The Independent (Banjul)

28 April 2003

Gambia: First Sharia Advisory Office in the Offing, Jaiteh Brothers Unveil Elaborate Plans

Banjul — What could be a trial start to a new sharia advisory office is in the offing in The Gambia aimed at giving guidance to members of the public on issues, revolving around Islamic precepts of daily living and sharia.

It will be the first such enterprise in the country with a drive to give advise on marriages, divorce, family life, inheritance and demystify the overarching concept of sharia for the multitude of people whose understanding of it may be shallow. It initiators, who said it was resulting from their protracted study and analysis of the situation, believe that such an office is of overriding necessity against a backdrop of ignorance of Islamic precepts, that inherently prevents individuals from making informed decisions on issues that affect them from the Islamic perspective.

The office already established in Serrekunda London will also be engaged in legal translation from Arabic to English and vice versa and will also be available for land valuation.

Expounding on the reason for such an enterprise Mohammed Lamin Jaiteh and Mohammed Jaiteh (Hamma) explained that over the past ten years they have observed that a number of cases have reached the Cadi's court that should have been laid to rest by an advisory office, rendering it unnecessary for them to be heard by the Islamic courts.

"Some complaints that go to the courts the Islamic courts need not go there if the parties involved are given expert advise over the wisdom or otherwise of doing so. Such an office would help a great deal to remedy the situation and relieve the Islamic court of such cases that have overwhelmed it for many years and over which many are disenchanted" the two brothers indicated.

The Jaiteh brothers expounded on the burden unleashed on the Islamic court in the Gambia as a result of profound ignorance of sharia, a concept, which has been overridden by misinterpretations relating to the dreaded amputation as retribution meted out against moral defaulters.

"Sharia is all-encompassing, it entails the whole behaviour of Muslims in an Islamic environment and not only about amputation as widely and erroneously held" they argued, pointing out that their drive is to plumb the depth of such a concept and lay it bare for the simple understanding of those who may be initially prone to misrepresent it to their own detriment.

"There was a time when problems relating to sharia have swarmed the courts, which Muslims did not understand. Scholars that-be speak about sharia as revolving around amputation and we felt an office for consultation was necessary if anybody was going to stem the tide of such misrepresentation of the concept. The enemies of Islam are bent on destroying sharia but family life, relations, crime and punishment, inheritance, economic management systems occur in our daily living patterns without the majority of us knowing that they all consist in sharia. All these things including asset distribution, company laws, partnerships, contracts and other elements of the corporate world are about sharia and Muslims must know about them.

The emphasis on law is also inherent in sharia," they explained.

The Jaiteh brothers argued that instead of resorting to television programmes, to preach and eventually convolute the true nature of the debate on sharia, an office established exclusively to address these concerns could not have come at a more appropriate time when the situation beggars a solution. They said the office would be a citadel for the most seasoned scholars on Islamic precepts and jurisprudence whose service would be accessible to the inquiring public.

"There are always people receptive to the idea of research and the quest for knowledge and we are going to help them without sectarianism coming into play. We will not cloud it with our own personal judgement but the universal judgement of Islamic teaching. The office would provide constructive ideas from constructive Islamic precepts and pave the way for an unadulterated understanding of the dynamics of Islam" they added.

"It is regrettable that time is wasted on unnecessary arguments about precepts or concepts which diminish the value of the subject" they said.

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