Shari’ah and quest for legal pluralism (2)
At the inaugural lecture of Prof. Oloyede AbdulRahman on July 26 2012in University of Ibadan, he established in his research the presence of strange corpus of Ifa called “Odu Imale” or “Otura Meji” in Yoruba mythology. Oba Abibu Olagunju was a classical example of this mythology that was born before 1817 to Lagunju/Oduniyi royal household of Ede in Osun State.
As it was the practice among the Yoruba in those days to consult the Ifa Oracle whenever a baby was born into a family, his parents consulted Ifa Oracle and what came out was “Otura Meji” which revealed that the child was a pre-destined Muslim who must grow up as a Muslim and who would not be a devotee of any idol worshipped by his parents and even other Yoruba gods.
Oba Abibu Olagunju, the first Muslim monarch of Ede, gave Shari‘ah official recognition in the second half of the 19thcentury. Oba Momodu Lamuye in Iwo was also a “pre-destined Muslim”that established Shari‘ah during his reign.
Likewise, Oba Aliyu Oyewole of Ikirun was “pre-destined” and reported to have opened a Shari‘ah court in his own jurisdiction.
All these show that the spirit of Islamic thought have taken root in Yorubaland before the advent of colonialists. Although the presence of British colonialists in Yorubaland led to theabolition of Shari’ah in some places where they met it, the Muslims there did notrelinquish their religion as well as the Shari’ah.
Prof. Dawood Noibi briefly mentioned application of Shari’ah in Yorubaland in his book – Islamic Perspective: A Comprehensive Message – that in parts of pre-colonial Yorubaland, justice was dispensed according to Shari’ah.
He further asserted that although the British contrived and abolished the Shari’ah in Yorubaland, Muslims in some parts of this area did call for the resuscitation of Shari’ah for the purpose of adjudication among Muslims. This explains the fact that clamors for Shari’ah is not only a Northern Agenda but a natural part of Islam.
In fact, the clamor for the official re-introduction of Shari’ah law in Yorubaland is not a new phenomenon. The first move in that direction was said to have been made in 1923 when the Lagos Muslim Community petitioned the colonial administrations for the creation of Shari’ah courts following the non-consideration of Islamic divorce rules by a colonial court.
The Ijebu-Ode and Oyo Muslim Communities were also said to have demanded the re-introduction of Shari’ah from the colonial masters in 1940 and 1944 respectively.
It is obvious that Shari’ah evolved naturally in Yorubaland as a divine law according to which Almighty Allah wants a Muslim to live. It contains the injunctions of the divine will as applied to every situation in life.
Shari’ah is therefore the guide of human action and encompasses every facet of human life. By living according to Shari’ah, Muslims place their whole existence in God’s hand thus sanctifies the whole of life and gives a religious significance to what may appear as the most mundane of activities.
Law in Islam is an integral aspect of the revelation and not an alien element. Therefore, it is a religious notion of law, one in which law is an integral aspect of religion.
Moreover, Shari’ah law given to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through the Glorious Quran is an expanded version of Ten Commandments given to Prophet Moses (AS) through the Torah as a divine injunction from the Creator unto His creatures since both of them were sent by Supreme Majesty, Almighty Allah (SW) on the path of Islam.
This probably explains why Jewish Rabbinic courts and Islamic Shari’ah courts exist alongside secular courts in Israel till date and are officially recognized by the justice system in everything regarding the personal status of Muslims.
The judges of the Shari’ah courts are officially appointed by a joint ministerial-parliamentary committee and their salaries paid for by the state.
Ironically, the system began with an Act during British Mandate, under which all recognized religious groups were allowed to deal with matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption in their own courts. After 1948, the system was continued but only in matters of personal status.
By law, the Shari’ah courts have exactly the same status as the Rabbinic courts. No wonder Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers suggested earlier in 2008 that aspects of Sharia should be adopted in Britain.
He said “It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by law other than English law.” Joseph Schacht, despite his prejudices against Islam, declared in his work – An Introduction to Islamic Law – that “Shari’ah is the most typical manifestation of the Islamic way of life, the core and kernel of Islam itself.”
Similarly, contributory work of JND Anderson in the edited book – Islam in Africa – sees the Shari’ah as “explicit and assured in its enunciation of the quality of life which God requires of man and woman.”
Shari’ah suffered from “widespread misunderstanding” in Britain, Lord Phillips said. And so also in Nigeria which is as a result of transferred imperialists’ hatred. Part of the misconception about Shari’ah is the belief that Shari’ah is only about mandating sanctions such as flogging, stoning, the cutting off of hands or death for those fail to comply with the law,” Lord Phillips asserted.
And what most people think they know of Shari’ah is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments. TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK. Engr. Dauda Ayanda, wrote from Ibadan.
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