Islam and Labor


Photo: thegrindstone.com

On Wednesday I attended a talk by former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold on the role the interfaith community plays in the labor movement. Although the talk was organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, no one I spoke to (including Feingold) was able to give me an Islamic perspective on labor and worker’s rights. So I decided to look it up myself.

I found two wonderful papers, one by Adnan Zulfiqar and another by Radwa Elsaman, that explain what the Qur’an and sharia law say about labor-related issues. Unsurprisingly, they reveal an astonishingly modern conception of worker’s right. Continue reading

Muslim women in India seek equal rights under personal law

Zakia Soman, founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Photo: CivilSocietyOnline.com

Muslim women in India are organizing against what they see as unfair laws regarding marriage, divorce, and property rights. Although the Indian Constitution offers all citizens equal rights irrespective of gender and religion, these rights do not extend to personal law. India does not have a uniform civil code; in family matters, legal decisions are based on religious law.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which defines the scope of Muslim personal law as including all affairs regarding succession, marriage, dissolution of marriage, guardianship, and property rights. Muslim personal law is largely uncodified, and legal decisions are made by courts on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith. Organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) see themselves as spokespersons for the Muslim community, and lobby the government in cases where they believe Muslim law is being impinged upon.

Women’s groups have criticized the AIMPLB and JUH for their retrograde views regarding women’s rights. Continue reading

Tariq Ramadan on the Death Penalty

The death penalty generates a lot of discussion and evokes emotions in many societies for a number of reasons. There are often concerns whether there is a way to determine someone’s guilt with absolute certainty, as was the case with the recent execution of Troy Davis. Davis’s case prompted responses not only around the United States, but also within the Muslim community. Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim scholar, wrote a response titled “On the Death Penalty” where he argues that cases like Davis’s are the reason that the death penalty should be stopped and, specifically in the Islamic context, that there should be a moratorium on the use of the death penalty for certain crimes like adultery and murder. Continue reading

Fear of the Caliphate

In the past year, the Middle East has undergone massive changes that include the removal of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and protests that have rocked Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The world watched as the power of decades-long dictators was challenged. While the future is still unknown for these countries, it is clear that the fear of Islam, Islamic law, and an Islamically run government is widespread. As these leaders fell, fear of emerging Islamist governments and a new caliphate, an Islamic government led by a caliph, was repeatedly brought into the discussions. Terms like caliphate, sharia, jizya, and dhimmi continue to be utilized in many contexts to reflect this uneasiness with Islamic rule. Continue reading

Can a Muslim Woman Wear Pants?

wb4701tanOne of the assumptions about Islam that never seems to dissipate is that Islamic law is this rigid and incredibly harsh system that exacts punishments that are beyond what is tolerable in Western societies. Moreover, so the common discussion goes, when this law falls on women, it often means that they will be unfairly subjugated. Is any of this true? An article in the New York Times about Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese journalist who faced lashing for wearing pants, reminded me how much these issues infiltrate discussions on anything in the Middle East and Islam. Continue reading

Ali Eteraz: Pakistan is Already an Islamic State

Today’s guest post is by Ali Eteraz. Eteraz was an Outstanding Scholar at the U.S. Department of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He is a contributor to Pakistan’s Daily Times and Dawn newspapers and the author of the forthcoming prose work, Children of Dust. This article was originally published in Dissent Magazine and posted here with the author’s permission.

A recent sharia-for-peace deal between militant groups and the civilian government in Pakistan’s quasi-autonomous Swat region has ignited interest in the status of Islamic law in Pakistan. The U.S. State Department, concerned about terrorist safe-havens, called the deal a “negative development.” Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, trying to look at the bright side of things, argued that the deal might drive a wedge between “violent” radicals and those that are “merely extreme.”

Continue reading

Questions from Today’s Radio Program on Women and Sharia

In today’s radio program “Women and Sharia” host Jean Feraca brought up a couple engaging questions that we’d like to follow-up on here on the blog. Jean introduced the show by saying:

Every year in Muslim countries throughout the world women are reported gang raped, imprisoned, mutilated, stoned to death and otherwise killed in the name of Shari’a, Islamic law. Is this really Shari’a? How can custom be separated from law? Who speaks for Muslim women?

Continue reading

Islamic Finance and Ethical Banking Practices

Forbes reported this year that $500 billion in assets are managed according to Sharia, the laws that govern Muslims’ daily life, and the sector is growing. Trends like ethical banking, global Islamic bonds, and Muslim mortgages are attracting attention everywhere from Britain to Malaysia.

Continue reading

Islam and Feminism in a Global World

As discussed in my post yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI brought the tensions between Muslims and Catholics into the open and discussed them with religious leaders at a conference this month. The conference was held to address the open letter from Muslim leaders who were offended by a speech the Pope made in 2006. They demanded a dialogue to dispel the stereotype that Islam is inherently irrational and Muslims are prone to violence.

Continue reading