Founded in 2003, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) is a religious organization that issues fatwas (religious edicts) designed to “clarify the rulings of the sharia,” so that Muslims in the U.S. can properly abide by the mandates of Islamic law in all matters related to their daily lives—e.g., interpersonal relations, employment, finances, marriage, sexuality, personal attire, and much more. Widely accepted as a legitimate voice of authority by the mainstream American Muslim community, AMJA is staffed by more than 50 scholars and experts who hold influential positions in universities, Islamic centers, and mosques throughout the United States. Under AMJA’s aegis, these individuals also play a role in training American imams to perform such services as family counseling and arbitration.
AMJA views all non-sharia legal systems—including America’s—as the illegitimate, deeply flawed creations of infidels. However, while asserting that it is “incumbent upon all Muslims to resort to Islamic law for arbitration” in legal matters, AMJA does permit believers “to resort to a man-made judiciary system in a land that is not ruled by Islamic law” if no sharia-based alternative is available to them. Further, the organization states that Muslims may study, teach, or practice law in non-sharia systems if they wish, but only “for the purpose of realizing the superiority of the Islamic laws” or “defend[ing] … oppressed people.” Similarly, it is permissible for Muslims to serve on juries, but only with “the stipulation that their opinions be in compliance with Islamic law.” By AMJA’s reckoning, such Islamic engagement in the American legal system, though distasteful, can be rationalized because “it is among the worst sins to leave the affairs of Muslims entirely in the hands of their enemies.”
According to AMJA, Muslims for the most part are prohibited from becoming judges “under an authority that does not rule by Islamic law”—except for the purpose of “alleviat[ing] a great harm that is threatening the main body of Muslims.” But in such cases, a Muslim “should maintain displeasure in his heart to the man-made laws.” Further, he should “choos[e] a branch of practice as close in specialty as possible to the rules and regulations of Islamic law”; “judge between people according to Islamic law as much as [he] can”; and do everything within his power to advance the principles of sharia, even if that requires him to engage in deception.Explicitly condemning “acts of explosions, sabotage, and violence” as unjustifiable, AMJA maintains that terrorism “is not exclusive to any religion or culture.” Indeed, AMJA denounces “the association of violence with Islam—the religion of love, peace and mercy—and the labeling of Muslims as violent and extremists.” But in AMJA’s calculus, the mere act of criticizing Islam can be enough to ignite the fuse of terrorism, as evidenced by the organization’s assertion that “the primary causes for the recent emergence of extremism in some Muslim societies” include: (a) “prejudice and hostility practiced by secularists and agnostics … which is reflected in their ridiculing, mocking, and belittling of the religion”; and (b) “the bias, unfair handling, and the maximum exploitation of the phenomenon of terrorism by the media.” In addition, AMJA asserts that terrorism can stem from such factors as “ignorance, social injustices, lack of basic services such as education and medical care, unemployment, low per capita income, and a weak economy.”
In June 2010 AMJA issued a fatwa stating that it “would not be permissible” for Muslims to give food or aid to American and foreign soldiers stationed in Muslim lands, “for that would be helping others in sin and transgression.”
Other noteworthy AMJA rulings have explicitly endorsed the killing of apostates, blasphemers, and adulterers, and have condoned such practices as marital rape and female genital mutilation.On the question of whether it would be either prudent or permissible for Muslims to wage “offensive jihad” in the West, AMJA’s stance suggests that such a course of action could be deemed legitimate under the right circumstances: “The Islamic community does not possess the strength to engage in offensive jihad at this time. With our current capabilities, we are aspiring toward defensive jihad, and to improve our position with regards to jurisprudence at this stage. But there is a different discussion for each situation.”AMJA declares that it is “definitely prohibited” for Muslims to become citizens of non-Muslim countries, adding that to do so could even be considered “a form of apostasy.” But exceptions can be made, says AMJA, if those individuals “do not accept indefinitely the law and legislation of that country”; if they pursue such citizenship as a means by which “to organize the affairs of Muslims who already live there”; or if they refuse to automatically “become loyal to all th[e] allies” of that country. In a separate ruling, AMJA forbids American Muslims to work for the FBI or U.S. security services because of the ostensible harm those institutions can cause to Muslims.
For additional information on AMJA, click here.