Monday, August 23, 2010
What Is Sharia Law?
Sharia (شريعة Šarīʿa; [ʃaˈriːʕa], "way" or "path") is the sacred law of Islam. All Muslims believe Sharia is God's law, but they have differences among themselves as to exactly what it entails. Modernists, traditionalists and fundamentalists all hold different views of Sharia, as do adherents to different schools of Islamic thought and scholarship. Different countries and cultures have varying interpretations of Sharia as well.
Muslims believe all Sharia is derived from two primary sources, the divine revelations set forth in the Qur'an, and the sayings and example set by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh, or "jurisprudence," interprets and extends the application of Sharia to questions not directly addressed in the primary sources, by including secondary sources. These secondary sources usually include the consensus of the religious scholars embodied in ijma, and analogy from the Qur'an and Sunnah through qiyas. Shia jurists replace qiyas analogy with 'aql, or "reason". Where it enjoys official status, Sharia is applied by Islamic judges, or qadis. The imam has varying responsibilities depending on the interpretation of Sharia. While the term is commonly used to refer to the leader of communal prayers, the imam may also be a scholar, religious leader or political leader. Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexuality, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting.
Introduction (or reintroduction) of Sharia is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements in Muslim countries. Some Muslim minorities in Asia (e.g. India) have attained institutional recognition of Sharia to adjudicate their personal and community affairs. In Western countries, where Muslim immigration is more recent, Muslim minorities have introduced Sharia family law, for use in their own disputes, with varying degrees of success (e.g. Britain's Muslim Arbitration Tribunal). Attempts to impose Sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare (cf. Second Sudanese Civil War) .