Shariah Law

What is Sharia law?

Sharia is an Arabic word commonly translated as the "way" or "path to water."

Sharia law is the wide body of Islamic religious law. It deals with all aspects of daily life:

  • Family (e.g., marriage, divorce, inheritance)
  • Finance, banking, and contracts (e.g., forbidding the paying or charging of interest)
  • Social issues (e.g., dress, hygiene);
  • Religion

Sharia is based the Koran and the hadith (the record of the actions and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed), as well as ijma (consensus opinion of scholars) and qiyas (analogy, reasoning, precedent).

After the death of Mohammed, five schools of law developed, four out of the Sunni sect and one out of the Shi'ite sect. Even today, Sharia law is not the same in all Islamic societies, nor do all predominantly Muslim countries follow Sharia law. For example, Saudi Arabia and Iran follow Sharia law for all areas of jurisprudence; countries like Pakistan have largely secular laws, with some Islamic provisions in family law; and Turkey doesn't base its laws on the Koran.

Some principles in Sharia law are similar to laws in Western nations, such as the presumption of innocence, the prohibition of illegal drugs, the right to privacy, the right of women to own property in their own right. There are also punishments that Western nations consider contrary to human rights, such as capital punishment or flogging. Penalties for specific offences are not universally applied in Islamic nations.

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