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Editorial

Muslims and Jury Duty

As the number of Muslims who are American citizens, through birth or through naturalization, increases, we face new challenges. One of these challenges is our ever increasing contact with the secular legal system. Not being aware of the circumstances, the secular courts often invite Muslims for jury duty.

Human beings are not free to legislate laws independent of our Creator. Muslims are not free to legislate or to execute laws that are independent of the laws of our Creator. In Islamic law, cases are judged according to the SharÓ'ah, the laws ordained by Allah.

Muslims, based on the explicit principles of Islam, cannot sit in judgment of anyone, unless and until they are duly qualified. The process of the law, judgment to be reached and the penalty to be given are all be in accordance with the Laws given to human beings by Allah, their Creator.

To ask Muslims to do otherwise, against the tenets of their religion, is to deprive them of their fundamental right, the freedom to practice their religion.

The cause of justice would be best served if, until the laws of Allah become the laws of humanity, Muslims were exempted from jury duty and were not required to get involved in judging their fellow human beings based on a law other than the one described in SharÓ'ah.

The following passages from Qur'an establish the criteria for Muslim participation in legal matters that judge their fellow human beings.

We have sent down to thee the Book in truth that thou mightest judge between men as guided by Allah: so be not (used) as an advocate by those who betray their trust. [4:105]

And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed they are wrong-doers. [5:45]

And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed they are those who rebel. [5:47]

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth confirming the scripture that came before it and guarding it in safety; so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed and follow not their vain desires diverging from the truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed He would have made you a single people but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute. [5:48]

And this (He commands): Judge thou between them by what Allah hath revealed and follow not their vain desires but beware of them lest they beguile thee from any of that (teaching) which Allah hath sent down to thee. And if they turn away be assured that for some of their crimes it is Allah's purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious. [5:49]

Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is who hath revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou of the waverers. [6:114]

O ye who believe! if ye fear Allah He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong) remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded. [8:29]

At present there is no legal or legislative precedence, as far as we know, that automatically excuses a Muslim from jury duty in all circumstances. Following information, that is based on actual experiences is produced here to help Muslims to stay clear of judging people on the basis of laws other than the laws of Allah.

If a person is summoned to serve on a Federal jury, a questionnaire accompanying the summons, asks for reasons why the prospective juror would be excused. "Religious reasons" is one of the choices. When that form is returned with "religious reasons" checked, the person is excused from jury duty without ever having to go to a court.

However, for jury duty in the courts of the state of Connecticut, the prospective juror is required to appear at court and is then excused after personally communicating his/her reasons. The procedure seems to differ somewhat from courthouse to courthouse within the state, but one should be prepared to spend at least half a day at the court.

In some courts, the excuses are accepted shortly after the jurors sign in, in the morning. However, in other courts excuses are not accepted until just before the lawyers are ready to start individual screening of the prospective jurors for a specific case. This may not occur until late in the morning, after having been shown several videos on how the system works and then sitting a while longer.
A Muslim must be prepared to explain why he/she cannot serve on a jury. Just to claim "religious reasons" may not be sufficient. He may have to explain to the judge why he cannot serve. The Muslim may wish to memorize some of the verses quoted above or take a copy of these verses with him. He may have to explain that, in Islamic law, quilt, innocence, payment of damages and other matters are determined by judge who has studied law for years, not by a lay person who lack the necessary knowledge. After that, dismissal is given without out any further delays.

This is an interim measure, Muslim organizations have the responsibility to work with the state legislature, to establish that Muslims should be exempt from participation in courts procedures that are against their believes. The task is not impossible but needs determined effort.

 

Published: October 1997

 

Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756