Features

Brutality and dictatorship: How Islam affects society

"Brutality and dictatorship: How Islam affects society" Continued...

Issue: "Islam and teroris," Oct. 27, 2001

Different understandings lead to very different laws. Here's one of the best-known: Under Islamic law, according to the Quran and the hadith (sayings of Muhammad), the right hand of a thief is cut off at the wrist. Even if the thief makes restitution and pledges never to steal again, his hand is to be cut off. That's very different from the Bible, which has a thief paying back what he has stolen and asking for forgiveness. (What has to be paid back depends on what he stole, whether he has already disposed of the item, and whether he shows repentance. The amount given in the Bible is 1.2, 2, 4, or 5 times what he stole, but never is he marred for life.)

The Muslim penalty not only seems cruel but somewhat unusual for a creator-god to decree. Hands are such an incredible result of God's creativity. They are marvels of engineering and movement. Why would their creator ordain their destruction for the theft of property, when alternative ways of doing justice abound? God in the Bible ordains as a maximum penalty an eye for an eye and a hand for a hand, but not a hand for a thing. The one-handed person is not only marked for life but unable to work at many jobs. That doesn't speak well for the all-compassionate Allah.

Christianity is the religion of the second chance. With Islam, it's often one strike and you're out. Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, after he has shamed those who might have condemned her publicly, "Go and sin no more." One hadith tells about a woman pregnant by adultery coming to Muhammad: He has her treated decently until she gives birth, and then has her stoned to death. Islam teaches that Allah loves the righteous, but Christianity teaches that "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

In a religion of grace we do not have to be worried about being zapped at any moment if we freelance unsuccessfully. Muslims, though, try to sleep, eat, drink, and even dress as Muhammad did. They try to repeat the special prayers he uttered upon going to sleep and waking up, or even upon entering and leaving the bathroom. Islamic scholars have developed an enormous list of what to do and what not to do-and that raises the question of what happens to those who break some rules.

Many Muslims are relaxed about that, content that the "five pillars of Islam" (daily prayer, a pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.) will cover over a multitude of sins. But some become frenzied when they break the rules-and there are so many to break. Among some, that leads to a search for a "get out of jail free" card-if there is such a thing.

Those who have investigated the last days of the Sept. 11 hijackers found that some took advantage of America's freedom to break lots of Quranic rules. But on the day of their death, according to notebooks of two of the suicide-murderers, the plan was to "purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has gone.... You have to be convinced that those few hours that are left you in your life are very few. From there you will begin to live the happy life, the infinite paradise." There's the "you will be entering paradise" pass, with one fiery ending purportedly making up for a multitude of sins.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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