What is Shariah?


Written by Dr. Lutf ur Rehman, Nashville, TN (USA)

Allah says in the Holy Quran, “We have set you on a clear path (Shariah) in the matter of religion, so follow it.” (45:19)

Indeed Quran provides guiding principles for all aspects of human life. This is the moral code of Islam and this is called Shariah.

Sharia has two main areas, Ibadaat (worship or Huquq Allah) and Mu’amalat (worldly matters or Huquq-al-Ibad)

Ibadaat (worship): This includes salat, zakat, fasting etc. These are matters of worship which are between God and man. Quran provides detailed instructions about these and invites the believers to adopt them in the best possible manner. There are many details of worship which are not mentioned in the Quran. For example, there is no mention of the detailed method of performing salat, or number of rakat in a slat, or nisab for zakat, or some details about hajj or fasting etc. These details are provided by Sunnah (the actions of the Holy Prophet SAW) and Ahadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet SAW). Matters of Ibadat (worship) are not subject to legal actions or punishments by other human beings or state. This is a relationship strictly between God and man. Parents, friends, mentors, religious scholars (ulema and Imams) draw the attention of people to performing these worships but they have no enforcement powers. In fact there are instructions to the opposite. Quran clearly says that “There is no punishment on the basis of religion” (2:257) “Admonish, therefore for you are but an admonisher. You have no authority to compel them.” (88:22-23)

Mu’amalat (worldly matters): These are divided into 1) Family law: Such as matters of marriage, divorce, children, inheritance etc. 2) Criminal law: Such as crimes of theft, robbery, adultery, murder, slander and matters of compensation etc. It also includes punishments for certain crimes. 3) Common law: Such as buying, selling, borrowing, property, financial matters and contracts etc. As is true for Ibadaat, Mu’amalat are also mentioned in principle only. There are large gaps which require and allow for the people to legislate and shape these principles according to the needs of the time.

Sources of Shariah:

There is only one true source of Shariah, the Holy Quran. All scholars from all different denominations of Islam are united on this principle. The difference is in the interpretation of the verses of the Quran.


Categories: ISLAM

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