Daniel Anderson at the Lawyers’ Secular Society draws on Kant for thoughts on the Law Society’s Sharia guidance. In his essay on enlightenment, Kant wrote that enlightenment is having the courage to use your own understanding, instead of being so cowardly and lazy that you leave it to others to understand for you.
Kant goes on to further state that the failure to think for ourselves, as human beings, will lead to the rights of fellow human beings to be trampled upon.
The failure to think for ourselves will lead us to distrust others and so hand over complete control to a select few:
The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision will soon see to it that by far the largest part of mankind (including the entire fair sex) should consider the step forward to maturity not only as difficult but also as highly dangerous.
The entire fair sex? That means women. We (women) are considered peculiarly incapable of thinking and understanding for ourselves. Sam Harris’s recent foray into explaining how women think made it clear – not for the first time – that even putatively enlightened people think that about women. Harris thinks and writes that our estrogen vibe makes us uncomfortable with the activity of criticizing bad ideas.
Turning back to the 21st century, does the Law Society’s Sharia Succession Rules Practice Note enable us all, as human beings, to think for ourselves? It is submitted that it emphatically does not. In the Practice Note is extremely detailed prescriptive guidance on how the estate of a deceased person must be divided. We all should be familiar by now as to what this detailed prescriptive guidance is. Nevertheless, it is worth reiterating again what is actually in the Practice Note (at section 3.6):
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”
“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.”
This highly detailed prescriptive guidance wouldn’t look out of place coming from a fundamentalist Wahhabi school. And yet the Law Society has simply accepted such guidance uncritically without any apparent thoughts of its own.
And that’s laziness and cowardice.
The Law Society, by unequivocally adopting and endorsing Sharia, is showing the exact laziness and cowardice that Kant warns against. Furthermore, by stating that solicitors should follow the Practice Note the Law Society is actually asking the profession to follow in its laziness and cowardice.
It is easier to let others do the understanding for you, but “easier” is seldom the best quality.