I am currently reading a book about the Islamic revival in Egypt (Passion for Islam by Carlyle Murphy), and the author interviewed many members of the Muslim Brotherhood. These excerpts I found very interesting:
First, there is the multiplicity of views on how to apply the broad moral principles of shari’a in any given situation. Then there is the tendency to equate shari’a with specific fiqh rulings. Finally, there is the disagreement on how to read the Qur’an.
I think that is a good summing up of the problems with implementing shari’a. People often forget that shari’a is not the word of God: it is a human interpretation of the rules in the Qur’an and sunnah. This is one reason why there are contradictions within it.
When I asked a Muslim Brother what “implementing shari’a” in Egypt would mean, I was usually told that there would be bans on gambling, alcohol and interest on loans. Women, including Christians, would have to cover their hair in public. And punishments listed in the Qur’an, such as amputating a hand for theft and stoning to death for adultery, would be applied. (They would quickly add that these punishments would be rare because shari’a sets rigorous preconditions before they can be imposed.)
The author (rightly) points out that the Brotherhood’s vision of shari’a came across as a narrow, legalistic catalog of dos and don’ts. This is really annoying. Islam is not a list of things that are halal and things that are haram, no matter how often traditionalists try to present it that way. If anything, making that argument is an insult to a religion that is beautiful because of its complexity, diversity, and timelessness.
Their plans to make all women veil, to ban music, etc are also ridiculous. First of all, make Christian women veil? Come on! What would become of Egypt if the MB actually took over? The current regime is also problematic but I really don’t think the MB are a better alternative.
They gave the false impression that Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh, is the essence of Islam and shari’a. It also appeared to reduce the broad moral message of the Qur’an to concerns over alcohol, gambling, women’s dress, and punishments for adultery and theft. There are not crucial matters to the future of a Muslim nation.
Another good point the author brought up is the fact that the Brotherhood seem to have no idea about how an Islamic state would actually work. They have never set out an actual plan or agenda. All they seem to do is make lists of what is haram and what is halal and to complain about the current state of Egyptian society.
Brotherhood leaders seemed to have little interest in elucidating how shari’a should address such matters as the accountability of rulers, social justice, poverty, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, treatment of minorities, war and peace, the role of women in public life, the right to a just wage, and the conflict between intellectual freedom and religious orthodoxy.
Wow, what a list!
I honestly think the Brotherhood coming to power would be a disaster for Egypt. Not only because they represent a very conservative, orthodox view of Islam (hey, guess who funds them? oh yeah, Saudi), but also because they don’t even have any kind of plan, or if they do, they haven’t presented it.
What would happen to tourism, Egypt’s main source of income? What would the Brotherhood say about freedom of speech, liberal education, and Western brands and businesses?
I’m not even going to talk about what would happen to the state of women. Forcing them to veil is one indication, another is that they have already stated that a woman would never be able to become president. The fact that they would also force Christian women to veil says a lot about the way the large Christian minority would be treated.
Its sad but I think they actually would have a shot at winning if there were free and fair elections. I know the current regime is also not *ahem* the best, but I still think they are the lesser of the 2 evils.