Muslim without sharia?

On Tuesday, January 17th, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich said that the only way he would ever support … Continued

On Tuesday, January 17th, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich said that the only way he would ever support a Muslim for the presidency of the United States is if that person would “commit in public to give up sharia,” thereby continuing his trend to exhibit his ignorance on the subject of Islamic law (sharia) as well as his ignorance of the United States Constitution.

View Photo Gallery: Scenes of religious faith meeting politics in the 2012 campaign.

To be fair, Mr. Gingrich did say that “a truly modern person who happened to worship Allah would not be a threat,” thereby acknowledging the fact that there are indeed trustworthy and moderate Muslims. This statement expresses that he does not condemn all Muslims wholesale, which is encouraging, and I applaud him for those words.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed with his lack of understanding of sharia and the United States Constitution itself when he then continues to say “a person who belonged to any kind of belief in sharia, any kind of effort to impose that on the rest of us, would be a mortal threat.”  This is in line with his previous comments, calling sharia “totally abhorrent to the Western world” and “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”  He suggests there are “violent jihadis” who use violence to spread sharia, as well as “stealth jihadis” who use cultural, religious and intellectual means to manipulate sharia into legislation.  So whether the Muslim is violent or not, apparently we all have sharia on the mind.



Republican presidential hopeful former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivers remarks inside the Christ Central Community Center in Winnsboro, South Carolina, January 18, 2012.

The hysteria around sharia continues to grow, especially with the GOP presidential primaries in full swing.  The message is that we better do something fast before sharia law usurps the American Constitution.  This exposes their absolute ignorance of sharia and the American Constitution itself.  The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution suffices to protect the Constitution as “the supreme law of the land.” Furthermore, the Establishment Clause prohibits the federal government from establishing or preferring any religion (including Islam) in the United States. No law can trump the Constitution of the United States

Besides, there is nothing in Islam’s teachings about taking over the law of the land.  The Koran, Islam’s holy scripture, instructs that absolute justice, not religion, must be the ruling government’s guiding principle, irrespective of different faiths, races, etc.

For Mr. Gingrich to ask Muslims to publicly “give up sharia” is akin to asking them to publicly give up the Koran because sharia is simply the Islamic code that guides everyday Muslim beliefs and actions. Sharia is far from merely a set of punishments or legal obligations.  Rather, it is a set of obligations of a personal and private nature dictated by faith.  A religious legal system cannot be imposed in the current global society with people of different faiths in all countries.

People like Mr. Gingrich cite some countries to assert that Muslims want to institute harsh punishments for certain crimes.  There is no doubt that countries that claim to follow sharia have used it as an excuse to gain power and sanction religious extremism.  No country in the world today has implemented a system of government that truly follows Islamic sharia.

When the Prophet Muhammad became the de facto ruler of Arabia, he required all residents be allowed to worship in peace and without oppression.  Sharia teaches freedom of conscience and religion. The Koran goes as far as to oblige Muslims to fight on behalf of Jews, Christians and people of other faiths and to protect their churches, synagogues and temples from attack.

The Islamic system of punishment must be examined in the context of Islamic moral teachings, and the atmosphere of high moral standards that Islam first wishes to establish in a society.  When that happens, society rises to such heights that crimes become very rare and unnatural. Without creating that society first – where everyone’s needs are met, where honesty, integrity and safety are accepted principles and crimes are an anomaly – no attempt can be made to institute criminal punishments.  Islam does not command us to enact punishments.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.

Although some exploit the sharia hysteria to rally the base in this election year, accusations levied against sharia are patently absurd.  The nearly two dozen proposed bills to ban sharia in the United States are an exaggerated response to a non-existent and manufactured problem.  I invite Mr. Gingrich, as well as lawmakers at all levels of government, to meet with us to better understand sharia’s role in the life of American Muslims.

Harris Zafar serves as the national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – the oldest Muslim organization in America – and is a frequent lecturer about Islam around the country. He can be contacted at


Harris Zafar
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  • shbashir

    Thank you Harris Zafar for your wonderful article. I truly feel sad for those who continue be ignorant and spew hatred here. I have no doubt that were there a Jewish candidate for presidency, those who are opposed will come up with all sorts of attacks. Romney’s opponents didn’t stop criticizing him for his faith, but see where he is now.

  • WmarkW

    BTW, it also sounds like Newt wants to practice polygamy, or at least the closest to it that our legal system allows.

  • maceoin

    It should have been made clear that the writer is an Ahmadi, a member of a sect that is very far from representative of normative Islamic belief and practice. Outside personal matters like prayer, fasting or almsgiving, shari’a has no place in a democratic society. In Western societies, laws are made by parliaments elected by the people. There cannot be a second source of law in one coiuntry. There are numerous shari’a practices that are deeply repugnant to Westerners, and Islamic ideas about politics are such that they might destabilize a democratic state. In fact, Islam does command the enacting of punishments, and it is misleading to say it does not. shari’a is undemocratic because it is considered divine in origin and is administered by fuqaha’ and ‘ulama’, clerics who understand the texts. The will of the people plays no part in it.

