"Mà á dá Shẹ̀ríà fun ẹ": A Sociologically-Reconstructed Lexicon
-Ajetunmobi Umar Olansile
If you are a Yorùbá man or woman, what pops up in your mind when someone says, "Mà á dá Shẹ̀ríà fun ẹ o; Wọ́n ti dá Shẹ̀ríà fún ọmọ yẹn" or any other construction where "Shẹ̀ríà" becomes a nominal entity coming after a verbal element like "dá"? Most times, the cognitive spark people activate upon hearing such lexical usage is something like: Shẹ̀ríà is all about penal law- it's all about tough punishments all the time! Nay, this is a meaning the society has forced on the real meaning of Shẹ̀ríà, especially in regions where Yorùbá language is spoken. In subsequent paragraphs, I argue that this interpretation of Shẹ̀ríà is merely a reconstruction from the society- sociologically-reconstructed lexicon.
Sharee'ah (Shẹ̀ríà) in an Arabic terminology used to refer to all the Divine Laws given to mankind through the prophets sent to them by the Creator. Our Sharee’ah in this last generation of prophethood came through the Qur'aan and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Such Divine Laws constitute our worships, transactions and dealings with people, security and familial affairs, among others. In fact, Sharee'ah doesn't only comprise Criminal Law, but also extends to Common Law, Family Law, Property Law, Jurispudential Law, Constitutional Law, etc. understood within the dictates of Islam. I will give some examples presently.
One of the familial issues that Family Law (a subset of Sharee'ah) treats is divorce. When a man and a woman divorce each other, Islam recommends that the child should be in the custody of the woman in as much as the child won't be endangered being in his or her mother's custody. Then, it's compulsory for the ex-husband to regularly foot the financial bills of the child. Another instance of Family Law deals with man's responsibilities to his immediate family. It's compulsory for a man to feed his family, provide shelter and cloths for them. The Prophet (SAW) once said, "The best of you is the best one to his family; and I am the best to my family." Scholars argue that what the Prophet was referring to here centers on man's responsibilities to his family. Does the society still remember that this is also Shẹ̀ríà? Does the society even understand this viewpoint in the first instance?
Two, no doubt, the Criminal Law leg of Sharee'ah punishes the criminals, and that's done with a view to limiting or eliminating crimes. We all know that a criminally-minded society breeds insecurity and social injustice; thus, Criminal Law in Islamic Law came to protect our lives, property, humanness and cognition. For instance, murder (intentional in this context) attracts death penalty. When someone steals, the Islamic Judge will weigh his rationales for stealing and measurement of the stolen property before deciding whether to chop off a part of one of his hands or not. If the hand is to be chopped off, there's also a measurement. However, all these rulings are only binding in places where Islamic Law is established as a binding constitution on citizens. This is the aspect of Sharee'ah the society always emphasises!
Three, Sharee'ah Law addresses transactions. For example, Allah tells us in Qur'an Chapter 83, Verse 1-3: Woe to Al-Mutaffifin [those who give less in measure and weight (decrease the rights of others)], Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, demand full measure, And when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. At-Tatofuf comprises any form of reduction in scales or measurements, be it litres of petrol, cooking oil, measurement of foodstuff, and so on. Wailun in that first verse is described by scholars of Quranic exegesis as a deep pit in hell. In fact, during the time of 'Umar, the second leader of Muslims after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), did inspect markets alongside his aides with a view to ensuring that traders were just in measurement. What do we have now? What do our price, quality and control regulatory bodies in Nigeria doing? Yes, Nigeria isn't an Islamic nation, but this principle of Sharee'ah can be borrowed into governance. With that, we will all enjoy some sanity and level of social welfare- whenever traders are aware that some incorruptible bodies will always check the accuracy of their measurements and scales, they are more likely to self-regulate their actions.
Another important aspect of Shẹ̀ríà that the society hardly makes reference to involves jurisprudence of consumables- what we eat and drink. It's the Shẹ̀ríà of Allah that Muslims shouldn't eat pork, dog meat, blood, unslaughtered animals (except aquatic animals), animals slaughtered for something else aside for the worship of Allah. It's also part of Shẹ̀ríà of Islam not to consume any intoxicant even if it has 0.01% alcoholic volume. In fact, it's part of Shẹ̀ríà to eat wedding, naming and house-warming food given to us by non-Muslims in as much as the food content is within the ‘acceptables’ in Islam.
Now, are we right to conclude that statements such as "Mà á dá Shẹ̀ríà fun ẹ o" and "Wọ́n ti dá Shẹ̀ríà fún ọmọ yẹn" are linguistic misfits? If they are, where do we go from here?
Ajetunmobi Umar Olansile is a postgraduate student of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. This piece was reviewed by Dr Uthman Olalekan Kataye, Director of Morkazu Naseeha International Arabic School, Ibadan, Nigeria before publishing.