In one of its aspects, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant represents a represents a deep dilemma for Muslims, specifically the Islamic jurisprudence institutions, whether Sunni or Shiite. The behaviour of this organization, in the application of the verdicts in the name of Islamic Shari’ah, from burning to death and cutting hands and other practices, exposed the doctrinal dilemma of religious institutions that went to denounce these provisions. However, the denouncement of religious institutions to the practices of ISIL was not criticizing these practices but the disqualifications of ISIL in implementing such provisions.
ISIL did not implement any of its provisions, those deemed by the world as criminal acts, without them being based on a religious act, whether from the Holy Quran itself or from the life and sayings of the prophet. These provisions are found in the heart of jurisprudence books among Sunnis and Shiites. In this simple sense, ISIL tells the world it is implementing the Shari’ah literally and that its practices are based on provisions recognized by most of the Islamic jurisprudence institutions.
While this aspect of ISIL is imposing itself to the present scenery, based on the acts the militant group is implementing in the name of Islam, it should not be forgotten that there were social and political reasons behind the expansion of the group. These reasons are mainly depicted through the rule of the Baath party in both Syria and Iraq, alongside other oppressive forces in general. These forces have did what it did in the social and political structures of the two countries without enabling the post Baath phase in Iraq and the US occupation to the country prior to that a model capable of repairing these structures. However, the US occupation to Iraq and the model of reigning forces after were considered y Iraqis as a bad model of power and governance, a model that increased the rift in national unity, and resulted in the state of corruption, as is confirmed by most Iraqis, not to mention the international reports about corruption in the country.
ISIL and its scholars only think about the literal meaning of religious texts and apply them as they are, without taking into consideration how such behaviour affects both religion and people. This is starting to trigger questions which the Islamic institution seems to tend to postpone them. This institution, with its different creeds, seemed unable to confront these attempts by ISIL or even at the level of interpreting religious texts, in relation to the limits and conditions of the Shari’ah provisions.
Is it allowed nowadays to apply for example the prophet’s jurisdiction to cut the hand of the thief, although the text is clear? The pattern of ISIL, in this context, is a result and not a cause. It is the result of the gap between the necessities and requirements of modern times and the inability of the jurisprudential institution to overcome the traditional systems of jurisprudence. This has opened the door to ISIL to move in this wide margin, embarrassing everyone.
The Islamic history has witnessed attempts to deal with the level of provisions and limits of the Shari’ah. Some scholars say that the limits and judgments of the Shari’ah provisions revolve around benefit and harm. For example, in past times where poverty and famine had spread, the Shari’ah rule of cutting the hand of the thief was suspended. But in isolation from this historical evidence, the question remains: Are these limits and conditions applied by the Prophet at his time, the provisions of all time?
In any case, whether ISIL is aware of this or not. The group is telling us as Muslims: these are the provisions of your religions and I am throwing them in your face and the face of the world… What are you to do about this?
This is the crisis of the political and doctrinal religious heritage that we know. Only now, we realise it has been a major crime not to renovate religious texts, and that it was wrong from the religious institutions to oppress religious voices calling for a change and preferring to protect this heritage, which turned into a sacred text, although this heritage is not acquired fully from the Quran of Hadith.
What ISIL implies today is that the historical Islam was not able to accommodate with the concept of the modern state, and the post-succession or transition from the concept of Shura to the idea of democracy, knowing that the concept of Shura was a tribal concept at that time.
The debate about the provisions of the Shari’ah under the influence of ISIL show that the door of Ijtihad in Islam is semi-closed, if not completely closed. There is no difference between the Sunni or Shiite jurisprudential institutions, as the political authorities are the most capable to adapt the religious establishment and invest them to strengthen their powers, in the name of the necessity of obedience to the ruling or on behalf of the Velayat El Faqih, which rules in the name of God… In both cases, we are witnessing a substantial contradiction with the concept of power in the modern state, which stems from the people, while in the Islamic concept, it comes from God and his representative on earth, down to the people.