  • SonnyDex

    First, it is a sorry state of our political regime that we have ignorant candidates like Mr. Gingrich. Secondly, Republicans in general are prone to ignorance and war mongering and love to live and ensures everyone else as well live with them in fear. It is about time people like Harris Zaffar should write some sense to ensure the sanity prevails in this country. I believe Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in this regard is doing well. First their National Vice President Mr. Mahdi appeared in the conservative Fox news and tried to put sense among conservatives the subsequently other media around the US Mr. Mahdi really helped us understand the true Islam which AMC has been presenting and now Mr. Harris Zaffar.

  • jkhan2

    very nice article. I applaud your efforts in putting togther such a nice post. I read all the comments most of them are based on ignorance. Ahmadi Muslims are reformed Muslims by the reformer and messiah of the age, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India who revived Islam by means of bringing dialogue and Jihad of pen, writing several books on Islam and defending its core principles. He forbade Muslims in engaging in violent jihad 120 years ago which is main problem of the world today. He also brought truth to the world by showing miraculous signs of acceptance of his prayers, by doing prayer duels ( dr Doe of Zion, Iliononis vs Ahmad), also by many prophecies that are fulfilled and are still being fullfilled . He was wrote several books in support of folowing Law of Land. India was ruled by British then, that is why so called ulema of that time and today who have no in depth true knowledge of Islam declared him Kafir. Ahmadies were declared non Muslims by the same ignorant mullahs in Pakistan in 1974. Sharia for a person is to lead a life which is based on the Quranic principes, where it says to a person, be good to neighbours, do not drink ( save one from drunk driving), do not gamble ( save one from not ruining one’s wealth and time), do not speak lies , do not give false testimony, do not hurt any other person or living thing including plants ( good fro environemnt, pay your dues to the government, obey all the laws, do not discriminate based on race, sex, religion or creed when it comes to delivering justice, teach others, be obedient to elders, be obedient and good to your parents, do not indulge in false talks, do not kill or hurt any innocent person of any religion, protect other’s property by not entering other’s house without permission, know that you have a God ALmighty who watches over you, do good deeds, convey message of truth, be good to your family, marry once ( yes once, marrying 4 is allowed only in certain circumstances and one has to be just wi

  • SonnyDex

    Yes and he wants to portray Islam’s fear!! I bet all the sane and married women may support Sharia Law of flagging 100 lashes to extra marital affairs which Newt Gingrich wants!! (No offense meant to the Sharia Law as explained by Harris that for it to implement we need that high moral standards in this society) which is not there yet!!

  • mikeghouse


    – It is a way of life from birth through death, when you say the grace prior to dinner, that is Christian Sharia, when you bury the dead certain way, it is christian Sharia.

    – Personal Sharia is about praying, fasting and performing rituals to connect with the lord, it about personal relationship with the creator.

    – Public Sharia deals with one’s relationship with others. The intent is to server justice in the society. However issues about adultery, apostasy is dealt differently in Saudi and Iran, where as 53 Other Muslims nations with Sharia deal just the we do in the states. The real problem is misapplication of the law, just as we misapply laws in Texas and give the lethal to the innocent.>

    – Check out about Sharia from lay persons to academic point of you on the site .

  • GaryRumain

    LOL! I’ll have whatever you’ve been smoking.

    And sharia is stoning, beheading, whipping, etc. Don’t you ever read the news?

  • GaryRumain

    Spot on!

  • GaryRumain

    Yeah, and all those sharmutas love polygamy too.

  • WmarkW

    Sophisticated thinkers, like the columnists and most commenters on this forum, can interpret the Quran as a sophisticated form of spirituality. But any dullard can read it as an exhortation to kill infidels. Until the Muslim world increases its education level, Islam is like giving the kids in a junior high a book that tells them they’re actually superior to the adults around. The result would be Lord of the Flies, which is what much of the Muslim world is.

  • hajiYaqub

    Exceptional good response to the prevailing ignorance of our politicians. I feel shame when people like Mr. Gingrich exhibits such gross misunderstanding of Islam, which is a major religion in the US. I would encourage Mr. Gingrich to take up the offer to meet with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to better understand sharia’s role in the life of American Muslims.

  • WmarkW

    From deep in the land of Load More Comments, atiya1wrote at 10:22 AM EST:
    Have you ever read one verse of the Holy Quran? I challenge you to visit Look, don’t just base your opinions on what other people say, find out for yourself!

    I have read an abridged translation of the Koran, rearranged chronologically. I thought Muhammed of Mecca was a good man, trying to reconcile Arab paganism with the monotheistic Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians he traded with. I also think Muhammed of Medina isn’t really the same person. Some conqueror re-wrote his own tales of conquest, making Muhammed of Mecca as the main character of them, to make his ruthlessness appear to be ordained by God.

  • Kingofkings1

    Although some people have suggested as such, there is no equivalent to Paul in Islam

  • WmarkW

    There’s also no contemporary historical evidence that Muhammed was an important political leader. No head of some other city-state wrote “Our army fought Muhammed’s today” or anything like that.

