Understanding Sharia Law

Last year, at least 13 states including Texas, Indiana and Mississippi proposed to ban Sharia law or any international law from being considered by the U.S. judicial system. This year in Oklahoma, Tulsa Senator Dan Newberry’s bill that prohibited foreign laws from being used by the state courts was rejected.  However, it did not deter Newberry who plans to resubmit it in February. This action stems from fear and ignorance on the part of the policy makers who have no knowledge of Islamic beliefs and values. These kinds of anti-Muslim legislation are meant to outcast Muslims Americans while depicting them as “the other” in the eyes of non-Muslim communities.

This article will shed light on the basic aspects of Shari’ah, and how it affects the American society.

The word “Sharia” is derived from the Arabic word, Sha-ra-‘a, which means path or a way of life. The term originally was used to describe, ‘the path that leads to water,’ since water is a source of all life.  Hence, Sharia is the way to the source of life. The goal of Sharia is to have a just system, which will cater to people’s welfare and provide  them with guidelines to lead healthy lives in a peaceful society.

Sharia laws are derived from two sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah–the teachings of Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.). Shari’ah also comes from the Science of Fiqh which is the rulings of Islamic Scholars on modern day issues and situations within the context of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s teachings.

The first basic and significant categories in Sharia has five goals for the protection and maintenance of:

1. Life
2. The Mind
3. Religion
4. Ownership
5. Offspring

The subdivision of “Life” includes protection of human, animal and environmental life. It refers to the prohibition of killing, and provides guidelines on health and physical fitness, agriculture, and the importance to seek treatment for an illness.

The “Mind” consists of laws to maintain a healthy mind, free of stress and anxiety.  The right to pursue knowledge and free thinking. It is also mentioned that any product such as alcohol and drugs obscures judgment and threatens the stability of physical and mental health, and therefore is forbidden.

Thirdly, “Religion” stands for the freedom to practice religion both for Muslims and non-Muslims. It is stated that accepting Islam is a voluntary act and should not be imposed on another person.

The fourth category, “Ownership” explains the right to own land, money, and property and dictates the right way to earn money and forbids actions such as theft, fraud, cheating and usury.

Lastly, “Offspring” provide insights on Islamic marital laws, who to marry and whom not to marry. The concept of honor and the rights of a child to have and know both his parents are clarified in this subtopic.

Sharia does not threaten the West, and neither is its aim to spread violence and chaos in a society. It is implemented for the Muslim community to have a set of laws to be followed to lead a normal and healthy life. A majority of Muslims follow Sharia in one way or another whether they are following the practice of praying 5 times a day, to get married and/or to seek treatment.

These are basic, non-threatening actions performed under Sharia. Unfortunately, because of minimum or no knowledge of Sharia, legislators fear it and are proposing to outlaw it. Banning Sharia law will make life very difficult for the Muslim population and will hinder the practice of their faith. The simplest example is Islamic ceremonies will not be considered legal by the U.S. Constitution due to the ban.