Islamic law

From ArticleWorld

Shari'a is the Arabic word for Islamic law. Islam does not differentiate between a secular and religious life. Therefore, Shari'a covers many aspects of everyday life, social issues, inheritance, financial treatments as well as the religious rituals.

The rules of Shari'a are divinely designed and timeless for all relevant situations. It also includes some laws that are based on principles established by Islamic scholars and judges "Mujtahidun". However, this does not mean that Islamic scholars are creating new Shari'a rules, but attempting to interpret the original divine principles.

For the Sunni Muslims, the primary sources of Shari'a are:

  • The Qur'an
  • The Sunnah and Hadith (sayings and directions of Prophet Muhammed)
  • The agreement upon Prophet Muhammad's disciples on a certain issue "ijma"
  • Analogy drawn from a divine principle "Qiyas" This is used by scholars to deal with situations where there are no concrete rules.
  • The consensus of people and public interest are also accepted as secondary sources if the first four primary sources allow.

The sources of law for the Shi'i Muslims include also the Qur'an and Hadith, but include other sources such as the anecdotes of the 12 Imams, and the intellect "aql"


The most important two sources of Shari'a are the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The Sunnah means the way that Prophet Muhammed lived his life, which is complied in the Hadith with his sayings and any actions he approved.

The "Qiyas" is a lesser source of authority, which is the analogy of existing Shari'a law to new situations. Finally, Shari'a law can be based on "ijma" or consensus. The role of the scholars is important as they are the ones who study the Islamic law and can represent it.

Shari'a law is comprehensive because Islam must provide all that is necessary for a person's spiritual and physical well-being.

Sections of Sharia law

The Sharia law is divided into two sections:

  • Worship or "al-ibadat":
  • Ritual Purification "Wudu"
  • Prayers "Salah"
  • Fasting "Sawm"
  • Charities "Zakat"
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca "Hajj"

Human dealings and relations:

  • Laws of inheritance
  • Marriage, divorce, and child care
  • Foods and drinks
  • Penal punishments
  • Endowments
  • Warfare and peace
  • Judicial matters, such as forms of evidence and witnesses

Practice of Sharia Law

There is tremendous variance in the interpretation and implementation of Islamic law in Muslim societies today. Some liberal movements in the Muslim worlds started questioning the applicability of Shari'a. Several Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia have secular laws and constitutions, with a few Islamic provisions in family law. Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East have a legal system of both secular and religious courts. The religious courts handle mainly marriage and inheritance cases.

On the other hand, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have religious courts for all matters and aspects of jurisprudence. Though the punishments of certain crimes in the Shari'a are considered severe as they include death for murder and stoning for adultery, there are strict rules that must be followed for these punishments to actually take place. For example, only if the person who committed the adultery confessed or the testimony of four male witnesses testifying seeing the sexual intercourse, the punishment under Shari'a law take place. Many Western views regard the Shari'a punishments as cruel and harsh, but Islamic scholars believe that if the Shari'a law is implemented properly, the punishments will serve as a deterrent to crime.