  • salaammohamed

    I haven’t heard of any valid abridged translations of the Quran. Muhammad was indeed the same person in Mecca and Medina. There is nothing barbaric or ruthless about Muhammad’s time in Medina. It was in Medina when war was waged against Muslims, which is why there are commandments to fight in self-defense for the freedom of religion…not to fight for the spread of Islam.

  • salaammohamed

    So you read the news to learn about religions? With that flawed and twisted logic, I should only learn about Christianity from the news? If so, here’s what we learn:

    1) The Lord’s Resistance Army has raped, tortured and murders thousands of people in Uganda. So I guess Christianity promotes killing people in order to defend the 10 commandments, right?

    2) The Orange Volunteers are a Protestant group infamous for carrying out simultaneous terrorist attacks on Catholic churches.

    3) Harold camping has predicted two “end of the world” dates, causing panic among believers, like the mother who sliced her daughters necks because she believed in his “Prophecy”. So Christianity must teach such backwards behavior, right?

    4) Catholic priests have sexually abused countless poor children across the world. Sadly, it went on for a long time, with nothing being done about it. So Christianity must promote sex with little boys, right?

    5) The Hutaree Christian militia group has been indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy and has also planned to kill local law enforcement in Michigan. Christianity must, then, support such treason, right?

    6) KKK stated their intention is to “reestablish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible” and believe that “Jesus was the first Klansman.” Enough said.

    Speak with a Muslim and understand the Quran to learn about Islam. The news is not a source for religious information.

  • wmarkw

    i do not believe the beheading of 800 qurayza jews was in self-defense, nor did the real muhammed order or participate in such a thing.

  • se7ensamurai

    Harris Zafar you are a Muslim so I think your opinion is a little bias on this subject and ranges on the ridiculous actually. Sharia Law of which there are 4 schools:

    Hanbali: This is the most conservative school of Shari’a. It is used in Saudi Arabia and some states in Northern Nigeria.

    Maliki: This is based on the practices of the people of Medina during Muhammad’s lifetime.

    Shafi’i: This is a conservative school that emphasizes on the opinions of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

    Hanifi: This is the most liberal school, and is relatively open to some limited modern ideas.

    Sharia punishments range from simple fines to amputations and beheadings, and some of the fines are completely unfair like if a man cuts off a women’s finger he can pay her 10 camels.

    Not only are these Laws dangerous but they are retarded to boot. The entire Middle East is adopting stricter Sharia Laws and because of this religious minorities are fleeing for their safety, over 100,000 Coptic Christians have already fled Egypt with their lives.

    It would be best to put laws on the books that prevent religious laws period from entering government, this way Islam is not being excluded but rather protected from the same secular laws everybody enjoys, muslims need not fear Canon Law either.

    If Sharia is compatible with western liberal democracy already then even more the reason to not implement it as apparently we already have it under a different name…consider it done.

    Most countries however have to pass laws individually through Congress, only in Middle Eastern Countries with high illiteracy do we find that they will wave the magic wand of sharia and say “Allah Peanut Butter Sandwiches”

    I know Muslims, there is zero need for Sharia, Sharia is the medieval laws much like when Catholics lived under Canon Law, same blasphemy punishing witch hunts and barbaric punishments. If a person feels they can only live in a Sharia society then lucky for them that 57 Islamic Countries range in moderation for Sha

  • john_bruckner

    There is no need to speculate on what Sharia law is or isn’t. QWe have a number of countries around the world which are ruled by Sharia law precepts to guide us in assessment of what it is. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia come quickly to mind.

    – the stoning of women to death for perceived adultery
    – the death sentences/imprisonment of girls who have been raped
    – forced marriages (to especially include those of of underage girls)
    – the brutal execution of boys and girls who want to be together

    Everything I ever need to know about what Sharia is or isn’t is right there in the daily news.

  • john_bruckner

    I had a freind in Spain pull out the Koran and tell me “Go ahead and open it to any page. Any page at all. And you will find in there somewhere the justification for/commanding of violence and subjugation.

    After seven such efforts I was forced to conclude he was in fact correct.

    The Koran was written by Satan himself.

  • john_bruckner

    Zafar has reminded us, once again, that the Koran is a book of pure evil written by Satan himself.

  • bpmorton

    I find it odd that a former Speaker of the House and self proclaimed scholar would simply ignore this clause in Article VI, §3 of the Constitution: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

  • Kingofkings1

    Gingrich also calls for christianity without christ….
    and marriage that is open……
    and politics without ethics…….
    and many other foolish things

  • Muslimsforpeace

    Islam believes in separation between religion and state.

  • schnauzer21

    Sharia is to Islam exactly the same way Halakha is to Judaism and Cannon Law is the catholicism. It includes (as do the others) dietary laws, howoften, when and where to pray, dress codes, financial donations (tithes, etc) and much more. Our constitution forbids any civil laws from being based on or defering to ANY of those.

    Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish religious tradition does not distinguish clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities. Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Halakha is often translated as “Jewish Law”, although a more literal translation might be “the path” or “the way of walking”.

    Sharia is the exact same concept. And just like with some extremely orthodox jewish individuals in Israel, religious law can justify (in their minds) violence. It is not the laws themselves, but the way people choose to interpret them.