The next time a Florida Highway Patrol trooper pulls you over for speeding, try this argument:
“Officer, I’m sorry but God does not want me to comply with traffic laws. He considers it an insult. My life is in his hands and if I’m to die in a traffic accident, it is his will.”
Well, we had a story on the front page of the English-language newspaper recently with this headline: “Mufti says ignoring traffic law is sinful.”
The Grand Mufti of Dubai – the top Muslim cleric in the largest city in the United Arab Emirates – felt compelled to point out that breaking traffic laws violates Islamic law.
"Islam impels every road user to comply with traffic rules … it is a sin not to," said Dr Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Grand Mufti and head of the fatwa department at the Dubai Fatwa Centre.
(A fatwa is a legal ruling issued by an Islamic scholar. A mufti is “an issuer of fatwas.”)
The mufti was restating a ruling he issued in a 2009 fatwa because so many Emiratis get killed in traffic accidents, primarily because they drive recklessly and far too fast. As you probably know, most Emiratis are very rich and drive very expensive – and powerful – vehicles. The roads here are flat and straight and I imagine it’s quite tempting to press the accelerator to the floor and see how fast that Escalade, Mercedes, Lexus or BMW will go.
Authorities have tried to reduce the road kill, but trust in Allah has been a complicating factor. It seems that many Muslim drivers believe that Allah and only Allah will determine when a person will die. So, as you can see, speed limits are irrelevant and apparently offensive to Allah.
The mufti, however, disagrees. This is from the local newspaper story: The mufti said the idea that a seat belt is makrooh, or discouraged by Islam, because safety is in God's hand is "completely wrong.”
Here’s another fascinating tidbit from the story. A 2008 survey of traffic police in one UAE town found that "92 per cent believed that the most likely causal factor for motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths was destiny. Seventeen per cent attributed crashes to the evil eye and 15 per cent to djinn, or supernatural creatures.”
You might want to try those explanations on the FHP trooper if you’ve rammed into someone on I-95. “Officer, I couldn’t help it. That person was giving me the evil eye…or it might have been that supernatural creature that jumped in front of my car.”
Of course, make sure you haven’t been consuming alcohol or drugs when you make those arguments.
I don’t get the impression that the mufti or the cops are making much of an impression on our extremely devout and extremely reckless drivers here. Massive SUVs with dark-tinted windows roar past me on Sheik Zayed Road all the time. I guess I should take their license plate numbers and send them to the mufti.
Then he could share this piece of wisdom with the driver.
Again, from the local story: The mufti recited the story of a man who asked the Prophet Mohammed if he should tie up his camel and trust in Allah, or keep it loose and trust in Allah.
The Prophet replied, "You tie it up -- and put your trust in Allah."
A former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post, Tom O'Hara is a senior editor with The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi and a Middle East columnist for Florida Voices.
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