is suckled in infancy with a definite
intention to the purpose. Suckling a child through chance happenings or through
a few drops does not entitle him to fosterage rights.
7. The amount of mahr (dower) should be fixed
keeping in view the social customs and traditions of a society. Its quantity has
not been ascertained by the Islamic sharī‘ah.
8. It is only Sūrah Nūr in which the norms of gender
interaction are mentioned. Some of the important facts that are evident from
these directives are:
a. Muslim women are not required by the sharī‘ah to
cover their faces.
b. Muslim women are required by the sharī‘ah to
cover their heads if they have embellished their hair. In case they have not,
covering the head though is not obligatory, yet it is a desirable Muslim
c. Muslim women should wear clothes that do not make their
breasts prominent. This can be done by covering them or by any other means that
serve the purpose.
d. The expression ghadd al-basr used by the Qur’ān
(24:30) does not mean that men and women have to stare at the floor. It means
that they must guard their gazes from taking undue liberty.
e. While following the norms underlined in the sūrah,
men and women can visit each other and sit and eat together if they want to.
The directives mentioned in Sūrah Ahzāb which are generally
thought to relate to gender interaction specifically pertain to the household of
the Prophet (sws). It is evident from their context that they cannot be extended
beyond this sphere. They were primarily given to check the subversive activities
of the Hypocrites who had started a malicious campaign to scandalize the private
lives of the Prophet (sws) and his wives. It is by not understanding this aspect
that the following misconceptions have arisen:
a. The house is the centre of activities of a wife.
b. Muslim women must not speak in a polite tone with
c. Muslim women should be kept secluded except from their
d. Muslim women must wear large cloaks (jilbābs)
when they go out of their houses.
9. Regarding divorce, it must be understood:
a. Only the husbands have the right to divorce. Wives
cannot divorce their husbands. They can only demand divorce from them.
b. If husbands desire a separation from their wives, then
they should do so according to the prescribed procedure mentioned in the Qur’ān
by uttering the divorce sentence once only. However, if someone who is ignorant
of this procedure or owing to his own foolishness utters three divorce sentences
in succession, then such a case should be decided by a court giving full
allowance to his real intention.
c. It is evident from the Qur’ān (33:49) that the real
reason for the ‘iddat is to ascertain whether a lady is pregnant or not.
Consequently, if it can be determined with certainty that a lady is not pregnant
she will not be required to observe this period.
d. In no way is a husband authorized to take back the dower
money from his wife in case he divorces her. He is also not authorized to take
back any wealth or property gifted to her except in two specific cases mentioned
in the Qur’ān (2:229; 4:19).
e. The concept of halālah has arisen because of not
understanding a very subtle sentence of the Prophet (sws) in a Hadīth.
f. In case a husband exercises the option of divorcing his
wife for the third time in his life, he will still have to provide residence and
maintenance to her till the expiry of the ‘iddat period.
10. It is erroneous to believe that Islam permits its
followers to keep slave-women and have sexual contact with them. The notion of
keeping slaves has arisen by not giving due allowance to the fact that Islam had
adopted a gradual procedure in the time of the Prophet (sws) to eliminate this
social evil because of its deep roots in the society. After a program of gradual
eradication adopted by Islam in the time of the Prophet (sws), the Qur’ān
(24:33) announced the final step in slave emancipation by giving them the
authority to earn their freedom by showing that they would become responsible
citizens of the society.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to the Political Sphere:
1. The form of government envisaged by Islam is neither a
theocracy nor a monarchy. It is more akin to democracy as a Muslim government
comes into existence on the basis of a public mandate and continues to exist as
long as it commands the support of the majority.
2. The legal definition of a Muslim is that he is one who
offers the prayer and pays zakāh. Such a person shall legally be regarded
as a Muslim and be entitled to all the rights a Muslim has in a Muslim State.
3. The Non-Muslim minorities of today living in Muslim
countries can only be classified as mu‘āhids (citizens by contract).
Keeping in view the general welfare of the state, through mutual consent, any
contract can be made with non-Muslims of today regarding their rights. As such,
all dealings with them should be according to the terms of the treaty concluded
with them. The dhimmīs are a category of non-Muslims specific to the age of the
Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta). The directives of fiqh related to them
consequently cannot be related to the non-Muslims of today.
4. There is only one basis for negative legislation in a
Muslim state: only those laws can be enacted that enforce what has been
prohibited in Islam. For example, laws can be enacted against theft, adultery,
murder and things which endanger the life, wealth and property of the people,
but among the positive directives of Islam, except for the prayer and zakāh,
a Muslim state cannot forcefully demand anything from the believers. It cannot,
for example, compel a Muslim to fast nor can it compel him to offer hajj even if
he has the financial position to do so. In this regard, he may be sinning in the
eyes of God, yet a Muslim state has not been authorized to use force.
