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);
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,
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.