The word Shari’ah means a clear straight path or example.
Shari’ah, or Islamic law, is the code of conduct for Muslims and is based on two main sources: The Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh). It aims towards the success and welfare of mankind both in this life and the life after death.
Shari’ah prescribes a complete set of laws for the guidance of mankind so that Good (Ma’ruf) may triumph and Evil (Munkar) disappears from society. It provides a clear and straight path which leads to progress and fulfillment in life and the attainment of Allah’s pleasure.
The Qur’an is the main basis of Shari’ah. It states the principles while the sunnah of the Prophet provides the details of their application. For example, the Qur’an says: establish salah, observe sawm, pay zakat, take decisions by consultation, do not earn or spend in wrong ways- but it does not describe how to do these things. It is the sunnah of the Prophet which gives us the details.
Shari’ah has rules for every aspect of life. It is complete and perfect, and guarantees us success, welfare and peace in this life on earth and in the life after death.
Man-made laws differ from Shari’ah in a number of significant ways.
1. Men make laws when they feel the need; these laws start from a few and then grow in number over the years.
2. Man-made laws are not permanent; they can be changed according to the time and circumstances. For example, in a particular country at a particular time, drinking alcohol may be banned; but this can change when public pressure grows. The American Government once banned alcoholic drink but removed the ban after a time because it could not be applied.
3. Man does not have knowledge of the future. Hence, manmade laws cannot stand the test of time.
4. Man is a created being. His laws are the creation of the created.
5. Man-made laws may be suitable for a particular nation or country. They cannot be universal.
6. Men make laws to suit their own needs. Suppose members of parliament want to decrease the rate of tax on rich, they would do so, even if the majority of the people suffered and there was high unemployment in the country.
Shari’ah or The Creator, Allah’s law.
1. Islamic Law is complete and perfect and covers all aspects of human life.
2. Shari’ah is permanent for all people all the time. It does not change with time and conditions. For example, drinking alcohol and gambling are not allowed under Islamic law. No-one can change this; it is a law that is valid for all time and for all places.
3. Allah is All-knowing and All-powerful; He is the most Wise and His laws are the best and are complete.
5. Allah’s laws are for all nations, all countries and for all time. They are universal.
6. Allah is above all needs. He is not dependent on anything, so His laws are for the good of all people and not for a few, selfish people.
Shari’ah has two other sources: Ijma’ (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy or reasoning on the basis of similar circumstances). These sources must still be based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Ijma’, or consensus, applies to a situation where no clear conclusion can be made from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In this situation the representatives of the people who are well-versed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah will sit together and work out an agreed formula to solve the particular problem. Ijma’ developed during the period of the Al- Khulafa’ur-rashidun.
Qiyas means a reference or analogy or a comparison of one thing with a similar one. It is applied in circumstances where guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah is not directly available. A solution to a problem is reached by a process of deduction from a comparison with similar situations in the past.
The word Sunnah means a system, a path or an example. In Islam it refers to the practice of the Prophet, his life example. It is embodied in the Ahadith (plural of Hadith) which are the Prophet’s saying, actions and the actions done with his approval. Ahadith have been very carefully collected and compiled since the death of the Prophet. Six collections of Hadith are regarded as the most authentic. They are:
1. Sahih Al-Bukhari
(Collected and compiled by Muhammad bin Isma’il, known as Imam Bukhari, born 194 AH, died 256 AH).
2. Sahih Muslim
(Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, known as Imam Muslim, born 202 AH, died 257 AH).
3. Sunnah Abu Dawud
(Aulaiman bin Ash’ath, known as Abu Dawud, born 202 AH, died 275 AH).
4. Sunnah Ibn Majah
(Muhammad bin Yazad, born 209 AH, died 273 AH).
5. Jami’ At-Tirmidhi
(Muhammad bin ‘Isa, date of birth not known died 279 AH).
6. Sunnah An-Nasa’i
(Ahmad bin Shu’aib, born 215 AH, died 303 AH).
In addition to this, the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik (born 93 AH, died 179AH), Mishkaat Al-Masabih of Abu Muhammad al-Husain bin Mas’ud (died 516 AH) and Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal (born 164 AH, died 241AH) are also well known.
