Demystifying “Shariah”

· Sharia Law
Authors

Source / Courtesy: Washington Post

By Nasim Rehmatullah and Amjad Mahmood Khan

Shariah is a misunderstood and misused concept. Critics of Islam frequently employ terms like “creeping shariah” to stoke fear amongst the masses. The Park 51 controversy and the increasing media focus on Islam provide an opportunity to educate Americans about the true teachings and practices of Islam concerning shariah.

Shariah literally means “a path to life-giving water,” and refers to a defined path upon which all God-fearing people are advised to tread. It is grounded in the recognition of God’s existence. Shariah presupposes that there is a God. God reveals His desire of how man should shape his destiny, and God’s will is manifested in the form of certain laws or principles. These laws or principles constitute shariah.

Shariah is not unique to Islam. Every faith has its own form of shariah. In the United States, for example, our legal system already permits some narrow civil matters to be settled through alternative dispute resolution. Among such alternative mechanisms is the beit din, or rabbinical law courts. American Jews routinely go before beit din to arbitrate real estate deals, divorces and business disputes.

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2 Comments

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  1. Zia H. Shah

    Muslim Tradition is not equal to wife beating or child marriage like the Western civilization is not equal to torture in Abu Gharaib or alcoholism or Christian tradition or atheism equal to Spanish inquisitions or holocaust

    Any tradition that is followed by billions and have millions of apologists is bound to show some dirty laundry for one reason or another. Without going into specific reasons, why we all have dirty laundry, because we all sweat and are smelly mammals, let me just suggest that to understand a tradition, you want to immerse yourself in it at least temporarily, while you study it, so you can judge it in a holistic fashion as an insider rather than as an outside critic, who just frowns at what he or she finds ugly!

    One may not agree with individual details of what is written in the Holy Quran and it does not have to be forced on a society. It only gives a choice to the society. For example, I have never known any woman, including my mother, whom I respected and loved a lot, who would be fully happy with the permission of polygamy. However, this does not mean that polygamy is bad for those women who cannot find a suitable husband or for those children, who do not have a loving and responsible father. So, as legislative body examines the utility of any idea before approving its details, likewise, in a pluralistic society, a congress could discuss the merit of any idea, or lack thereof, whether it comes from the Quran, the Bible, the mind of a visionary or someone with a myopic vision. As long as we agree on the legislative process, there should be perfect peace and harmony!

    Each and every recommendation of Sharia, whether it is mentioned in the Holy Quran or not, should be judged on its utilitarian value and not lumped together to promote the monster of Islamophobia or a political agenda of grabbing power. If we lump every thing together, it is not a dialogue but merely political posturing!

  2. Zia H. Shah

    One should examine each and every teaching under the Sharia separately
    The year of 2011 saw an exceptional example, wherein USA government negotiated blood money for the murder committed by Raymond Davis. You could google his name for details. The point I want to make is that here was an example, where the West and the East happily took a leaf from the book of Sharia.

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