5. Muslims can rise against their rulers only in certain
circumstances. In case, they intend to resort to armed warfare to dislodge them,
then the following conditions must necessarily be fulfilled:
a. Muslim rulers are guilty of openly and deliberately
denying Islam or any of its directives.
b. The government should be a despotic one, which neither
came into existence through the opinion of the people nor is it possible to
change it through their opinion.
c. The person who leads this uprising should have a clear
majority of the nation behind him and they are willing to accept him as their
future ruler in favour of the existing one.
d. The rebels are able to establish their political
authority in an independent piece of land.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to the Economic
1. The issue of ribā al-fadl (interest in
transactions concluded on the spot) is a case of misinterpretation and has
arisen in our fiqh because the narrators have mixed up the words of certain
2. The establishment of a public sector in a country is an
essential ingredient of the economy envisaged by Islam so that wealth should not
get concentrated among the rich and that it be directed to those sectors of the
society which are dependent on others for their needs.
3. Many directives of prohibition given by the Prophet (sws)
like muzāra‘at (crop-sharing) are not absolute. They are based on the
elements of deceit and harm that is present in them. If these elements can be
eliminated from these transactions, their prohibition will no longer hold.
4. In a fresh interpretation of the law of inheritance,
besides many other things, it is shown that if a person has a flair for
relishing the finer aspects of a language, there is absolutely no need to employ
the “Doctrine of Increase” (‘awl) to proportionately decrease the shares. All
the shares can be perfectly distributed.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to Preaching:
1. The obligation of preaching relates to believers
according to their various capacities. These capacities are distinct and must
not be mixed up: they include, preaching responsibility of the messengers, of
Abraham’s progeny, of the rulers, of the scholars and of individuals.
2. The preaching of the messengers always culminates in the
worldly reward and punishment of their immediate and direct addressees so that
this exercise can become a visual proof for reward and punishment which shall
take place in the Hereafter for each individual.
3. The Almighty has selected both branches of Abraham’s
progeny (the Israelites and the Ishmaelites) to be a means of conclusively
delivering the truth to other nations of mankind. If these descendents of
Abraham (sws) adhere to the truth in their collective capacity, the Almighty
will make them dominant over other nations, and if they do not, He will make
them subservient to them.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to Jihād:
1. Only the state has the authority to wage jihād.
No independent group or organization has the right to launch an armed struggle
in any way.
2. After the departure of the Prophet (sws) and his
Companions (rta), the only legitimate reason for an Islamic State to wage
jihād is to curb oppression and persecution in another country – whether
Muslim or non-Muslim.
3. Jihād becomes compulsory for a state only if in
the opinion of its rulers it has the moral grounds and the military might to
curb the oppression and injustice of the country against which jihād is
to be waged. What can be said on the basis of the Qur’ān is that Muslim to enemy
ratio should be at least 1:2 in terms of relative military strength for the
Muslims to expect victory.
4. Jihād was or is never carried out for territorial
aggrandizement or forcible conversion of people to Islam. People who erroneously
justify either or both of these two bases draw their arguments from the jihād
carried out by the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta). It needs to be
appreciated that the jihād carried out by Muhammad (sws) and his
Companions (rta) after him was governed by a specific law meant only for the
Messengers of Allah and their immediate addressees, and has nothing to do with
later Muslims. A study of the Qur’ān reveals that the purpose of their jihād
was to administer Divine punishment to people who had arrogantly denied the
truth in spite of being convinced about it.
5. A Muslim can only be regarded as a sinner in the eyes of
God by not participating in jihād if he does not offer himself for
jihād on the appeal of a Muslim state. Less than this, he cannot be regarded
to have committed sin.
6. Prisoners of war cannot be kept or treated as slaves.
They can be set free whether after accepting ransom or as a favour.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to Punishments:
1. Only a Muslim state has the authority to administer
punishments. No individual or group has been given this right.
2. Islam has prescribed punishments in a limited sphere
only. It has prescribed punishments for what it considers to be the five major
crimes. They are fasād fi al-ard,
murder, fornication, accusing someone of fornication and theft. The punishments
of all other crimes have been left to state authorities to legislate.
3. The death sentence can only be given in two cases as per
the Qur’ān: to a person who has killed someone or to someone who is guilty of
spreading lawlessness and disorder in a society. No other person can be punished
4. The punishments of fornication and theft are extreme
forms of reproof, and should be given only if the nature of the crime and the
circumstances in which it was committed entails no lenience to the criminal.
