Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ramadan 2014 - Day 4, Mosque Restrictions

My friend arrived back from vacation bringing with him couple of books that I had ordered. More Ramadan reading!

1) Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Mohammad Hashim Kamali. I wanted to get a better understanding of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). The Qur’an and the Sunnah provide a number of rules or ways that Muslims should live their lives, but I still didn't know how that translated into Shari’a Law. This book outlines the various sources of fiqh and how to interpret the strength of those sources. I may have bit off more than I could chew here though, the book is 540 pages and at first glance seems to be written for lawyers, but let's see how it goes.

2) After the Prophet: the Epic Story of the Shi’a-Sunni Split, by Lesley Hazelton. Qatar is a predominantly Sunni nation (I've heard various estimates that puts around 3-10% of Qataris as Shi’a) and I know little of the historical events that led to the schism. Given that there are still sectarian issues in the Islamic World perhaps not surprisingly I couldn't find anything in the local bookstores on this. I wanted a book by a non-Muslim historian to hopefully get a more neutral perspective of the history.

On to other topics I read a news article about the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announcing a number of restrictions for mosques during Ramadan:

-- no collecting donations in mosques without approval of the Ministry;
-- no holding religious lectures in mosques without approval of the Ministry;
-- no distributing leaflets or brochures or any written material, including Qurans; (!!)
-- Ministry permission is required to reside in a mosque for itikaf (I have a blog post on what itikaf is); and
-- Ministry permission is required to host an Iftar in a mosque.

Wow, I didn't realize that during Ramadan the Government was strict about activities in mosques. Ramadan is clearly serious business to the Government. Don’t hand out Qurans?! Need permission to have religious lectures?! It's definitely a sharp contrast to many Western Governments who tend to stay out of religious matters. In fact this is an interesting contrast to the West, most (all?) Western countries tend to have freedom of religion laws to prevent the government interfering, in Qatar it is the opposite. Islam is part of the very fabric of Government including laws in accordance with Islamic principles.

I asked a couple of Qataris about this and neither were sure why this was. One speculated that the restriction on handing out leaflets or holding unauthorized lectures was to curb potential recruitment by extremists, but I don't recall ever hearing about any issues about extremism in Qatar so it seems doubtful. (Then again what do I know about extremist Islam operating here, it's not like they would advertise in English-language newspapers). I’ll ask a few more Qataris and see if they have any insight.

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