Over the weekend, the media (both the mainstream and social) were awash with praises and condemnations over the news that United Arab Emirates (UAE) had relaxed the country’s Islamic law for what it called ‘personal freedom’.
The legal reforms as originally published by the state-run WAM news agency and detailed in the state-linked newspaper, The National, seeks to amend legislations relating to honour killings, alcohol restrictions, cohabitation of unmarried couples, divorce and succession.
The alterations in the law were announced ahead of the ‘Dubai Expo 2020’, a mega world event, which was expected to be held in Dubai from October 2020 until April 2021 but has been rescheduled for October 2021 to March 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investigations carried out by Muslim News showed that, as part of the latest reforms, cohabitation of ‘unmarried couples’ has been made legal for the first time. Earlier, it was illegal for unmarried persons, or even unrelated flatmates, to share a home in the UAE. Similarly, the reforms decriminalise suicide and attempted suicide. Previously, a person who survived a suicide attempt could be prosecuted.
In the new arrangement, drinking alcohol has been decriminalised for those above 21 years of age and penalties for possessing or selling alcoholic beverages without an alcohol licence in authorised areas have been removed.
Earlier too, alcohol-related prosecutions in the Gulf nation were rare, but individuals drinking without a licence would get charged when arrested for a separate offence. Under the new reforms, this will not occur. Underage drinking, however, remains punishable.
Drinking alcohol and living together without marriage become legal in UAE https://t.co/oiip15T6kZ
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) November 10, 2020
When the news of the legal reforms in the UAE, one of the Islamic Gulf States, hit the airwaves, a lot of people — Muslims and non-Muslims, especially from the Nigerian cyberspace helped amplify it on popular micro-blogging site, Twitter.
They asserted that if a country like UAE, predominantly populated by Muslims which also favours the Maliki school of Thought could make alterations to Islamic laws for the purpose of modernisation, some parts of Nigeria, especially the Northern region should not be too harsh and conservative on matters relating to Islamic religion.
As mixed reactions continued to trail the relaxation of Islamic law in UAE on Twitter, news broke out in Nigeria that Hisbah (religious Police) corps had destroyed 1,975,000 bottles of beer worth over 200 million naira (about $523,000) in Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria which runs both Shari’ah and Customary Courts as entrenched in the country’s constitution
“Consumption of alcohol and all other intoxicants that can distort the mental capability of a person is forbidden in Islam. Here in Kano, we have banned the consumption of beer in all parts of the State,” Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje declared during the destruction exercise at KalebawaTofa Local Government on Monday.
What nonsense is this for crying out loud? Businesses should sur the government and also the VAT from alcohol and co given to Kano should be used to compensate these businesses. Kano should stop getting such VAT.
When is hisbah focusing on the boys being sodomised by men in Kano? https://t.co/5Ih9KH4M8A
— Aisha Yesufu (@AishaYesufu) November 10, 2020
The development has also been drawing lots of reactions and comparisons with the UAE development, as many took turns to insult Governor Ganduje and vilify the application of Shari’ah in a State that has a handful of Christians, whose religion, Christianity allows them to consume alcohol, albeit some kick against it.
For instance, a Christian colleague with the intent of mocking my religion, sent a private message to me, saying: “The owners of your religion have relaxed an Islamic law. Why is your medium not reporting it?”. I replied him by saying, “The owner of my religion, Islam, is Allah, and His laws, as firmly established in the Qur’an cannot be relaxed.”
Evidently, Islam is a religion ordained by Allah for all mankind, irrespective of colour, race and language, and it has certain rules – among them are lawful and unlawful, which can never change till eternity. One of such forbidden is intoxicating substances such as alcohol or better put, beer.
Scripturally, intoxication also known as Khamr in arabic was prohibited in three different stages — first in Qur’an 2:219; second, Qur’an 4:43 and the last, which is also applicable to the present day Muslims irrespective of their race and the generation to come is Qur’an 5: 90 where Allah says: “O believers! Intoxicants, gambling, idols, and drawing lots for decisions are all evilsvof Satan’s handiwork. So, shun them so you may be successful.”
Allah (SWT) says; "O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants (khamr), gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful." Q. 5: 90 #Hisbah #Kano #Ganduje #Shariah pic.twitter.com/lZ5KxqVxZI
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) November 9, 2020
The latter verse and a couple of the Prophetic traditions enshrined the Islamic ruling on alcohol consumption. Since then, alcohol has become forbidden for Muslims. There are also various scholarly opinions that criminalise it, especially in countries including some parts of Northern Nigeria that practice the Shari’ah, either as full or part time law.
Thus, it is a divine instruction that cannot be compromised and the fact that the UAE now permits Muslims to buy and drink it without licence cannot be used as a yardstick. Islam is the standard and the Shari’ah law must be the yardstick, not individuals or countries.
In fact, fervent observers of recent happenings in the oil-rich Gulf state will not be surprised by the new law, which also allows unmarried couples to cohabitate. Besides, the UAE and its likes in the Arab Gulf have declared unequivocally that all they want is secularism which, according to them, will boost tourism and economic interest.
On the contrary, Kano has decided to do the opposite by aligning with the Shari’ah while also focusing on attracting investors in line with Islamic rulings. It’s their right, too. That is democracy for you – the rule and the wish of the majority. Besides, must Northern states copy others, good or bad?* Let others also copy them, in good things – as Kano people have decided to follow the dictates of their Creator.
The must impressive story I have read today.
May Allah continue to bless and guide kano government together with hisbah police.
I hope this happen in all other states in. Nigeria. pic.twitter.com/a7iOgoa0Ga
— 💋Shen*️⃣ (@genyusuf001) November 9, 2020
It must also be said that Islam doesn’t belong to the UAE. Islam is a global religion; it only spread to Dubai the same way it spread to Africa and Kano, here in Nigeria.
Today, there are varying brands of democracy in different countries, depending on the leadership, the approach of such leadership and the level of adherence to democratic principles. Also, there could be variations in the applications and adherence to the Shari’ah in different countries, depending on the outlined factors.
May Allah bless Kano State Hisbah for this wonderful and great job, beer should not be allowed in any human society, especially a place like Kano, keep up the good work. 🙌✊ pic.twitter.com/BNzSzKKDw1
— F A A R E E S 💫 (@MFaarees_) November 9, 2020
Therefore, Kano, which has come under severe criticism on Twitter over the destruction of about N200m worth bottles of beer might not be totally perfect in the application of its shariah. The proponents of the law in the state must be commended and whoever wants to live or do business in the State must also respect the Shari’ah rulings as entrenched in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Laws vary from state to state according to the peculiarity each has. Whoever must live in the state must follow the law. If enforcing the ruling of Shari’ah on alcohol is considered as old and primitive, the people can decide to live in other States like Lagos or a country like the UAE where such is allowed.
The two developing scenarios (UAE/Kano) confirm the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) last sermon to the Ummah, saying; “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor a Black over a White except by piety and good actions.”
Let it be known to the proponents of Shari’ah in Kano and by extension other Northern States in Nigeria, that the Islamic law doesn’t discriminate against the rich and the poor, as justice must be established to all accused persons – irrespective of their status, in the society. The Shari’ah must not be used as a political tool to witch hunt perceived enemies for selfish interest lest they become part of the problem that needs to be eradicated.