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Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Law or Allah? A Muslim lawyers perspective

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By Hassan Shibly

Alhamdulilah I’ve been a lawyer for ten years and have seen lawyers be amongst the best of people and amongst the worst.

As a rule I never took a case of one Muslim against another. The only times I’d agree to get involved would be for the sake of mediating and making peace between the parties.

I remember a number of times – having clients and telling them that it would be be better for them to pay the other party to settle than to pay me or another lawyer to fight on their behalf. My goal like that of many honest lawyers was not to benefit myself – but rather to serve justice and the interests of my client.

That’s probably why I spent most of my legal career doing pro-bono work.

For many a dishonest lawyer – their personal interest, getting paid hundreds of dollars per hour and making more money the more there is conflict, is diametrically opposed to the interests of the client, quickly resolving their disputes.

Such lawyers fuel conflicts rather than resolve them. And the poor client doesn’t realize the harm their lawyer is causing their dunya and akhira until the damage has been done.

Hence why our community and country is in need of sincere honest God fearing attorneys and why people must be wary of what attorneys they work with.

As a general rule litigation is the worst way to get the best results. Hence why courts encourage mediation and arbitration. Faith teaches honesty, justice, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness.

It seems that whenever there is conflict within the Muslim community we forget the verses of the Holy Quran 49:9 -12, which I have posted below. Allah commands us to make peace between Muslims who fight each other, but also if a party refuses to cease its oppression then to help the oppressed until transgression ends. But it also commands us to avoid slander and defamation and gossip and ourselves committing injustice in the process.

Even against the enemies of faith – those who literally drive us out of our homes and kill us because of our religion – Allah allows us to fight them as they fight us but to never transgress for God does not love transgressors.

In short – we have an obligation to make peace and to assist the oppressed without ourselves committing oppression. And if we ourselves have a claim against someone, then we ought to seek guidance, judgement, and help from God-fearing people of knowledge and wisdom from within the ummah.

Time has shown again and again that whenever a Muslim believes that there is no one good enough in the ummah to help mediate or arbitrate their conflict according to the Quran and Sunnah – that such a Muslim opens up all the doors of evil upon themself.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “When a person says: ‘People have been ruined, he is the one to be ruined the most.”‘ [Muslim]

In another version: “He himself is the most ruined among them.”

This is a grave warning to those who believe the ummah is too corrupt to find scholars and leaders who can fairly arbitrate our conflicts and judge between us. There is good in this ummah till the end of time and if you think otherwise you must check yourself.

In short if a person refuses to have their conflicts mediated and arbitrated by people of faith and knowledge – and instead resort to litigation or public slander, they are in fact harming themselves first and foremost.

Allah gives a grave warning to those who do not wish to arbitrate according to God’s guidance:‎

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.‎

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers.

‎وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.

Those who see no good in the ummah, refuse to allow qualified people of faith and knowledge to judge between them, and instead try to misuse the legal system harm themselves first and foremost.

Allah warns us not to use the legal system to unjustly consume the wealth of others:

Holy Quran 2:188

‎وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].”

In fact nothing is more dangerous than refusing to be judged by the teachings of our faith when facing conflict, Allah describes that as the quality of the hypocrites:

Holy Quran 24:48-51

‎وَإِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ

And when they are called to [the words of] Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, at once a party of them turns aside [in refusal].

‎وَإِن يَكُن لَّهُمُ الْحَقُّ يَأْتُوا إِلَيْهِ مُذْعِنِينَ

But if the right is theirs, they come to him in prompt obedience.

‎أَفِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ أَمِ ارْتَابُوا أَمْ يَخَافُونَ أَن يَحِيفَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَرَسُولُهُ ۚ بَلْ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

Is there disease in their hearts? Or have they doubted? Or do they fear that Allah will be unjust to them, or His Messenger? Rather, it is they who are the wrongdoers.

‎إِنَّمَا كَانَ قَوْلَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَن يَقُولُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

The only statement of the [true] believers when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them is that they say, “We hear and we obey.” And those are the successful.

God is good. The community of faithful are good. Glad tidings for those who trust that there are good people within our community who can judge according to the morals and values taught through revelation. And God guide those who feel otherwise.

Some people are trying to build a culture where one cannot even ask for judgment according to our faith – claiming to do so is using the faith for personal needs or a form of abuse.

But revelation itself was revealed as a way to create peace amongst people and provide values and guidance for how to resolve conflict.

Those who do not wish to judge according to what God revealed themselves find only loss and misery.

Personally I have seen nothing but harm befall those who first refuse to allow good people to arbitrate their conflicts according to our faith and values and instead chose to hire insincere lawyers to get as much as they can from those they oppose.

