Islam’s Shari'a Law
Our world is not just made up of different nations with different governments. There are also many religions that have their own ideology and scriptures that they teach to their followers. One of these religions that cover billions of followers is Islam. Many Muslims are devoted to their religion to which they are also guided by the law that makes Islam a very significant religion among others. This is law is called the Shari'a Law. Muslim people strictly follow what is written in the Holy Qur’an in their everyday life. Thus, some other people may think of the difference of Shari'a Law and the Holy Qur’an in terms of their context. In this writing, we will discuss many aspects of the Shari'a Law that affect the lifestyle, character, values, and even the overall beliefs of our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world.
Basically, in a Christian country, Shari'a Law is like their constitution and Qur’an is like their Holy Bible. Still, there are many similarities and difference between these factors, but one substantial thing is evident. My argument in this paper states that Islam’s Shari'a is the religious law and moral code of the Muslim people that influence major areas such as politics, diet, hygiene, sexual intercourse, fasting, and even the everyday etiquette.
Qur’an serves as the religious guidance of our Muslim brothers and sisters about how they should live their lives based on this holy book. However, its compilation did not contain a wide-range legal code that Islam should follow. Thus, it does not provide any direct answers to many problems, which are fundamental to a systematized society such as the Muslim society. The University of Pennsylvania published an article about the evolution of Shari'a. It says that during the time of Muhammad, the Prophet, the legal restrictions of Qur’an were pre-Islamic custom that provided moral legitimacy and Islamic sensibility (University of Pennsylvania 1). The custom that was represented during this period is more of a tribal aspect, which explains why this Islamic law is customary.
There are only about eighty verses in Qur’an that serve as legal pronouncements. However, these verses do not provide significant enrichment of the existing tribal rules regarding different criminal offenses, divorce and polygamy, and even the women’s standing that was improved in many aspects such as their inheritance rights. In general, these tribal influences persisted, but were changed and become more Islamic.
The first Muslims established an order of succession after Muhammad’s death in 632. This was created during the Medina period to which the first three successors of Muhammad were Abu Bakr and then followed by ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. The latter remained on the seat of the highest authority in Medina (University of Pennsylvania 1). Followed by the Medina time is the Umayyad period, which the Islamic law was organized. The Umayyad dynasty was created under the authority of Mu’awiya and provided a great change in Islamic society fundamentally. He created an integrated common sense as well as flexibility among his people, while keeping the core principles of Islam. Later on, there were collective rules that were being practiced along with the Medinans’ rules such as not allowing women to decide for her own marriage, but her male guardian such as her father, brother, and uncle could only give her hand for marriage purpose.
The latter dynasty infused customary law along with Qur’an’s spirit to give the law a patina based on Qur’an, thereby making the Islamic law to be legitimate. As a result, there was a great variety of legal practice within the Umayyad dynasty to which the religious specificity became only a secondary. On the latter periods, schools focusing on Islam were established to which the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an and the Islamic law were further studied and extended. In our modern time, Shari'a Law is still very significant among the Muslim society, which influences many aspects of their lives, especially when it comes to sensitive matters that will affect their religious belief based on the verses of Qur’an.
Significance of Shari'a Law
Muslims have a great belief that Shari'a is the Law of God (Sharia 1). However, Traditionalists, fundamentalists, and modernists have different interpretations and views of Shari'a. That is because, different schools teach different ideology when it comes to it real context. However, Shari'a’s significance is widely spread among our Muslim brothers and sisters that it guides them through their way of living. In fact, Shari'a has been defined as a law that represents diverse, long, and complicated traditions of Islam instead of just viewing it as a set of rules and regulations, which can be applied to different life situations. Therefore, it is more than just written guidelines as it also follows the traditionally accepted behaviors of Muslim people. Relatively, just like other traditions that have been in practice for many years, Shari'a is also under the same perception and belief that it must be followed continuously.
Moreover, traditional perspectives are evident among Muslim people in relation to their interpretation of Shari'a. There are two major sects of Islam along with many others such as the Sunni and Shi’a. Generally, most Muslims see themselves as be appropriate to either Shi’a or Sunni sect. Both of these two sects have extended the Qur’an’s basic codes. Shi’a extended it with fiqh to which they reject the analogy in some aspects. The Shi’a Muslims also believe that Islam has been designed to meet the current culture and innovation even from the very first period of its existence (Sharia 3). That is why; many Muslims under Shi’a sect still have a deep devotion the Islam as they do not see any reason for them to change their belief due to the way Islam was created.
On the other hand, Sunni Muslims also have an extended interpretation. For instance, they added Muhammad’s consensus with his companions and Islamic jurists. This is the consensus of the public interest, community, and other factors that were used to support the Shari'a. In this case, these two Islam sects use the same context of Qur’an, but added more based on their interpretations in relation to following the rules of mentioned in Shari'a. As a result, not all Muslims have the same exact ideology as there are different sects that influence their belief. Therefore different values and characteristics also come up among the Islam society.
