Debate about Sharia and Democracy – A Western Misconception

Source: Qantara

Sharia is a collection of norms that can be interpreted in many ways – either for or against democracy. Islamist parties are not per se opposed to democracy, writes the renowned scholar of Islam, Mathias Rohe in his commentary



How terrible would it be if, in future, Libyan laws that contradict Sharia were to be deemed invalid? In almost all constitutions in place in the nations of the Muslim Arab world, Sharia is considered a yardstick by which to measure laws. And indeed, in Libya itself, family law and the law of inheritance have long been based on Sharia principles. So, what exactly is Sharia?

In the Western debate of the issue, and also in the view of some Muslims, Sharia is predominantly seen as being in absolute contradiction to the democratic rule of law. But that is probably less than half the truth. In a broader way of looking at the issue ‒ one shared by many Muslims ‒ Sharia includes the entire, highly complex and flexible system of Muslim religious and legal norms and their interpretation.

Not set in stone

Mathias Rohe is a professor for civil law and international private law It includes religious ritual rules such as those for prayer and fasting, as well as legal standards. Legal rules are dependent on the conditions of time and place, and thus require interpretation. In other words, Sharia is by no means a code of law whose paragraphs are set in stone.


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