Haitham Al Haddad’s Sharia “Court” in the News

David Shariatmadari, the deputy editor of Comment is Free, had an article in the Guardian yesterday on Sharia “courts”. The article reports on the views of a barrister, Sadakat Kadri, who argues as follows:

Sadakat Kadri told the Guardian that so-called “sharia courts”, such as the Muslim arbitration tribunal, were good for “the community as a whole” by putting Sharia on a transparent, public footing and should be more widely accessible to those who want to use them.

Kadri said they played a role in safeguarding human rights: “It’s very important that they be acknowledged and allowed to exist. So long as they’re voluntary, which is crucial, it’s in everyone’s interests these things be transparent and publicly accessible. If you don’t have open tribunals, they’re going to happen anyway, but behind closed doors.”

The article has not impressed Maryam Namazie, who sees the piece as yet more soft soaping and advocacy for a system of legal arbitration which is usually applied in a manner which offends against fundamental human rights standards, and equality between persons. By contrast, Kadri “stresses the ability of sharia to adapt and change” and possibly – although the article is not very clear – is arguing that it is better to convince Muslims that Sharia systems should and could respect human rights norms, than simply banning such tribunals in totality.

The problem with Kadri’s argument is that, organisationally at least, it is the hand loppers and women abusers in the Sharia Court world who rule the roost. Kadri says:

“I’m not a theologian,” said Kadri. “But this is my interpretation of Islamic history. There’s a mistaken belief that Islamic law is a vast unchanging body of rules – 1,400 years of Muslim history shows that little could be further from the truth.”

“It’s really important that the Muslim community engage with its actual history, as well as idealised traditions. If that’s to take root, critical engagement with the past among young Muslims will be crucially important.”

Kadri points out that many of the punishments associated in people’s minds with sharia law have only been applied very recently. “I try to show how it’s only really in the last 40 years, since Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, but more especially since the Iranian revolution in 1979 that the idea of enforcing Islamic rules through national laws has come to the fore. Before 1973, it was only Saudi Arabia which actually did that.”

The problem is this. While Kadri may well be right, he is “no theologian”. By contrast, the institutions which run Sharia “courts” are run by theologians: and very very politically extreme ones to boot.

For example, the senior cleric of Britain’s main Islamic sharia court, Abu Sayeed considers it “not Islamic” to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape and prosecute offenders. The same Abu Sayeed has been accused by a Channel 4 “Dispatches” documentary of having been involved in horrendous war crimes in Bangladesh during the 1970s, when he was said to have been active in the paramilitary wing of the Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Is this the sort of Sharia judge that the Guardian would approve of? Why, yes it is. Three years ago, Abu Sayeed was the subject of a fluffy piece on Sharia “courts” in the Guardian.

Fortuitously, the BBC also had a piece about Sharia “courts” yesterday, which described the work of another “judge”, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad. al-Haddad will be well known to readers of Harry’s Place as a prominent political extremist. However, for the purposes of this piece, let’s have a look at a few of his “court’s” judgements.

What should you do if your wife is traumatised by childhood sexual abuse?

Question: what is the ruling regarding a couple where the wife had suffered abuse in childhood and due to that she refuses to respond to her husbands sexual needs. The husband himself has recently been effected by some bad thoughts relating to the abuse. He has several kids from her. How long can the husband put up with that and for howlong can he stay with her?


Narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the prophet said, “if a man calls his wife to his bed and she does not come, and he goes to sleep angry with her, the angels will curse her until the morning.” Agreed upon. This narration should be enough to make any woman pay heed to the severe warning by the prophet that the angels curses are upon those who do not respond to husbands sexual needs because the purpose of a woman is to fulfil that and for that they are made in order to produce offspring. We also know that Allah does not rejects supplication made by angels as they are His closest creation who are always praising and glorifying Him.

Or how about this one?

I would like to know why two women are the equivalent on one man in an Islamic court. I thought we were different, but equal. Please reply with an in-depth explanation as to why this is.

And of course, this discrimination against women is fully justified:

The text (Surah Al-Baqara 2:282) which requires two female witnesses in place of one male witness, gives a clear reason for it i.e. “if one of them forgets, the other reminds her.” Is this derogatory to the status of the women or is it a revealed secret about the nature of the women?

What about stoning and hand lopping?

what is the Islamic ruling on statements stating the shariah law as barbaric and what is the ruling on saying Hudood are incompatible wit contemporary life?

Easy. Doubt the wisdom of these punishments and you”ll be tormented on the Day of Resurrection for your disbelief in God:

As a Muslim we should know that our religion is perfect without any imperfection as Allah says;
“this day, I have perfected your religion for you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” [6]
Therefore, belittling them or calling them as out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says;

“Then do you believe in part of the scripture and reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.”

Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, has been campaigning for Baroness Cox’s bill, which would make it an offence for anyone falsely claiming or implying that Sharia courts or councils have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law in this country.

Kadri really ought to be supporting women, and in particular campaigners like Tehmina. The academic case for a fluid, mutable and developing Sharia is no doubt one worth making. However, in the real world, the fundamental rights of British citizens are being abused by political extremists and war criminals who regard the likes of Kadri and Kazi as apostates.

That should be the first concern.