The Quran and the U.S. Bill of Rights
I spent many years studying, pondering, and reflecting upon the meanings and the message of the Holy Qur'an. I'm grateful for the special gift from the Almighty who enabled me to memorize the Qur'an at a fairly young age. This is not as hard a task as it might seem. There are thousands of people around the world who have achieved this honor. The majority of them do not speak Arabic, the language in which the Qur'an was revealed. That speaks to the miracle of this blessed book.
Since taking a History 101 class in college I have also been fascinated by the U.S. Constitution and in particular with the Bill of Rights. The rise of America from third world status at the beginning of the twentieth century, to the world's super power by the end of it, is a testimony to mainly one thing: the power of ideas.
In the past ten years I began to focus on general themes that I found to be consistent throughout the Qur'an. The following ten are main themes that can be found in numerical order. They are:
1. Remembrance; 2. Gratitude; 3. Success; 4. Wisdom; 5. Justice; 6. Knowledge; 7. Worship; 8. Abundance; 9. Leadership; and 10. Unity.
For example: Remembrance can be found as a major theme in chapters: 1, 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91, 101, and 111. Similarly; gratitude can be found in chapters: 2, 12, 22, 32, 42, 52, 62, 72, 82, 92, 102, and 112. Unity being the tenth theme is mentioned in chapters: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, and 110.
By applying these themes to the U.S. Bill of Rights I was astonished to see that these were also central themes in the founding document of this nation. I leave you with this humble analysis hoping to remind ourselves about our common heritage, and to start a fresh dialogue that can help anyone who is interested in a better understanding of both America and Islam.
1. Remembrance: Humans in general are spiritual beings. We are wired around the need to remember our Maker. It may take some people time to realize this fact, but this is truly the most important and most basic of human rights. Without it, without freedom of mind and spirit, humanity loses its meaning. Furthermore, the Qur'an stresses that "There is no coercion in religion" (2:256).
Muslims tried to heed this admonishing for more than a thousand years. That's why Christian and Jewish communities have been able to retain their identities till today in the Middle East.
First Amendment - Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
2. Gratitude: To be grateful is to be charitable. Charity's most obvious aspect is protection of the weak. While it is an honor for the people, it is a duty upon the state! If the state fails in her duty, it becomes the responsibility of the people to uphold that honor. Hence the need to keep and bear arms.
Second Amendment - Militia (United States), Sovereign state, Right to keep and bear arms .
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
3. Success: Owning a home has long been the main pillar of "the American Dream", and as such a sign of one's achievement of success. But success goes beyond the material world to being a state of mind and heart. Success is the continuous search for truth and meaning and the struggle to bring peace to the world.
Third Amendment - Protection from quartering of troops.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
4. Wisdom: It is defined as doing the right thing. This particular amendment reflects a great deal of wisdom on the part of the Founding Fathers in not alienating or humiliating their citizens; the very aspect that marks the behavior of totalitarian regimes. Another issue is the oath being a sign of one's regard for the Almighty.
Fourth Amendment - Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
5. Justice: This is self-explanatory. Muslim scholars have noted that a just nation is victorious regardless of its creed.
Fifth Amendment - due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
6. Knowledge: All that is mentioned in this amendment reflects the need for cultivating a knowledgeable citizenry. Without a well-informed public this amendment would be unattainable.
Sixth Amendment - Trial by jury and rights of the accused, Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
7. Worship: The essence of worship is honoring God and serving humanity. Jury duty is one of the most important duties of a citizen. It is also a way to establish justice which leads to a stable and prosperous nation. Jury or "Lafif" duty has been a standard practice in some Muslim communities for centuries.
Seventh Amendment - Civil trial by jury.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
8. Abundance: This is a natural and expected practice in self-respecting societies. Preserving the dignity of innocent human beings is a must and can not be compromised. A just and compassionate nation is a prosperous one. It is NOT America's might but her heart that makes her great!
Eighth Amendment - Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
9. Leadership: The people are the owners of the state. As such they are collectively responsible for their destiny. Leadership is being responsible. The people are at the top of the pyramid of power.
Ninth Amendment - Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
10. Unity: This amendment signifies "perfection", "completion and unity" according to some observers. Americans, as well as the rest of humanity, need to be united for peace and justice.
Tenth Amendment - Powers of States and people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
If we contemplate deeply as obviously the Founding Fathers did to arrive at such noble conclusions, then America and the world would be a thousand times better.
Imam Ahmed Alarafi is the CEO of Medina Research Institute www.QuranChart.com