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Common Cents

Criminal Law

Ralph Murphy 

(10/27/2014) Legal standards form the base and often guiding principles in domestic and international socio-economic dealings. They are based on secular and religious standards of varying impact on the relevant citizenry depending on culture and implementation. While of importance to Christian communities, they are relatively more influential to Jewish societies and enormously so to the Muslims. Nuances in scriptural interpretation have proven divisive and deadly.

Most societies support some type of legal structure, and those which don't are invariably short lived. Coherent to current international dealings, specifically Middle East unrest, include Christian Canon, Jewish Torah, and Muslim Sharia law. Each incorporates religious, Civil (coded non-criminal), and Common law which evolves from judicial rulings. Christians tend to separate the religious dictates from secular laws. Jewish law as defined in the Torah is more inclusive in its domestic dealings, and the Muslim Sharia law along with Muhammadís oral tradition in the Hadith delineates and sanctions domestic dealings.

The Quran is the central book of Islam and believed by relevant Muslims to be God's revelation to the prophet Muhammad. Sharia or "God's Law" is interpreted slightly differently by modernists, traditionalists, and Muslim fundamentalists. Another division is associated with the geopolitics of differing Muslim nations, cross cultural dealings, and ethnicity. The written Quran, legal and moral structure, is however far more rigidly predictable than the vast variance of interpretation and social impact of Muhammad's oral expressions as defined by the Hadith. The latter is proving a source of mortal division within and between Muslim peoples.

Sharia law, "the Path or Way," provides Muslim adherents a legal basis for criminal matters, politics, economics, and personal affairs. It is applied by Islamic judges or Qadis, and Imams, Islamic leadership positions most often religious. The Imam leads communal prayers, but can also apply to secular political leaders. Sharia law can be quite severe to include amputation for theft, stoning to death for adultery, and capital punishment for apostasy or religious conversion. Again, while very strict and even medieval by Christian standards, the Muslims know roughly what they're dealing with. That's true of both demographically dominant Sunnis and Shia's separated religiously by an electoral process for their religious leader or Caliph who serves as head of Umma, a religious community. Both Muslim groups accept the "Five Pillars of Islam," the required existential social guidance which appears at odds with Muhammad's Quran assertion "nothing happens to us which is not preordained by Allah."

The "Pillars" must be followed for salvation according to the Hadith of Gabriel. Muhammad's Quran lends that role to predestination or a mindset of accepting God's Will to achieve eternal salvation. A point that important and defining of adherents would certainly have been written in the Quran. Instead it is included in the Hadith of Gabriel, one of the four archangels God is believed to have sent with divine message to Mohammad per the Hadith. However, Mohammed didn't plausibly report it. While widely accepted by the Muslim community, it doesn't appear to reflect the Quran's predestination religion which dictates to that community as the gift of God and indication of divine salvation without obligation of rebirth.

The Hadith as a whole, itself oral tradition, is subject to enormously varied interpretation and social application within and between Islamic adherents. Many Muslims, perhaps half per social groupings, believe the Five Pillars to be the way of salvation. But, differences in other Hadith expression as the basis for Muslim social interaction are manifest in the dominant Shia and Sunni factions with clerics and jurists allowing that Hadith specific to living concerns be Sahih (authentic), Hasan (good), and Da'if (weak). The scholars often disagree on the levels here, and it's implementation manipulated by the cleric who wields authority. Religious rulings as translated into political power afford potency for action often surpassing the rational, and with a pliant following can prove fatally destabilizing.

Sharia law is itself draconian not having evolved to conventional reality. Amputation for petty theft can lead to social parasites even among those willing to work. The Jewish Torah was similarly followed in brutal implementation before relatively evolving to a constructive base. "An eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:24) literally exacted in early Jewish society was subsequently interpreted as equal value, monetary compensation, and criminal prosecution. Perhaps the Muslims can also incorporate constructive deterrent of crime with a rational living dynamic itself not inconsistent with Muhammad's most important concern, eternal salvation by following God's Will. The remainder of Islamic teachings, especially the Hadith, appears to be a system working and routinely obeyed, is also manipulated and abused with resultant needless human suffering.

Christian Canon law is the legal structure of Ecclesiastical authority adhered to by Roman Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches as well as the Anglican community. The New Testament based structure is influential across the broader society, but remains marginal in direct secular legislation. The shared Old Testament beliefs of Judeo-Christian as proffered by Moses in the "Ten Commandments" have had far more legal impact. Legislation punishing theft, murder, often adultery, specific lying, and even blasphemy can be traced back to his insights described as gleaned from God on Mount Sinai.

The Jewish faith dates back almost 4000 years to Abraham of Ur Babylonia, modern day Shia region of Iraq. The religion is ancient, but has remained relatively intransigent despite efforts to incorporate a viable concept of eternal salvation as proffered by "Reform" Jews apparently interpreting the Talmud or oral tradition. A resurrection concept with reintroduction of souls ironically stored in a transitory state, a Holy Spirit to other beliefs, was broached by the Pharisees of the second temple before 70 BCE. The righteous would be returned to earth with associated trappings upon the coming of the Messiah. They would live together in harmony for an unspecified time length as described in an Olam Ha ba. Though, the Christian book of revelations has the concept as finite with Satan defeated by construct forces, but released for a limited mandate after " a thousand years." Good or construct prevails to the end of known worldly existence.

Foundational elements exist in the Jewish faith for a salvation concept akin to that of neighboring religions. The respected Haredi's seek to "perform the Will of God". That being the only prerequisite for eternal salvation also associated with Calvinist Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and as described Muslims as well as others. Salvation based on "free will" varies greatly between and even within world religions, and while frequently theoretically achievable is often ill defined.

Far East social structures have the building blocks for the cohesive concept of salvation through acceptance of a divine plan, but like the Jews are ancient and intransigent in collective unity, adaptation, and implementation. The desire for purpose in life and constructive direction appear to exist, associated inclusion and implementation surely to follow given evolved and accommodating social alignments. A monotheist creator is essential to free will or God's Will believers, and can largely be crafted with existing base points anywhere.

Ralph Murphy is a former member of the CIA Headquarters Staff in Langley, VA.

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