Islamic Law in Western Nations

· ISLAM, Law and Religion, Sharia, Sharia Law

Source / Courtesy: Muslim Sunrise

By Azhar Ahmed Hussain: a Juris Doctor candidate at Hofstra University School of Law.

Prof John Makdisi has traced the Islamic Origins of the Common Law

Islamic law and western countries have a unique relationship that spans nearly 900 years, a relationship that, due to misconception and manufactured hysteria, is undergoing an era of tension.  Many of Islam’s most fervent opponents often point to perceived dangers of Islamic law creeping into the American legal system. News pundits, bloggers, and electoral candidates use the concept Islamic law as the epitome of anti-Americanism and indict it
as a threat to western culture.  Critics look to the Muslim Arbitration Tribunals in England as the start non-secular, Islamic law replacing Western legal systems.  Consequently, The Idea of Islamic law in the United States has
become so feared that eight states have proposed laws that will ban Islamic law entirely.  These efforts are ironic because the Islamic legal system was the inspiration for the Common Law system, a system that is effectuated in the
United States, United Kingdom, and her Commonwealth Nations.  Some of the verses of the Qur’an provide the background for many of the features found in the modern courtroom.

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  1. Zia H. Shah

    Prof John Makdisi traces the Islamic Origins of the Common Law

    Professor John A. Makdisi concludes in his article in North Carolina Law Review, in June 1999:

    The Islamic legal system was far superior to the primitive legal system of England before the birth of the common law. It was natural for the more primitive system to look to the more sophisticated one as it developed three institutions that played a major role in creating the common law. The action of debt, the assize of novel disseisin, and trial by jury introduced mechanisms for a more rational, sophisticated legal process that existed only in Islamic law at that time. Furthermore, the study of the characteristics of the function and structure of Islamic law demonstrates its remarkable kinship with the common law in contrast to the civil law. Finally, one cannot forget the opportunity for the transplant of these mechanisms from Islam through Sicily to Norman England in the twelfth century.


    Islamic legal system except the laws governing laws of witness in criminal cases are outdated. Arabian society at the time of the advent of Islam was a nomad one. It had to have swift and hard justice system for modern day style jails could not be carried on the backs of camels to move with the caravan. Only five pillars are the unalterable, most else can be adjusted in accordance with pressures of social-economic evolution with mutual consent. After all we have found a way around absolute prohibition of interest and now allowed it in case of real estate and wherever it helps monetary growth. In its stead Purdah has taken a central place while God declared war against those who pay or receive interest. Allah clearly stated that it is His plan to establish Zakat and abolish Interest but we hardly even think of paying Zakat under the excuse that we already pay more in form of Chanda but chanda is not regulated in its collection and use by a Divine injunction, ZAKAT is, So it’s a matter of need and perception which can cause a change in Laws specific to a specific time. Only Oneness of God, Belief in His Messenger, His worship, payment of Zakat (right of the poor in our wealth) and belief in the unseen is unalterable.

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