Shariah 101: What is it and why do states want to ban it?

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Anti-Shariah demonstrators rally against a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

Anti-Shariah demonstrators rally against a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

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(RNS) Muslims around the world have varying views about what Shariah entails, and its role in personal and public life. So what exactly is Shariah? Here are five facts that might help make sense of this complex and often misunderstood term.

  • Max

    Your first point about the literal meaning of Shariah is very relevant to any discussion of the this topic. In traditional Islamic thought, “Shariah” really means the path one must take to salvation, or as you noted, the path to a water source in the middle of an arid desert. With that in mind, Fiqh is only a component of Shariah, meant to guide people along the path to salvation.

    It should also be noted that ‘aqida, roughly translated as “theology,” is usually considered part of Shariah. Just as Fiqh guides towards right action, theology guides towards right belief.

    Finally, I heard from a prominent ‘alim in Egypt that Tassawuf, or sufism/mysticism, was historically a part of Shariah. In his conception, Tassawuf might be the guide to right worship.

    This isn’t totally relevant to an American political discussion of Shariah, but I hope it helps illuminate one of the interpretations of the meaning of Shariah.

  • Leo

    American laws for American courts! If this does not satisfy any adherent to a religion, then, the person is free to find a country that suits the person. Which rules of a spiritual nature, fasting, attending services (but not on the streets blocking traffic), a person chooses is that person’s preference, and no one cares.

    I do not believe that accusation of adultery by a man and by a woman is treated the same in Islam.

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  • Marbran

    “For someone to be convicted of adultery, for example, there must be four witnesses to the act, which is rare.”

    Have you even read the history of Islam? You have this completely backwards, or you are purposely lying! One that is accused of adultery is guilty unless they (usually a woman) can produce witnesses to refute the charge. This is the same as with rape. A woman raped MUST provide four witnesses to the rape, or else the sex is automatically considered adultery/fornication.

    Go sell your taqqiyah somewhere else.

  • Tuki

    ((And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever, they indeed are the Fasiqoon (liars, rebellious, disobedient to Allâh). )) Quran verse 24:4

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  • Hi this was a very good articulate article until the point when you state . “Does Shariah really prescribe harsh punishments like stoning adulterers? Yes,”
    You lost me at this point. What needs to be clarified is that stoning was a punishment prescribed by pre Islamic communities. And stoning of Adulterers is not found in the Holy Quran. Sharia which can be defined as law can only come from Allah swt and no where else. So people before Islam practiced it and maybe some continued to practice it. This may explain why it is found in historical literature such as hadith(prophetic narrations). In order to resolve such misconception we all need to be presenting the truth in its purest form so it can be spread to misguided muslims and confused non muslims. “The Hukm(judge) is for none but Allah” (Yusuf 12:40