Ethics in Islam

Topic: Keynote speech, British Islam Conference 2018

Speaker: Mona Siddiqui

With the current Trump/post-Brexit challenges we have no place to hide and must engage publicly.

Ethics are the principles that govern a persons behaviour. It is how we determine what is right and wrong and drives our decision making.

The topic of ethics has been largely unexplored in Islamic thought. For most Muslims ethics is reduced to Shariah which overlooks the huge complexity of Sharia and the multiple fiqhs that exist around it.

The key challenge we face is how do you worship God and lead the life God wants you to? This leads to an open ended discussion. Yet we’ve reduced it to a fixed right/wrong stance which is a key problem in Islamic societies. There is no space for the grey areas where most of us live.

Revelation alone doesn’t tell you what is right and wrong. You need to apply your thinking to the revelation to determine right and wrong.

We cannot allow factors such as our minority status, anger and Islamophobia to define us.

Islamic law must be personalised and not theoretical. It has to be based on our lived experience.

Agreement is not a moral entity or exercise. Its not a mandatory objective. Its how you agree and disagree and the ability to accept differences that is important.

An independent review of Shariah councils was undertaken and the three key things learnt were:

  1. These councils are commonly used by women in their 20’s/30’s who have never registered their marriage and have no recourse to civil protection when seeking a divorce
  2. The councils have no legal entity or authority. They are just voluntary organisations
  3. The councils are often a mechanism to extend the abuse of peoples rights. They are subtle ways of forcing people, mainly women, to conform with tradition. An avert way to stop people from thinking for themselves

Two recommendations were made to the government:

  1. Introduce legal regulation of the Shariah councils
  2. Raise awareness of the civil legal rights that women in particular have regarding marriage and divorce

The government will not be proceeding with the first recommendation of regulating these councils. Regulating these councils could lead to giving them credence creating potential future challenges. This is unfortunate because without regulation how do you ensure that members of these councils are not selective in their scriptural references to uphold tradition rather than behave ethically?

The second recommendation will be taken up. It is important to raise awareness that Muslims must abide by the civil laws of this country. It is not an option. All marriages must be registered.

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