In a recent post I mentioned Sharia law. For those of you who would like to know what it is…good luck. No one seems to fully agree on (1) what it is, and (2) what its tenets are. This post cannot delve into deeper aspects of Sharia law but perhaps will help promote a better, but very basic, understanding of it.
The meaning of the word Sharia is “The path to the source of water.” The writings of the Qur’an make up part of Sharia law but they are not the same thing. The rest of Sharia is a collection of rules and regulations about justice, cleanliness, government, business, family relations, food (no pork or alcohol), sex, etc. Some of Sharia comes from the Sunnah, which is drawn from examples of the Prophet’s way of life. It is not codified or collected into one document or even a group of documents. Because of this, major disputes can arise about what constitutes Sharia.
Justin Elliott[i] of Salon interviewed Abed Awad, a New Jersey-based attorney and an expert on sharia who regularly handles cases that involve Islamic law. In response to Elliott’s question, “Can you define sharia — is it a specific body of laws?” Awad said:
“After the two primary sources of Islamic law, the Quran and the Sunna, the two main secondary sources of Islamic law are: (1) ijma (consensus of the scholars and jurists, and sometimes the entire community), and (2) qiyas (reasoning by analogy to one of the higher sources). Other secondary sources of Islamic law are juristic preference, public interest and custom. Sharia is extremely flexible and subject to various interpretations.”
Fatwas (legal decrees) supposedly arising from Sharia include beatings (of disobedient wives and others), stoning, cutting off hands, imposing taxes on infidels (or, death if they refuse), killing apostates, jihads, etc. In the more moderate and civilized (or Western ideas of it) regions harsh punishments are fairly rare. In truth, however, these penalties are subject to the whim of those in charge in various Muslim regions…hence the difficulty in determining exactly what Sharia is.
I will let the reader decide what he or she thinks about Sharia law. I think you can guess how I feel.