HUDUD LAW, AGAIN!
By: Kassim Ahmad
17 March, 2015
Some Muslims pride themselves for upholding what is called the hudud punishments. Do they really know what they are talking about? They think it is God-ordained law. Are they right? They should remember the lessons of history. Did the Jewish Prophet Moses bring the religion of what is now known as Judaism? The answer is: No. Did Prophet Jesus, also a Jew, bring the religion of what is now known as Christianity? Again the answer is: No. Did Prophet Muhammad, an Arab, bring the religion of Sunnism and Shi’ism? Again the answer is: No.
Human history is littered with errors that came to be accepted later as "facts". We are not talking of small errors. We are talking of big ones. That explains the rise and fall of nations. One author has described this historical evolution as "recurring, multilinear, yet ascending." That means on the whole we are progressing, but the line of progress is not ascending linear, but multilinear, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending.
Let me cite just one authority, Prof. Mohammad Hashim Kamali. This paragraph is taken from his book, Punishment in Islamic Law: An Inquiry into the Hudud Bill in Kelantan (Kuala Lumpur: 2000) is very telling: “When we compare the Quranic usage of hadd (in the sense of limit) with the use of this term in fiqh, we notice that a basic development has taken place, which is that the term hadd has been reserved to signify a fixed and unchallengeable punishment that is laid down in the Quran or Sunnah. The concept of the ‘separating or preventing limit’ of the Quran is thereby replaced by the idea of fixed punishment.” (p. 46)
There you have another example of a major error made by great scholars. That is precisely why the Quran warns us of idolizing leaders or scholars. We could be kind if we choose to pardon them by saying that it was their understanding, or their ijtihad, which must be reviewed by the next generation.
The term hududu’l-Lah (God’s boundaries) occurs in the Quran 14 times, none of which refer to fixed punishments, as understood by some Muslim jurists. One scholar opioned that, “The unchangeability of the hadd punishement is supported by the interpretation of the Quranic verse: ‘These are the limits of Allah. Do not transgress them.’” (2: 229) The verse does not actually mean what he says it means.
Let us take some of the so-called hudud punishments. Cutting of the head for apostasy, when the Quran advocates complete freedom of belief, some 1,400 years ahead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; stoning for adultery, cutting of the hand for theft are three of the six or seven of the so-called fixed punishments propounded by Muslim jurists. Take note these run counter to the fundamental teachings of the Quran.
Take note also that the divine order to our courts is to judge among people with justice. (See Quran, 4: 58) Surely God Who decrees upon Himself mercy (Quran, 6: 12) cannot enact such archaic and barbarous laws.
The term ‘hudud’ul-Lah’, meaning the boundaries of God, simply means in every action there is a boundary that one should not overpass. Take the case of eating: one must eat to survive, but he must not overeat. In between there is a boundary set by God that he should not cross. As in the case of eating, so in all cases of human activities. It is sometime called ‘The Golden Mean’, the middle path.
See how even great scholars have made mistakes! That is precisely the reason why God warns us of idolizing leaders. It is incumbent upon succeeding generations to re-evaluate the legacies they inherit from the older generations.
It is to be remembered that Muslim jurists of the four schools differ much in their views. We need not go into them. We should take note that these punishments are taken from the Torah. They crept into the so-called sunnah/hadith, or Prophetic traditions, i.e. traditions ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad’s name is so great among Muslims that anything said to originate from him is sacrosanct.
We should also note that the Quran has two dimensions, the historically-bound, and the universal. The historically-bound will be surpassed when the historical context no longer prevails. They will pass over into the universal. The two universal principles are: equal punishment, and merciful punishment. The first means punishment equalling the crime, and the second means lightening the punishment, up to and including pardon. We can see that the two universal principles have been imbibed into all modern civilized societies.
Take not that Brunei has last year declared that it would implement Hudud punishments, with the exception, according to reports, that Brunei royalty is exempt from them.
The final and unchallengeable proof that there is no such thing as the hudud fixed punishments is that they are nowhere mentioned in the Medina Charter promulgated by Prophet Muhammad himself when he migrated to Medina.
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian freelance writer. His website is www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com