Within the framework of what is happening in the Arab world, many who live in the countries where revolutions have broken out (or where there is fear of a revolution breaking out) have sought to raise questions over the issue of the constitution, which is the document that governs the relationship between the ruler and the people. The constitution is the most important part of putting in place a rightly-guided government, which is something that Arab regimes have failed to implement so far. Opinion polls have continued to reveal the fragile relationship and lack of trust between the people and Arab governments, due to the people’s belief that the balance always tilts in the favour of the government, at the expense of the citizens and their rights. If the relationship between governments and citizens is controlled by politicians, economists, and religious scholars – who are each pursuing their own objectives – then it is now important for jurists to play an important role in terms of putting political legislation in place, particularly in light of the afore-mentioned [politicians, economists, and scholars] failure in this regard.
Politicians are only concerned with their own interests, and their own political losses should they offer the people the necessary “concessions”. As for economists, they have a narrow viewpoint that is based on a purely financial reading of the situation which completely ignores the juristic or legal aspects; they ultimately view the situation solely within the framework of profit and loss. Therefore one party benefits, whist the other suffers; and this reading of the situation is one that does not serve anybody.
As for religious scholars, their efforts are always focused upon proving their religious opinions and interpretations, whilst they always support customs and traditions, even if this comes at the expense of the legislation itself. It is these reversed priorities that created the gap between the people and religious interpretation, which is a situation that has given rise to religious extremism and terrorism. Accordingly, it seems logistical to now look to jurists – who have a broader vision and who take public interests to heart – to transform all these raised voices that are demanding rights and legislation based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet into legislation that does not contradict international laws and treaties and internationally-held humanitarian policies. This is what should be adopted, instead of the continuation of this state of confinement and rejection, with unacceptable reasons being used that will eventually undermine religious pretexts and result in the criticism and slander of political stances, because such pretexts contradict acceptable logic and reasoning.
I remember a wonderful discussion I had with the peerless Egyptian jurist Dr. Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd during a breakfast at a hotel in Davos before one of his lectures. The discussion revolved around the importance of law to countries and their policies. He said that any legislation or policy that is not based on the convent of laws is fragile and unreliable. I recall a saying by the well known Islamic jurist Abdul Salam El Termanini, also known as Ibn Halab, who stressed that Islamic legislation predates international covenants and laws, but that the defect is in those who attempt to narrow the interpretation of some Quranic texts to suit their own interests.
I emphatically believe that the current Arab era is the era of jurists; this is an era that requires the complete drafting of legal systems, laws, and legislations, in a manner that reflects the new reality in our region to replace the facile and fragile laws and systems currently in place. We must also be conscious that the significance of laws lies in enforcing them. What is certain is that the power of law lies in their enforcement and in ensuring that nobody is able to elude this. We are now living in the long-awaited era of the jurists.