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Influence of British Empire on Islamic law


Fatema Miah:

I am told to move off the Islam topic, to avoid writing about Islamic in fear of it might stirs up negative reactions in individuals specially the Muslims and there are all different conmunities of Muslims with own perception through their own preferred schooling (sect).  Specially Alim society they have ascertained of right of acclimation and authority. Then the question is why wondering and confusion in people about Islamic law and more importantly, criticism about Islam with wrong portray? And there aren’t enough answers with relevant explanation to clarify.

I have explained my perception of Fatwa. I then wrote about misuse of termology and misplaced regulation, manipulation and misuse of Power with faith and serving injustice in the modern and pre modern term, I explained Law Hudud and it’s inclusive aspects. Previously, for last decades I have also pointed out the misleading and manipulation for power and zeal. Here I come back to imperialism and British Empire,  I expressed my perception in My book Unspoken and in articles. Specially in Briton then and next in question to Brexit suggestion.

British colonialism in South Asia, I have written about divide and rule tactics. Lets look at, What was British empires influence on Islam in India? Britain strived hard to keep the grip on India I wrote. British have changed Islamic law in India. I  wrote already that Islamic law functioned in a very different way to law as it is generally understood. Islamic law was not fixed in written law codes. Instead, when a new legal situation arose (such as the appearance fatwa on new undesired issues ), scholars would search through parts of the Qur’an and hadith that might be relevant, and draw analogies if possible, or they would consider the opinions of great authorities from the past, or defer to the authoritative consensus of the scholarly establishment, if one existed. Also even in areas where the text of the Qur’an appears very explicit, such as with the Hudud  offences, those punishments were not applied uniformly in every case.

Moreover,  Islamic law it proves is highly diverse. Not only where there multiple legal schools, but every individual scholar’s opinion about what the law might be was potentially correct. Check My other articles, Islam diversed as well as uniform. The other articles about Ottoman and Saudi in them I  touched on how changes in the system brought in to fit political and regional culture mixed with cultural preference by dismissing some aspects and opinions.

I also wrote about the portray of Islam due to incorrect messages by Muslim States, input of law and order.  Here lets highlight British doings in the past. British began to colonise South Asia in the 18th century and  encountered a system of law, it appeared to be very strange to them as well. The system of law appeared to the British overly complicated and very inefficient for running a colonial state. Same as British in India, European did the similar to the East ie Indonesia. The British in South Asia  transformed this system of Islamic law into something that they recognised as law, while at the same time maintaining the appearance that the law had not changed at all. Other colonising powers, such as the French in North Africa, or the Dutch in Indonesia did something similar as well.

The British created a new  law called Anglo-Muhammadan Jurisprudence. As the name implies, this was a system of law that on the surface made use of Islamic legal texts, terms and concepts, but underneath had been transformed into something that the British recognised as law. They saying, The British codified Islamic law in fixed legal codes and statutes that British colonial judges (and local Muslim judges who worked with them) could govern, adjudicate, and apply themselves.

“Under the guise of preserving Islamic law there was a ‘conceptual invasion’ and English assumptions and legal concepts… framed the technical vocabulary of Islamic law, and guided how those rules were applied, thereby reshaping Islamic law itself.”[1]   “Transforming the Islamic legal system was an important part of the colonial process as it allowed the British to maintain the illusion that Muslims in South Asia were continuing to live under their own laws, whereas in actual fact the British were transforming that law into a new system that served their purposes”.[2] Dr. Mustafa and Dr. Warren quoted from Harvard.

There Mughal empire, the Muslim ruling in India collapsed on the arrival of British East India dock company and Portuguese. Mughal, wasn’t a great example of Islamic law like I said in the last article. Where as the imperialsm has the tradition and space for conquer and rule so the British had chance to put a food in to push in and push off.  British didn’t have to conquer India as such, British walked in and tactfully occupied and applied their law and order.  After ascertained power in India, British as an Empire stretched wings towards Middle East and Hunkered down in Africa.

About Islamic law, British looked at The Hidaya, they on the basis of this, they selected from wide ranges, part of text on taxation, punishment and marriage and codified with their suit and left out the rituals practices to people as previously were practiced by communities to their desire preferences as British had no preference of methods or ideas otherwise beneficial for them to dictate.   By punishment and taxation methods British empire strenghtened its power and authority beneficiarily. British in India used vocabulary of Islamic law on the surface and was different beneath.

Where Fatwa concerned, British undesired that per Fatwa required to work collaboratively with Mufti the Scholars and other Olama the Islamic practitioners to be allowed to look into issues, to set up enquiries and to hold discussion to conclude a decision that British Imperialists couldn’t tolerate or stand to allow such authority of decision making or  to input. Was it only political / deplomatic authoritative desire, not zeal?

Why would Britain I envisage would be more correct in applying Fatwa and Islamic law ahead as I wrote in my last Article, (2019)?  Because British supposedly, have learnt from past mistakes, have adopted to more respective of values, (democracy is prophet Muhammed pbuh ‘s practice and welfare system is O’mar pbuh ‘s reformation, as I repeatedly reiterated) and there are, conscientious Muslims British and are integrated into British Law and politics.

Fatema Miah, Solihull, uk. fatemamiah@mail.com