5. As far as diyat is concerned, though it is an
everlasting law which must be obeyed in all times, yet its quantity, nature and
other related affairs have been left upon the customs and traditions of a
society. Consequently, no eternal quantity of diyat has been fixed by Islam, nor
has it instructed Muslims in any manner to discriminate between a man or a
woman, a free man or a slave and a Muslim or a non-Muslim in this matter.
6. It is incorrect to conclude that Islam discriminates
between married and un-married men or women who are guilty of fornication. Their
punishments are essentially the same. It is only in cases when fornication is
compounded by certain other elements, making the nature of the crime more severe
that certain other punishments are added to the original form of punishment.
7. Islam does not require four eye-witnesses in ordinary
cases of fornication nor has it fixed a quantity of witnesses to prove a crime.
Only in two cases has it prescribed a certain quantity. The first of them is
regarding prostitutes. In their case, if four witnesses testify to their
ill-ways, then this is enough to punish them. The second case concerns accusing
chaste and morally sound women of fornication – about whom no one can even
imagine that they can commit such a crime. In their case, Islam wants four
eye-witnesses to even start the proceedings of a case. In this regard, the
purpose is the protection of reputation of a chaste lady. Even if she has
faltered, it should be kept hidden from the society.
It may be noted here that the above points relate to the
sharī‘ah regarding Islamic punishments. Presented below are the views of the
author which do not belong to this sharī‘ah but relate to the sphere
1. As far as criminal evidence is concerned, two things
must be kept in consideration:
(i) Islam does not discriminate between a man and a woman.
In all criminal cases, it is left to the discretion of the judge whether he
accepts someone as a witness or not. If a woman testifies in a clear and
definite manner, then her testimony cannot be turned down simply on the basis
that there is not another woman and man to testify alongside her.
(ii) In all cases of Islamic law, a crime legally stands
proven not only by the testimony of the witnesses or by the confession of the
criminals themselves but also by any additional or circumstantial evidence.
Medical examination, cameras, postmortem reports, finger prints and other
similar aids can also be used in proving a crime.
2. The punishment of apostasy was specifically meant for
the Idolaters of Arabia under a specific law of the Almighty which applies only
in the age of His Messengers. According to this law, people who advocated
polytheism in spite of being convinced of its falsity were punished by death by
the Almighty Himself through His Messengers. After the departure of the last of
the Messengers, this punishment has no bearing whatsoever upon any person or
3. Islam has not prescribed any punishment for blasphemy
per se. An Islamic state can enact any law in this regard keeping in view the
expediency of the Muslims. However, death punishment cannot be administered to
those guilty of blasphemy unless this amounts to spreading anarchy in the
4. The jail punishment was never a part of the Islamic
penal code. It is an inhuman punishment which actually punishes the family of
the criminal and should be done away with.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah related to the
1. Islam wants its believers to consume only ritually pure
food. However, it has not provided a comprehensive list in this regard because
human nature is fully equipped to take a decision in this regard,
2. Islam has only guided believers in this matter on four
items because human nature and intellect could have faltered in deciding about
their prohibition or allowance. These include: carrion, flowing blood, pork and
meat on which the name of God has not been taken while slaughtering an animal.
3. The prohibition of consuming liquor is innately found in
human beings. A divine directive was not even needed to prohibit it.
Regarding the Sharī‘ah of Islamic Customs and
The objective of all Islamic customs and etiquette is to
purify the human soul. They include:
1. Declaring Allah’s name before eating and drinking and
using the right hand for the purpose.
2. The ceremonial salutation السَّلاَمُ
عَلَيْكُمْ (al-salāmu ‘alaykum) and its response when people meet one
3. The ceremonial utterance الْحَمْدُ
للّه (al-hamdullilāh: all gratitude is for Allah only) after sneezing and
its response by saying يَرْحَمُكَ الله (yarhamukallāh:
may Allah have mercy upon you) by those who hear it.
4. Clipping the moustache.
5. Shaving the pubes.
6. Removing hair from under the armpits.
7. Cutting nails.
8. Circumcising the male offspring.
9. Cleaning the nose, the mouth and the teeth.
10. Cleaning the body after urination and defecation.
11. Taking the ceremonial bath after the menstrual cycle
and the puerperal discharge.
12. Ceremonial bath after janābah.
13. Bathing a dead body, enshrouding it in coffin cloth and
14. The festivals of ‘Īd al-Fitr and ‘Īd