Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Muammar Qaddafi on Natural Law

MUAMMAR AL-QADDAFI is the now-threatened, quixotic, controversial, tent-living, flamboyant (at least in dress), even eccentric leader of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.* He is of course now rather brutally fighting for his political life against a people that seem to have had enough of him. Born into a Bedouin family, the young Qaddafi admired the socialist and nationalist ideology of the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a young man in the Libyan army, Qaddafi conspired to participate in a coup d'état against the reigning King Idris, which was successfully accomplished on September 1, 1969. The monarchy was thereby abolished and the Libyan Arab Republic was born. Virulently anti-Western in view, Qaddafi began by ordering the expulsion of the Italian population in 1970. He soon developed and imposed an amalgam of Arab nationalism, socialism, and democracy which he called "Islamic socialism." Between 1975 and 1979, Qaddafi published the three slim volumes of his Green Book, a book which like Mao's Little Red Book was intended to outline his political philosophy and the ideals behind the Islamic socialist state he envisioned for Libya. It is required reading for all Libyans.

Qaddafi reading his Green Book

Muammar Qaddafi may be wrong about a lot of things, but he is certainly wrong about the natural law. As is typical of those who have been indoctrinated with the extreme positivism of Islam, where a revealed and positive law is the will of Allah, the Shari'a (شريعة), and where human reason or human nature (that is natural law) is not seen as having any normative role, Muammar Qaddafi has a shallow jurisprudential philosophy, and certainly no adequate understanding of the concept of natural law. Although he does not discuss the natural law in depth in his Green Book, his Al-Kitab al-Akhdar (الكتاب الأخضر), he says enough to display a rather marked ignorance of the principles of natural law philosophy.

In his Green Book, Qaddafi devotes a section to the law of society, the shari'a al-mujtama'a (شريعة المجتمع). He rejects the notion of a purely human law, of a human positive law, particularly one derived from constitutional or democratic-representative processes, one that seeks to impose itself upon a society. In his view, the law of society precedes the positive law of any assembly, and it is a natural law. To view the law of society as fundamentally based upon the natural law seems to be a step in the right direction. However, Qaddafi quickly takes a wrong step. It is as if he stepped to the right only to step into some camel excrement. The natural law (الشريعة الطبيعية, ash-shari'a at-tabi'ia), Qaddafi insists, is grounded in custom and in religion, in al-'urf and al-din.

الشريعة الطبيعية لأي مجتمع هي العرف أو الدين

Not to discount the role that, in practice, custom and religion have in the governance of a people, but that custom and religion are the foundation of natural law is false. Before custom (al-'urf), and before revealed religion (al-din), and before even the vaunted ash-shari'a and the supposed revelation to Muhammad of the uncreated Qur'an, the natural law existed and will always exist, for it is part of the eternal law as it applies to man. The natural law as it pertains to man was created with Adam, for Adam from the first instance of his creation participated in the eternal law. The natural law is, in fact, a standard by which custom (al-'urf), religion (al-din), and the positive divine law sharia (ash-shari'a) can be judged.

Though this will certain raise the ire of the Muslim who puts a premium on divine positive law and does not see natural law as having any constitutive role in morality or law, it is a fundamental and non-negotiable part of the natural law that it is based upon reality, which is to say the order of creation planned by God himself. And to the extent any purported revealed law were to contradict it, the revealed law can be proved false, and therefore not revealed at all. This testing of the allegedly revealed law of the Muslims with natural law was the standard approach that Christian evangelists, controversialists, and apologists (e.g., Blessed Raymond Lull) used to argue against the legitimacy of Islam and the message of Muhammad. If some of the tenets of the shari'a contradict the natural law (and they do, a matter I hope one day to address in this blog), then the shari'a is wrong and the entirety of the alleged revelation, or at least that part, must be questioned.

Faith and reason do not and cannot contradict each other. This is a valid principle for both speculative reason and for practical reason. Accordingly, divine positive law and natural law cannot contradict each other. For God is the author of the natural law and any law that He has in fact revealed, and every effort must be made to obey the two, giving none precedence over the other and none short shrift. The claims of an allegedly revealed law can be tested against the natural law, which is unrevealed law that has the same legislator.

We cannot know through reason whether law is revealed: it is the subject of Faith. We can know, however, whether that law is reasonable, and, if reasonable, it can be accepted without offense to reason and without offense to our fundamental nature. Though we cannot use reason to confirm the validity of revealed law, that does not mean reason cannot be used to test the opposite. Reason may not have a positive or affirmative role, but it certainly can play a negative role. We can know through reason whether a law is not revealed, namely if that law contradicts the natural moral law a law that is accessible to right-ordered reason.

Faith and morals must be reasonable. God expects only reasonable worship, rationabile obsequium, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν (Cf. Rom. 12:1), worship consonant with the natural law, not some sort of Tertullian or Islamic credo quia absurdum, or worship whose cult demands infringement of the law that governs the cosmos and which is writ by the divine legislator in our heart. Therefore, a religion that, in its inception, taught the liciety of murder of one's brother in unjust war (merely because he is non-Muslim), allowed the slavery and sexual violation of a non-believers and slaves, endorsed the beating of one's wife, allowed for contraception and polygamy, is not one consonant with the natural moral law. The indicia of validity is therefore absent from it. It is, in these particulars in any event, false. And falsus in unus, falsus in omnibus.

The error in Qaddafi's Green Book with regard to the natural law and its relationship to society, to religion, to custom, and to the life of a people, whether they be Libyan or whether they be anything else, should make it an unfitting guide. But the error with respect to the natural law is but one of the imbecilities contained in that book.** Whether it is because of his observations on women and men, daycare, education, women's menses, wages, or freedom of expression, the people of Libya are showing great wisdom in rebelling against their leader, for he is both a tyrant and a fool. And his Green Book merits being burned and ending up in the trash heaps of bad literature and foolish wisdom, if for no other reason because it gets the natural law wrong. And it is a great evil, as it is great folly, to lead any people away from the natural law under any name, whether it be Freedom or whether it be Allah.

The Green Book Consigned to Flames
*Jamahiriya means "mass state" or "government by the masses."
**Those who are interested in more gems of absurdity in Colonel Qaddafi's Green Book can see the article by Andrew Roberts, "The Top 10 Quotes from Gaddafi's Green Book."

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