Fiqh is the science of Islamic Law or jurisprudence. It refers to the collection and compilation of Islamic laws based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet. The word Fiqh means knowledge and understanding.
Some great Muslims devoted themselves to the task of developing the science of understanding Islamic law and its practice. The four best-known compilers of Islamic law or Shari’ah are:
1. Abu Hanifah Nu’man bin Thabit, known as Imam Abu Hanifah (born 80AH, died 150AH).
2. Malik bin Anas, known as Imam Malik (93-179AH).
3. Muhammad bin Idris Al-Shafi’i, known as Imam Shafi’i (150-240AH).
4. Ahmad bin Hanbal, known as Imam Ibn Hanbal (164-241 AH).
Islamic law divides human activies into:
1. Fard or Wajib (duty or obligatory)
-performance of these actions is rewarded and their omission is punished.
2. Mandub (recommended)
-actions the performance of which is rewarded but omission of which is not punished.
3. Mubah (silent)
-actions permitted by silence.
4. Makruh (disliked)
-actions disapproved of but not punishable.
5. Haram (forbidden)
-actions punishable by law.
The scholars and experts on Islamic Law have made Shari’ah easier to understand and practice by science of Fiqh. Fiqh is the explanation of the Islamic laws based on the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Islamic law or Shari’ah embodies the ideal Islamic life. Islam is the complete way of life and Shari’ah is the means to arrive at the ideal life recommended by Islam. Shari’ah enables us to bring our life in line with the will of Allah(swt). It is the process of achieving our goal of life.
Ref.. Islam Beliefs and Teaching by Ghulam Sarwar
Islam and the Judiciary
One can expect to see some horrendous punishments in a public display, like cutting the hand of the thief, or the execution of murderers. These indeed are terrible sights, and will take place in open areas, leaving a lasting effect on the hearts and minds of the society; for society will witness the intense suffering of the criminal.
So in future anyone even thinking of committing such a crime will think twice. Even those who did not witness the event in future generations will think twice. For in fact such punishments are not meeted out frequently at all, as by their nature they have such a powerful deterrent effect.
Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to cut the hand of the thief, for circumstantial evidence is not sufficient. Thus, the judiciary ensures that there would be no wrongful convictions, which seem more and more to be a sign of our times.
Severe punishments are not the only means to deter crime. Islam tackles the problems from all angles. The economic system secures the needs of people and cuts the want for stealing. The education system, through reminding society of accountability to the Creator, cuts the desire for stealing. So all the systems work in harmony. The reason why regimes like Saudi Arabia and Sudanfail is because they only implement parts of Islam side by side with man-made law, such that they punish by Islam but do not secure the needs by Islam.
Imagine a society where there is a sense of security. There would be no need to turn over your shoulder when walking the streets at night for fear of being assaulted, and no need to buy extra door locks, window locks and letterbox locks for fear of being burgled. This is no fantasy – indeed it was the case for centuries under the Islamic State.
Furthermore, Islam in its judiciary upholds values that are downtrodden in society, for example honor. In Islam accusing someone of adultery is a punishable offense, whereas for newspapers today it is a source of revenue.
Or take as another example the issue of belief. In Islam if any one insults any prophet of Allah (swt) they are subject to be killed. This may appear harsh. But surely belief is at lest as worthy of protection as property, for on the day of judgement it is the belief that will save us, not our property.
Islam and the Foreign Policy
Islam has its own unique view about foreign policy. The Khilafah’s dealings with other states is not on the basis of securing ‘national interests’ as per Lard Palmerston’s dictum. Rather its sole interest is to free man from the slavery to another man, and return human beings to the true purpose for their creation – the worship of our Creator, Sustainer Allah swt.
So the objective of the foreign policy is to spread Islam by invitation (da’wah) and Jehad ((strive against (the evil) to abolish idolatry, tyranny and oppression).
Thus, what we would hear on the media about the dealings of the Islamic State would be completely at variance with that of what we hear of the existing Muslim regimes.