Shariah law explained
Instructions, guidance can lead to righteous life
Aquestion occasionally comes up in conversations with Christian friends: “But what about the shariah law in Islam?” I suppose there are some who wonder about this or have, per chance, visited some websites imputing horrible inhumane teachings to Islam, but they are shy to ask. Therefore, in this column I will briefly discuss some of the allegations made vis-a-vis shariah on these sites.
The word shariah (pronounced, sha-ria) is an Arabic word which literally means “a straight path to a never-ending source of life-giving water.” As a religious terminology, it connotes a set of instructions and guidance, that when one adopts through volition, he leads to righteous life. Just as Torah is sometimes described as law or instructions for the believers, Quran is considered by Muslims as the source of religious instructions or law for attaining spiritual progress and communion with God.
The Quran uses this term in relation to Noah and other prophets saying, the path God has prescribed for Muslims as religion is the same as that he had enjoined through Noah and the prophets to the people before Prophet Muhammad (Quran 42:14).
Similarly, Allah says in the Quran, “For each of you, we have prescribed a shariah and a manifest way. If Allah had forced his will, he would have made you all one people, but he wishes to try you by that which he has given you. Vie, then, with one another in good works. To Allah shall you all return; then will he inform you of that wherein you differed” (5:49).
Thus, God clearly says that all these different paths are still pathways to reach him and that one should not worry about the differences — rather, we must all try to excel in goodness and leave the rest to God. This also emphasizes that freedom of religion is a hallmark of Islam.
So, what is the Islamic shariah that Quran promotes, and is there anything in it that should be an affront or danger to our American values? As mentioned before, shariah is a way of life that one adopts for oneself and is never imposed on others.
There are two major components of shariah, one relating to worship ( ibadat) and the other relating to dealings with fellow beings ( muamalat). The first one comprises of all the requirements of worship: the five articles of faith (belief in Allah, angels, revealed books, prophets, the Day of Judgement) and the five pillars of Islam (bearing witness for the absolute oneness of God, praying five times a day, fasting in Ramadhan, making Zakat charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.)
It is obvious these instructions are followed by Muslims no matter of what countries they are citizens, and there is no issue of imposition.
The second major component of the shariah involves personal etiquettes and conduct; family dealings; rights of others; crime and punishment; birth, marriage and death rites; inheritance, financial dealings and responsibilities; work and compensation; politics and governance; etc.
The Holy Quran — being a book of about 600 pages — provides the fundamentals and a few examples, and expects Muslims to apply them to deduce guidance in specific situations. Prophet Muhammad showed by example how to implement this process. His conduct, called Sunnah, provides a practical source of shariah. Many of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings also have been collected in the books of Hadith. The overarching
principle that Muslims follow in understanding shariah from Sunnah and Hadith is that these must be congruent with the clear teaching of the Quran, which verifies their authenticity.
It is alleged that shariah encourages Muslims to lie and not be loyal citizens to non-Muslim governments. However, one finds in the Holy Quran that lying is considered an abomination, next only to worshipping idols and associating partners with God. Allah says, “Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth” (22:31).
Describing the true believers, Allah says, “And those who bear not false witness, and when they pass by anything vain, they pass on with dignity” (25:73).
And again, “Truly righteous are those who fulfil
their promise when they have made one, … it is these who have proved truthful and it is these who are the God-fearing” (2:178).
Allah admonishes Muslims in chapter 6, verse 153, as, “And when you speak, observe justice — even if it be against a relative — and fulfill the covenant of Allah. That is what he enjoins upon you, that you may remember.”
On the subject of loyalty, the Prophet said, “Love of one’s country is part of faith.” The Quranic injunction that is commensurate with this teaching is, “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey his messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and his messenger” (4:60).
In matters of governance, Allah has instructed, “When you judge between men, you judge with justice” (4:59). In other words, just rulings
of worldly governments are all in consonance with the will of Allah and the Prophet and therefore must be obeyed.
It is alleged that blasphemy (including speaking against Allah, Islam, Quran and the Prophet) is punishable by death according to hariah. However, the Quranic shariah teaches Muslims, “When you hear the signs of Allah being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that” (4:141).
Muslims are admonished in the Quran to say, “Peace! (25:64),” before vacating — in a way responding to evil with goodness and offering an olive branch even to the most bigoted of enemies. Allah says that he alone will avenge blasphemy while Muslims must show extreme forbearance and self-control. Prophet Muhammad’s life is a testament to this conduct throughout his life.
It is also alleged that
shariah adjudges apostates to be liable for execution, whereas there is not even a single verse in the Holy Quran that says that or even hints as such.
It is thus observed that those who spread such vitriol against Islam adopt the ways of extremists — such as ISIS and Al-Qaida — by cherry-picking some verses or parts thereof from the Quran to peddle hatred among citizens of this great country.
On the other hand, among the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson paid attention to Islamic shariah as a resource before penning down the great Constitution for these United States of America.
Hameed Naseem is the president of the Tulsa chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He is also the faculty advisor of Al-Islam Students Association, a registered student organization at the University of Arkansas. Contact him at email@example.com.