What is Shariah?

Oct 31

Question – What is Shariah?

Shariah is an Arabic word meaning “a road to the watering place.” In a religious context, it means “the righteous path.” Shariah consists of broad principles, which are derived from the Quran and the traditions (teachings, sayings, actions, approvals and┬ádisapproval) of Muhammad during the 23 years of his prophethood (610 to 632 CE).

The Islamic legal scholar al-Shatibi (died 1388 CE) provided a treatise on the objectives of Shariah. He went on to assert that Islamic law must adhere to the following goals of Shariah (known in Arabic as Maqasid AI-Shariah):

  • The right to the protection of life.
  • The right to the protection of family.
  • The right to the protection of education.
  • The right to the protection of religion.
  • The right to the protection of property (access to resources).
  • The right to the protection of human dignity.
Shariah is not the totality of Islamic Law. Shariah can be viewed as the Philosophy to Islamic Law. Shariah is to Muslims what Cannon Law is to Christians and Judaic Law is to Jews.
Islamic Law is akin to a system of common law. Islamic Law, which is akin to a system of common law, is found in the books of Fiqh. Fiqh is often translated as Islamic jurisprudence and it consists of a jurist’s interpretation of Shariah. Fiqh deals with both religious rituals and social┬álegislation.

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