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Published in: Contemporary Islam 1/2014

01-01-2014

Commanding good and prohibiting evil in contemporary Islam: cases from Britain, Nigeria, and Southeast Asia

Authors: Zacharias P. Pieri, Mark Woodward, Mariani Yahya, Ibrahim Haruna Hassan, Inayah Rohmaniyah

Published in: Contemporary Islam | Issue 1/2014

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Abstract

This paper examines the concept of (public) sin as well as efforts to counteract sin from the perspective of Islam. The understanding that hisba, the prohibition of vice and enjoining of virtues, are a responsibility of both the state and the community is common in historical and contemporary Muslim societies. Where the state cannot or does not provide means for countering (public) sin, the perception for some Muslims is that the responsibility on the community and individuals to do so increases. Based on ethnographic research in Britain, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, the paper highlights examples of how sin has been defined amongst Muslim communities as well as the methods and rationales given to justify the forbidding of sin as a collective and communal public obligation. As the world becomes more integrated, there is growing concern amongst Muslim communities that sin is becoming the norm, leading society to degeneracy, that people who would not have otherwise sinned are influenced to do so. Common features in forbidding sin across Muslim communities have appeared, often focusing on what are seen as moral issues such as dress codes, music, gambling, alcohol, smoking, and the mixing of men and women in public. The forbidding of sin has resulted in attempts to introduce “Shari’a Zones” in some predominantly Muslim areas of London, whilst in Indonesia, this has given rise to the Islamic Defenders Front and in some Northern Nigerian states to the reintroduction of the criminal codes of the Shari’a.
Footnotes
1
As defined by a more literalist interpretation of Islam
 
2
Jihad is properly translated as struggle in the cause of God (Bonney 2004: 111–126).
 
3
Other Muslim majority states, especially Malaysia and some of the northern states of Nigeria, have similar policies.
 
4
In Britain, for example, there has been growing homophobic hate crime perpetrated by Islamists. In February 2012, three Muslim men were convicted of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexuality. The men had distributed pamphlets with anti-gay slogans—one including a mannequin strung through a noose. Another of the leaflets described homosexuality as a “vile, ugly, cancerous disease” and stated: “Gay today, paedophile tomorrow?” (Addley 2012a, b).
 
5
From a recording of Tariq Jamil recommended to the interviewer by a Tablighi participant. Field research conducted July 2011
 
6
From a recording of Tariq Jamil recommended to the interviewer by a Tablighi participant. Field research conducted July 2011
 
7
This was based on ethnographic research and conversations held in Tower Hamlets during the summer of 2011
 
8
Hiskett (1984:65) and Alkali (1976:16) have shown that Islam was a private affair among the ordinary people of areas now in northeastern Nigeria before the close of the ninth century, and Mahmud (1983:37) and AlKali (2007: 419) claim that by 1084, Ummw Jilmi, a king in the region, had made Islam a state religion in the region.
 
9
The panel was made up of the chief justice of Sudan, a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, one British expert in Islamic Law, and three Nigerians from three provinces of the region.
 
10
Section 275 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999
 
11
Personal communication with Susan O’Brien, 14 November 2012
 
12
These findings are based on observations from ethnographic fieldwork.
 
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Metadata
Title
Commanding good and prohibiting evil in contemporary Islam: cases from Britain, Nigeria, and Southeast Asia
Authors
Zacharias P. Pieri
Mark Woodward
Mariani Yahya
Ibrahim Haruna Hassan
Inayah Rohmaniyah
Publication date
01-01-2014
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Contemporary Islam / Issue 1/2014
Print ISSN: 1872-0218
Electronic ISSN: 1872-0226
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-013-0256-9

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