Q. Your work on the website has been immensely helpful to me in gaining peace with Islam. UAE has just announced the decriminalization of suicide, alcohol consumption, and unmarried cohabitation. This has garnered quite a bit of backlash from the Muslim masses in straying away from the shari'ah. Personally, I didn't think too much of it as people were already doing the above and legalizing it allows for documentation that can help prevent crime and other injustices that take place in the above settings.

What is your stance on the implementation of religion-based restrictions on a national level for all the inhabitants (including non-Muslim) of a country? I find the above topics to be largely a personal area of morality and lifestyle that one follows by their own beliefs, and suicide in the age of growing psychological sciences cannot be viewed as a crime, but as a tragedy that should garner empathy and emotional support towards building a healthier community. Am I wrong in my assumptions?

I'd appreciate it if you could guide me to further reading regarding politics and public law in Islam, and whether the rule of "don't do, facilitate, or allow the facilitation of religious prohibitions" would really work in a metropolitan environment from a legal standpoint.

A. Thank you for your inquiry. It is sad that the UAE's move should encounter pushback from Muslims who seem to be so welded to tradition that they have put aside the Qur'anic injunction calling for contemplation and thought. The Qur'an was rather specific in its legislative philosophy being for a particular environment and people, given its statement in Q5:48 that for every group there is a set of laws and program. The early caliphate allowed for this in that it let different religious communities seek judgment from their appointed leaders. Dr. Khaled Abou El-Fadl's writings in this article reflect our position.

In response to your specific questions, we agree that the decriminalization of suicide and alcohol consumption should be implemented. This, however, in our view should come with a caveat, reflecting the point you made about the findings of modern medicine on the subject of suicide. When it comes to alcohol consumption, obviously that would also have to be within the limits that would legally mean someone ought not to be operating a motor vehicle in public, etc. We point this out because in the UAE, given the way many folks may seek to play with legal doctrines, one has to be very careful about ensuring that there are parameters of operation. When it comes to unmarried cohabitation, this has to be carefully studied. If it is simply a reference to sexual activity, that is one thing. If it means cohabitation in the manner that a couple live together without a marriage contract, this is an area that is fraught with danger since, given the mores of Middle Eastern society, there are laws that control inheritance, etc. for a legal spouse. Without these, an unmarried spouse might find herself/himself in a position that is unprotected in court.

The adage you mentioned seems specific to a very limited religious milieu, as there are never absolutes in any prohibition given the fiqh maxim "Exigency allows what is normally forbidden." In a cosmopolitan society, as exists in the modern Middle East, even though the states there are Muslim majority, enforcement of the public law concept you mentioned would seem tyrannical, oppressive, and recidivist.

Posted November 15, 2020