Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Origin of American Sharia (Religious Law) !

In the year 1641, Governor John Winthrop of Massachusets Bay Colony delegated his friend Nathanial Ward to draft the Body of Liberties. What is the Body of Liberties ? The Body of Liberties is a document originally published in 1641 containing 100 liberties intended for use as guidance for the General Court of the time. This document is considered by many as the precursor to the General Laws of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Constitution. It incorporates rights that were later judged to be ahead of their time, with some of these rights eventually appearing in the Bill of Rights. Scholars do not agree as to whether these liberties were ever adopted, adopted provisionally or approved of by the General Court (they would then have been "codified" and become law). Ward brought to this task ten years of experience as a lawyer in the common law courts of England, but he later entered the ministry and served the Plymouth Bay town of Ipswich as a testy, outspoken Puritan (Wahabbis/Salafis) pastor. He denounced from his pulpit and in phamplets all dissenters from Puritan (Wahabbis/Salafis)  orthodoxy, warning them " to keep away from us; and such as will come, to be gone; the sooner the better". The document he drafted, and the colonist adopted to govern themselves, reflected the tension between Ward's secular and sectarian roles. 

However, in drafting those parts of the criminal code that set out "Punishments and Capital Crimes"  (Hudud and Qisas), Nathaniel Ward abandoned the noble sentiments and legal protections of the English Law as well as the pledges made through the very same document he wrote which were among others "no man's life shall be taken away, no man's honor or good name shall be stained, no man's person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any ways punished, no man's goods or estate shall be taken away from him, nor in any way indamaged under colour of law or countenance of authority, unless it be by virtue or equity of some express law of the country warranting the same" and contradicting to those pledges, Ward turned for guidance to the stern morality and severe penalties of the Mosaic Code in the Old Testament (Jewish Sharia Law).  

In this respect the Puritans (Wahhabis/Salafis) of New England were heeding the admonition of John Calvin (Imam Syafiee of Christianity) the sixteenth-century Swiss preacher and theologian to whose writings they look for guidance. Calvin wrote in 1559: "God hath put the sword into the hands of magistrates (Qadi/Hakim) to surpress crimes against the law of God (Sharia)". The Puritans (Wahabis/Salafis) feared the God of vengeance (Al-Jabbar) more than they sought the warmth of the God of forgiveness (Ar-Raufun Ghafur, Ar-Rahman). Ward heeded the admonition of Governor Winthrop to base the laws on "the fundamentals which God gave to the Commonwealth of Israel" in the biblical commands to Moses (Torah). Stating his purpose as punishing "anything that can be proved to be morally sinful by the word of God" (Kalamullah).  Looking at the Body of Liberties as a whole, and the records of the colonial courts, it is clear that the Puritans (Wahabbis/Salafis) did not intend or attempt to create a literal "New Jerusalem" in New England. Incorporating much of the Mosaic Code into law served more to impress (likewise what PAS is doing here in Malaysia) upon the residents of this wilderness outpost (Kelantan-Serambi Mekah) their need to purify (yu-zakkihim) their lives than to exact the biblical sanctions in every case. 

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Holding in reserve the ultimate penalty of death, and its occasional use as a warning to others (pengajaran) , served the function of social control (just like Majlis Agama Islam Negeri) in a society based on outward conformity but with fairly high levels of morally sinful behaviour. The work of modern historians shows that many colonists, even those who sat through endless Puritans (Wahabbis/Salafis) sermons, were just as likely to violate the social and sexual taboos of their "Bible-based" society as are contemporary Americans, despite the extreme penalties they faced for their transgressions. The Body of Liberties also prescribed capital punishment for sexual practises that were condemned in the Mosaic Code. Nathaniel Ward included bestiality, homosexual sodomy and adultery as crimes punishable by death. Again the marginal citations to the Old Testament  books provided biblical sanction.

Today, many Americans are shocked and sickened by news account of public executions in countries such as Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, often carried out by stoning or beheading for crimes such as adultery and homosexual sodomy. We tend to forget that those so called  Islamic countries (club of doom) have enacted religious laws (Sharia) from various man made religious sources like the Body of Liberties (apart from the Quran) into their criminal codes (Hudud / Qisas) are separated only by time and distance from the religious moralists of the New England colonies.

And We inspired the soul with knowledge of evil and piety. Those who purify their souls will certainly have ever lasting happiness and those who corrupt their soul will certainly be deprived of happiness. 
(QURAN - Surah ash-Shams, Chapter 91: verses 8-10)  

Have you noted those who claim that they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you, then uphold the unjust laws of their idols? They were commanded to reject such laws. Indeed, it is the devil's wish to lead them far astray.
(QURAN - Surah an-Nisa, Chapter 4: verse 60)

O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether the accused is rich or poor, GOD takes care of both. Therefore, do not be biased by your personal wishes. If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then GOD is fully Cognisant of everything you do.
(QURAN Surah an-Nisa, Chapter 4: verse 135)

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