Islam, law and finance: the elusive divine

Fred Halliday begins his argument in the captioned article published by Open Democracy with these lines:

In many European countries in particular (the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Germany, as well as Britain) “Islam”-related issues connected to the veil, medical hygiene, or religious imagery become the trigger for entrenching opinion, drawing battle-lines and fomenting indignation. If the pattern is to be broken and a more constructive form of public discourse conducted, it can only be done by informed reason, including historical and linguistic clarification.

And makes some pertinent points especially for the :

A common confusion is made between sharia and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) – the corpus of law which has arisen over centuries and which forms the basis for law in many Muslim countries, and is obliged like any modern legal system to pronounce on all matters, from the personal to the commercial. This is not divinely sanctioned. Indeed the only parts of Islam that have such sanction are classified as deen (religion).

Fiqh, therefore, is a system of conventional law, without divine sanction, and allowing of many interpretations. Beyond the fact that the Sunni world has four main schools of fiqh – Maleki, Shafei, Hanbali, Hanafi – each reflecting developments in medieval Islamic society and politics, the Shi’a have their own, distinct, system. Where the confusion has arisen – and where both Islamic fundamentalists and well-meaning but ill-informed western observers like the Canterbury archbishop have contributed to the problem – is in pretending that there is one single legal text (sharia) and that this supposedly univocal code carries divine authority. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Full article can be accessed here

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