Shari'a Law has many principles that needs to be followed Muslims. It has certain laws that are viewed as divinely designed (Saint Group 1). It encompasses rules that are timeless and concrete, which are suited for all relevant circumstances. For an instance, Muslims need to follow a rule that prohibits alcohol drinking as it is an intoxicant to the human body. Additionally, some of the rules were extracted based on the principles that were created by Islamic judges and lawyers or otherwise known as the Mujtahadun. As presented by Islamic lawmakers of Islam, it is believed that Shari'a is purely a human approximation of the true Shari'a (Saint Group 1). There is a deep acceptance within the Muslims that Shari'a must give all that are needed for a person’s physical and spiritual well-being. As a result, their religious faith and actions coincide with each other as it is believed that Shari'a law-based lifestyle is the correct path for all human being. In relation, most of the Muslim actions are divided into five categorical principles such as obligatory, permissible, meritorious, reprehensible, and forbidden.
Such principles go along with various Islamic obligations that are significant to their faith. These obligations are set to be the Islam’s five pillars. These are (1) The testimony of Faith, (2) The Ritual Prayer, (3) Obligatory almsgiving, (4) Fasting, and (5) The Pilgrimage to Mecca (Saint Group 1). These five pillars majorly affect the overall lifestyle of the Muslims, which is founded by primary belief that no one is worthy of worship except Allah and then the rest of the pillars are followed.
In relation to the five pillars, the Shari'a Law has two sections, the worship act and the human interaction. The first section encompasses prayers, ritual purification, charities, fasts, and the Mecca pilgrimage. Therefore it is evident that this first section is definitely the five pillars of Islam. Conversely, the second section of Shari'a law is more focused on the events that Muslim people may encounter in their daily life such as financial transactions, inheritance laws, endowments, foods and drinks related issues including hunting and slaughtering, marriage and divorce, penal punishments, all judicial matters, and the issue of warfare and peace.
The Shari'a law has a vast coverage that influences the Muslim people. The rules are clear and must be followed accordingly as these are all related to both Qur’an’s verses and the tribal beliefs that were combined to form an Islamic law. We can witness that the Islamic way of living portrays a deep faith to the religion. Thus, every action is based on the laws stated in both the Qur’an and the Shari'a law.
It is believed that Muslims must always adhere what is written in the Islamic law. The influence of Islam is viewed as a complete message as well as a complete way of life (ISCA para. 2). In relation, the Shari'a law includes various rules pertaining to principles and disciplines, which govern Muslim behavior towards him, neighbors, family, city, nation, community, and the Muslim society in general. It is also believed that Shari'a represents standards by which social actions are categorized, administered, and classified within the state governance.
Not only that the Islamic law provides rules and regulation in an Islamic principle, but it also embraces a comprehensive outlook on every Muslim’s life. If a person will down from a night sky, Shari'a conceives that our planet is a city that has a diverse inhabitants. Therefore, in a modern manner of speaking, earth is a global village through the eyes of Shari'a. Thus, on top of Shari'a is the path to Allah to which no one can go through this path without embracing the principle of Shari'a. Therefore, it is also defined as “a well-trodden path to water” (ISCA para. 7). Thus, it is a representation of a path to Allah, as provided by Allah, the Creator of all life (ISCA para. 7).
We can imagine how influential the Shari'a is to the Muslim people especially in the Middle Eastern countries that have Islam as their major religion. In these nations, the Islamic beliefs, traditions, cultures, and traits are evident in the people’s way of living. Thus, their lifestyle is still subject to what is taught from Qur’an while upholding the rules based on Shari'a law.
On the other hand, there were various reports pertaining to some negative impacts of the Shari'a law. We present some ideologies that some people perceive towards the Islamic law to provide a balanced analogy of Islam. For non-Muslims, their perception of Shari'a law is one of the driving forces that led to some negative views about Islam. One distinct event is the World Trade Center attack in 2001. This event was said to be in compliance to the jihad doctrine, which can be found in Shari'a law (Warner 2).
For some people, it was a political action that was motivated by Islamic mandate regarding endless jihad. To show the extent of Shari'a influence in the United States, many banking systems in the country are becoming more Islamicized in accordance with Shari'a financing to which the overall banking system is turning to be more compliant with Shari'a. The Islamic law is so wide spread in the country that even hospitals and universities must have Shari'a-compliant systems. These are just few of the many aspects of the Muslims’ life that are influenced by Shari'a law, not only in the United States, but in many countries around the world.
Islam is a very sacred religion. It is composed of various ideologies and principles that made the context significant among our Muslim brothers and sisters. In the presence of various negative impressions about Islam and Shari'a law in particular, one, whether or not a Muslim person must have a deeper understanding of Islamic principle to avoid misinterpretation of the true “Islam”. However, one thing is definite and cannot be parted from Islam religion, and that is the faith, actions, belief, and characteristics of the Muslim people that are based on the rules of law express in the code of Shari'a. Thus it serves as the guiding principle as to how a Muslim can reach the right path to Allah.
Saint Group, PSO Language and Culture. "Islamic Law Sharia and Fiqh." saint-claire.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://goo.gl/CTaWCY>.
Saylor. "Sharia." saylor.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST351-2.3.2-Sharia.pdf>.
The Islamic Supreme Council of America. "Understanding Islamic Law." ISCA. The Islamic Supreme Council of America, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/understanding-islam/legal-rulings/52-understanding-islamic-law.html>.
Warner, Bill. Sharia Law for the Non-Muslim. Nashville: Centre for the Study of Political Islam, 2010. Print.