Mubarak’s ouster became for some Islamists a vow to never again suffer such oppression. Egypt’s first democratic election ushered in an Islamist-driven government, led by Morsi, who ascended to power through the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s best-organized group.
But even members of the Brotherhood, along with conservative Salafists, cannot agree on what a sufficiently Islamic constitution looks like. And some hope to amend the constitution as soon as it is ratified to make it more in concert with Shariah.
Shariah first appears in the constitution’s second article, just as it did in the 1971 constitution, the last document to govern the state. It states that “the principles of Shariah” are the main source of legislation. But Salafists wanted stricter language.
Despite that, Salafists and other conservative Islamists supported the referendum, saying they hope that when Parliament is elected two months after the constitution passes it will amend the document, which the constitution allows.
“It doesn’t meet our aspirations. We want clear wording in Article Two that replaces the word ‘principles’ with ‘rules,’” said Bassam al-Zarqa, secretary of the Islamist Al Nour party, a member of the constitutional assembly and one of Morsi’s 17-member advisory team.
The other two references attempt to spell out who defines Shariah but make no specific mention of the courts. Article Four states that Al Azhar must be consulted on such matters; Article 219 defines Shariah to include “general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community.”
The first round of the referendum took place Dec. 15 across 10 governorates. The balloting reflected how divided the nation is over the charter, garnering 56.5 percent of the vote. Egypt’s remaining 17 governorates will vote Saturday.
Supporters of the proposed constitution said the document is clear and based on consultations with legal scholars. Rather than creating ambiguity, they say, the constitution makes clear the importance of Shariah in the post-Mubarak Egypt.
“The reading is not left for any personal interpretation or whims,” Amr Darrag, secretary general of the constitutional assembly and a leader in the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing. “It is accepted by Salafis, liberals, seculars and leftists. They all agree on it so far.”
The debate is not about Shariah, Darrag said, but about political opponents who oppose Morsi.
Of the Quran’s 6,236 verses, 200 deal with legislative issues, experts said. And there is no specific demand that constitutions abide by the Quran. Rather the Quran calls for all aspects of life to be in accordance with Islam, including legislation. But how this is interpreted has evolved.
“The first time religion was used in politics, it corrupted matters,” Mhanna said. “That is what’s happening now. This is strife for the nation and that will lead to serious problems later on.”