And I have seen those who resolve their conflicts through faith based mediation find tremendous peace and happiness and success – even if they didn’t get their ideal results in mediation. The Baraka of their faith first and conflict avoidance mindset opened much good for them overall. Whereas the destructive nature of greed and conflict driven personality results in misery even if one attains their goals in court.

The worst combination is an individual who refuses to judge by what God has revealed partnered with a greedy lawyer driven by profit and disregard for their clients well being.

Instead of the lawyer advising honesty, reconciliation, compromise, peace, justice – the attorney feeds into the client’s disregard for our faith values to only incite further conflict.

Dishonesty only leads to failure in the end. An honest attorney protects their client by ensuring they are honest in their dealings and claims. A short sighted attorney gives false hope to their client that their lies will give them success in a court of law, when in reality their lies will bring them failure in the eyes of Allah and likely in the court of law as well.

Perhaps that in and of itself is the punishment for those who refuse to judge by our faith values

‎نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّىٰ

“We will give him what he has taken”

They are left to the mercy of a lawyer who also doesn’t respect faith nor values and enables and incites their lies for their profit only to the detriment of the client.

A humble reminder for all of us – whenever we have conflict with each other – be aware that many attorneys you hire only profit from your conflict, and likely care less for your well-being than your Muslim brother or sister that you are fighting. This is especially true if you were at one time close to the person you have conflict with.

Always seek to resolve conflict by seeking mediation or even arbitration from trusted people of wisdom, faith and knowledge within our community first.

Those who chose to skip that and seek judgment by another value system first – rarely succeed.

Secondly, if the person you are having conflict with absolutely refuses to mediate or arbitrate with people of faith and knowledge according to our value system and you need to hire a lawyer, then hire an honest lawyer who looks at the long term needs of all those impacted by your litigation and will tell you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear, and will ensure you are honest and just.

‎إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ

“Indeed, the wrongdoers will not succeed.”

If your lawyer enables and argues for things on your behalf that you know in your heart of hearts to be either untrue or unjust – then know that they are only harming you. What’s scary however is sometimes the consequences of repeatedly lying and being unjust is you lose your ability to know when you are doing so.

Hence why having people of faith and knowledge to guide you is so necessary.

Finally we often hear the “law of the land” argument – there is much that can be said in that regard. Suffice it to say, I have never seen anyone who uses the “law of the land” argument actually justly and honestly try to apply the law of the land. And they usually jump between religious values when it suits them and secular law when it suites them. Just as Allah warns hypocrites do in surah al Noor.

Further, when one person does not respect Allah’s laws enough to abide by them in times of conflict, they definitely will not respect the country’s laws and try to implement them honestly and fairly either. In ten years of legal work I have never seen someone who wishes to judge by the “law of the land” to the exclusion of faith values to settle personal disputes actually honestly abide by the law of the land. And those who are honest, have no problem being judged by people of faith according to the Quran and Sunnah.

Finally – remember this message is not for us to judge others by. We cannot control others. It’s a reminder for ourselves only. In the end of the day those who refuse to settle conflicts in accordance with our faith, who lie, who work with dishonest lawyers, they only harm themselves and every dishonest act they or their lawyer does will only be a cause of their own determent. Let’s make sure we do not copy their mistakes.

For unjust acts and dishonesty may harm the person it’s targeting temporarily but ultimately the harm will go back against it’s perpetrator.

Holy Quran 35:43

‎اسْتِكْبَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَكْرَ السَّيِّئِ ۚ وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ ۚ فَهَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا سُنَّتَ الْأَوَّلِينَ ۚ فَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا ۖ وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَحْوِيلًا

[Due to] arrogance in the land and plotting of evil; but the evil plot does not encompass except its own people. Then do they await except the way of the former peoples? But you will never find in the way of Allah any change, and you will never find in the way of Allah any alteration.

Holy Quran 49:9 -12

‎وَإِن طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَىٰ فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّىٰ تَفِيءَ إِلَىٰ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِن فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly.

Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.

‎إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.

‎يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.

‎يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

Hassan Shibly is a Civil Rights Lawyer and former Executive Director of the Florida Council On American Islamic Relations at Tampa. Hassan has appeared numerous times in both local and national media outlets including NPR, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Toronto Star and the Buffalo News for his work protecting civil liberties and promoting understanding of the Muslim faith. He runs a successful publishing company and is the founder of the Center for American Muslim Understanding. Hassan’s work has earned him the attention of various Islamophobic publications, which criticize Hassan for “deceiving the American People” by “promoting a peaceful and tolerant image of Islam.”

Shibly, Hassan. (2021, May 23). The Law or Allah? Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/hshibly/posts/10107468095448808

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not necessarily reflect Alfafaa’s editorial views

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