The word read, iqra in Arabic, was the first one revealed of the Qur’an’s 77,430 words.
Alternative translations of the iqra are recite, convey, or communicate. Likewise, the word Qur’an itself means the “oft-read” or the “oft-recited” book.
It should stand to reason, therefore, that the Qur’an cannot be understood without reading and reciting it often. It is no accident that the Qur’an additionally commands Muslims on dozens of occasions to ponder, reflect, investigate, and contemplate over its words — and to do so with a righteous intent.
So when Rush Limbaugh declared during his February 19th broadcast, “I’ve never read the Qur’an but,” I knew whatever he said next would be devoid of any semblance to reality. Rush didn’t disappoint and engaged in an inane tirade about the alleged evils of Shariah. I’ve written on Shariah before — and here are five things everyone should know about Shariah.
Unfortunately Limbaugh’s fear-mongering contributes to the current trends of growing Islamophobia, anti-Muslim discrimination, and anti-Muslim violence in America. But imagine this for a moment. If your lawyer told you, “I’ve never read the U.S. Constitution but…,” would you care to hear what he has to say? What if your doctor said, “I’ve never read a medical textbook but..,” why would you go to him? (Could such individuals even claim they were actual lawyers or doctors?)
You wouldn’t believe such pseudo-lawyers or doctors, and for good reason. Thus, don’t believe such media pundits when learning about Islam.
As an American Muslim attorney I can say with conviction that the U.S. Constitution is in fact the most Shariah compliant constitution on Earth. I explain why in detail in my peer-reviewed journal article on Shariah, available here.
But here’s the single biggest mistake nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, terrorist groups like ISIS and the Taliban, and anti-Islam extremists like Rush Limbaugh make when pretending to know what they’re talking about when discussing Shariah: They do everything backwards.
Let me explain what that means.
The purpose of Shariah is not to enforce penal codes — it is to reform moral and spiritual behavior with love and logic. Moral and spiritual reformation can never occur through force, compulsion, or violence. This is why when Muslims finally gained power in the final years of Prophet Muhammad’s life, God revealed “There shall be no compulsion in religion, the right has become distinct from the wrong.” At that precise moment when Muslims finally had the physical ability to enforce Islam on non-Muslims, God revealed this commandment to show without question that religious compulsion has no place in Islam.
This principle could not be clearer. Unfortunately, it could not be more ignored by contemporary Mullahs and all too many Muslim majority nations. Thus, the oppression of conscience such extremist groups promote is not because of Islamic Shariah, but in spite of Islamic Shariah.
Prophet Muhammad himself was specifically forbidden from enforcing Shariah on anyone. The Qur’an repeatedly reminds him and all Muslims, “Admonish, therefore, for you are only an admonisher; You have no authority to compel them.” (88:22-23). Commenting on this critical Shariah principle His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam Mirza Masroor Ahmad stated in a landmark address intellectually debunking ISIS ideology that, “It is never permissible, in any circumstance, to force another person to accept Islam or indeed any religion … All people are free to believe or not to believe. And so when Prophet Muhammad was permitted only to convey the message of Islam and nothing further — how then can the so-called Muslim leaders of today go beyond this and think they have more power, authority, or rights than the Prophet of Islam?”
This is again why I commend President Obama for categorically rejecting the claim that ISIS is Islamic, and calling them out for the perversion they are. The president’s love- and logic-based advocacy separates Muslims from extremists, empowers Muslims for peace, and writes a narrative of tolerance and pluralism. This compassionate act destroys ISIS more effectively than any bomb ever could.
Indeed, when anyone — a nation, a terror group, or a cleric — attempts to enforce Shariah, they act in exact contradiction to Prophet Muhammad’s example. Among the greatest insults to God is the ridiculous belief that His moral guidance requires compulsion. Even a child can see that a just and fair teaching should stand on its own merit—not on the sword or on worldly threats.
Islamic Shariah without freedom of conscience ceases to be Islamic Shariah. If you want to know what Shariah is, read the Qur’an for yourself. And whether you agree with the Qur’an’s overall message or not, let’s agree on at least one Shariah concept:
Convey your point of view with love and logic — not compulsion.
Qasim Rashid is an attorney, best-selling author of EXTREMIST, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.