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Sharia Law or ‘One Law For All’?
Since it is extremely difficult to gain access to these tribunals, we have tried to show what sort of rulings they may give by referring to online sites used by mosques and individuals. It will at once be clear that the muftis who issue these fatwas walk a very fine line between legality and illegality and sometimes cross into territory where human rights are abused. It should be borne in mind that sharia rulings do not fluctuate by very much (though variants between muftis are far from uncommon). This principle, that it is obligatory to uphold the essential integrity of Islamic jurisprudence and the rulings that come from it, allows us to show in broad terms what muftis are ruling by referring to online sites that are referenced by some of the mosques in our list. The Appendix below provides a range of rulings gleaned from some of these sites, where archives are kept of past fatwas, together with the questions that prompted them. We have edited this material lightly in order to make it accessible to the non‐Muslim and non‐specialist.
Among the rulings in the Appendix, we find some that advise illegal actions and others that transgress human rights standards as they are applied by British court. Here are some examples: a Muslim woman may
not under any circumstances marry a non‐Muslim man unless he converts to Islam; such a woman’s children will be separated from her until she marries a Muslim man; polygamous marriage (i.e. two to four wives) is considered legal; a man may divorce his wife without telling her about it, provided he does not seek to sleep with her; a husband has conjugal rights over his wife, and she should normally answer his summons to have sex (but she cannot summon him for the same reason); a woman may not stay with her husband if he leaves Islam; non‐Muslims may be deprived of their share in an inheritance; a divorce does not require witnesses (i.e. a man may divorce his wife and send her away even if no‐one else knows about it); re‐marriage requires the wife to marry, have sex with, and be divorced by another man; a wife has no property rights
in the event of divorce (which may be initiated arbitrarily by her husband); sharia law must override the judgements of British courts; rights of child custody may differ from those in UK law; taking up residence in a non‐Muslim country except for limited reasons is forbidden; taking out insurance is prohibited, even if required by law; there is no requirement to register a marriage according to the law of the country; polygamy is acceptable, even if against the law; it is undesirable to rent an apartment belonging to a Christian church; a Muslim lawyer has to act contrary to UK law where it contradicts sharia; employment through driving a taxi is prohibited; it is allowable to be a police officer, provided one is not called upon to do anything contrary to sharia; women are restricted in leaving their homes and driving cars; an adult woman may not marry anyone she chooses; sharia law of legitimacy contradicts the Legitimacy Act 1976; a woman may not leave her home without her husband’s consent (which may constitute false imprisonment); legal adoption is forbidden; a man may coerce his wife to have sex; a woman may not retain custody of her child after seven (for a boy) or nine (for a girl); a civil marriage may be considered invalid; sharia law takes priority over secular law (e.g. a wife may not divorce her husband in a civil court); fighting the Americans and British is a religious duty; recommendation of severe punishments for homosexuals; a woman’s recourse to fertility treatment is disliked; a woman cannot marry without the presence (and permission) of a male guardian (the wali); a divorce is valid if the husband simply intends to do it; polygamous marriage should be maintained, even in the UK; if a woman’s ‘idda has expired and she no longer has marital relations with her husband, he is excused alimony payments; an illegitimate child may not inherit from his/her father.