“Shariah: License to kill?”: Unpacking misleading narratives about Islam


Azhar Goraya, Missionary, Mexico

Afg pexels photo 3715477

RT En Espanol recently came out with a documentary called “Shariah: License to Kill?”, focused on the struggles of the artistic community in Afghanistan.

It showcases people like Atefa, a female model, and Roya Sadat, a film director, who in their desire to produce art in their respective fields, face social boycotts from their families and death threats from their religious leaders and followers.

The most harrowing is the story of Aryana Sayeed, a female singer, whose crew members were attacked and killed while going to a show, and who receives constant threats of bodily harm and death.  

Afghanistan has been a place of international and national conflict for many years. The country is struggling to find stability.

The people of Afghanistan are also suffering under Islamic leaders who have twisted the faith of Islam beyond recognition and turned it from the ultimate goodness and force for justice sent by Allah for mankind into a brutal doctrine that is used to oppress people instead of guiding them.

Let’s unpack some of the wrongful insinuations and one-sided reporting that went into this documentary, so that everyone can see that the religion of Islam is not to blame for the woes of Afghanistan, but rather Islam has been hijacked, there and in other places, by ignorant religious clergy and twisted beyond recognition. 

Throughout the documentary, fantastic claims about Islam being a barbaric and repressive religion are insinuated, with Maulvi Azizulah Mufleh, the “religious scholar” saying openly that Islam states that those Muslims who don’t follow Islamic injunctions should be killed, principally women who don’t take hijab and supposedly all people involved in the arts.

Such scholars of the latter days have been referred to by the Prophet Muhammadsa as the “worst of creation under the sky” that would cause all types of disorder:

علماؤهم شر من تحت أديم السماء، من عندهم تخرج الفتنة وفيهم تعود

“…Their religious leaders will be the worst people under Heaven and strife will issue from them and return to them.” (i.e. They will be the source of all the ills.) (Mishkat-ul-Masabeeh)

They would be so corrupt that he compared them to apes and swine:

تكون فِي أمتِي فزعة فَيصير النَّاس إِلَى عُلَمَائهمْ فَإِذا هم قردة وَخَنَازِير

“There will be a great fear that will come upon my Ummah. The people will go to their religious scholars but will find them as apes and swine.” (Nawadir-ul-Usool-Fi-Ahadith-ir-Rusul)

RT is also to blame here. Their biased, one-sided reporting in the documentary is unfortunately one that is most-often employed whenever the media decides to report about Islam.

Islam does not allow anyone to be killed or physically harmed for not wearing the hijab. If a Muslim woman decides not to wear the hijab, she is doing so against the teachings of Islam, but nevertheless, Islam does not condone for her to be killed or harmed for doing so.

The Holy Quran is very clear that capital punishment is the most serious punishment possible that can only be meted out by the authorities in cases of brazen murder:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى

“O ye who believe! [Equitable] retaliation in [the matter of] the slain is prescribed for you…” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.179)

Or in cases of open rebellion against the state authorities in a way that seriously undermines its institutions:

إِنَّمَا جَزَاءُ الَّذِينَ يُحَارِبُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَسْعَوْنَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَسَادًا أَن يُقَتَّلُوا

“The reward of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to create disorder in the land is [only this] that they be slain…” (Surah al-Maidah, Ch.5: V.33)

Deciding not to cover your head doesn’t count as “seriously undermining the state”.

In either case, Islam does not allow vigilante justice, and any investigation and subsequent decision must be given by the state and justice system. Anyone who takes the law into their own hands and advocates for individuals to harm another person would themselves be guilty of spreading mischief and subject to punishment:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ

 “…Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law…” (Surah al-An’am, Ch.6: V.151)

The arts are not prohibited by Islam. The Quran speaks of how the Prophet Davidas would make statues:

يَعْمَلُونَ لَهُ مَا يَشَاءُ مِن مَّحَارِيبَ وَتَمَاثِيلَ

“They made for him what he desired; palaces and statues…” (Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.14)

And the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, allowed singing and recitation of poetry:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ مَرَّ بِبَعْضِ الْمَدِينَةِ فَإِذَا هُوَ بِجَوَارٍ يَضْرِبْنَ بِدُفِّهِنَّ وَيَتَغَنَّيْنَ وَيَقُلْنَ نَحْنُ جَوَارٍ مِنْ بَنِي النَّجَّارِ يَا حَبَّذَا مُحَمَّدٌ مِنْ جَارِ‏ـ ‏ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏”‏يَعْلَمُ اللَّهُ إِنِّي لأُحِبُّكُنَّ‏”‏ـ ‏

“The Prophet passed by some part of Madinah and saw some girls beating drums and singing, saying, ‘We are girls from Banu Najjar; what an excellent neighbour is Muhammad.’ The Prophet said: ‘Allah knows that you are dear to me.’” (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah)

All forms of art that do not promote immorality, indecency or idol worship in society are therefore not prohibited in Islam.

The documentary speaks much against the Taliban and the great suffering they inflicted upon Afghanistan.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for over 100 years has condemned all forms of terrorism and injustice in the name of Islam, and our position is the same today: Islam is a peaceful religion and has never allowed for its teachings to be imposed on another.

The Quran unambiguously declares that there is no coercion in matters of faith:

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ

“There should be no compulsion in religion.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.257]

It tells Muslims that they must aspire to be the best of mankind:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ

“You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.111)

The documentary showed how some so-called Muslims were chanting “death to democracy”. Contrary to what people may think, Islam is not against democracy. It advocates for a system of government where the people choose leaders who are most worthy to lead, and then instructs those leaders to lead with absolute justice:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ 

“Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice…” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.59)

Further, these leaders must never forget to consult their people on matters of governance:

وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ

“and consult them in matters [of administration]…” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.160)

That sounds a lot like what democracy aspires to be.

The media has a crucial responsibility to show both sides of the coin. Yes, religion has, both presently and historically, been hijacked by those who want to serve their purpose. At other times it has been severely misunderstood. Nevertheless, giving light to what Muslims truly believe and practice is essential instead of magnifying supposed negatives of Islam.

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