Today's lesson will explore Sharia law in reference to fundamentalist Islam. In doing so, it will highlight the concept of Sharia law as the True Path. It will also discuss its origins in the sacred texts of Islam known as the Koran, the Sunnah, and the Hadith.
For those of us who've grown up in a society that heralds the separation of church and state, the concept of fundamentalist Islamic Sharia law will definitely stray from our paradigms. Unlike our Western government, which shies away from the idea of legislating morality or invading privacy, Sharia law pervades all aspects of Islamic culture.
Before we dive into the definition and specifics, and the implications of Sharia law, there's one point we need to cover. This lesson will be explaining Sharia law in reference to fundamental Islam, not all practicing modern-day Muslims. In using the word fundamental or orthodox, we'll mean rigid adherence to the original principles of a faith.
To explain, Sharia is the sacred law of Islam. It is the religious and moral code of life for fundamentalist Muslims, or followers of Islam. Unlike our Western concept of law, Sharia isn't simply the decisions of a court room or the workings of a political office. Far from this, Sharia directs all aspects of Islamic life. It governs the diet, dress, leisure, finances, family, and so on of a Muslim's life.
When studying Sharia, it's usually divided into parts. There are laws concerning worship, laws regulating financial workings, laws dealing with the family, and laws dealing with punishment. For example, when dealing with punishment, fundamental Sharia states that theft is to be punished by amputation of the right hand. As far as marriage, a woman can have only one husband, but a man can have up to four wives. As for worship, a Muslim who leaves the faith is to be killed, and as far as finance, a female heir inherits only half of what a male inherits.
These are just a few examples of orthodox Sharia law, which, like I said, fall outside most Western paradigms. Also, as stated previously, many modern Muslims do not implement these laws down to the letter. However, in countries like Egypt, a woman's testimony in court is still worth half of a man's testimony, and in the country of Saudi Arabia, criminal law is based entirely on Sharia.
Along with the criminal aspects of Muslim law, there is also a civil side to the Sharia law. For instance, Sharia requires those who are financially able should pay an annual fee to help support the less fortunate of society. Similar to our Western tax system, Sharia law states how this tax is to be levied and dispensed. Unlike our Western system, Sharia law also deals with personal hygiene. In fact, before a Muslim takes part in worship, they must first follow a prescribed cleansing ritual. Although not usually as strict, cleansing rituals also accompany daily household cleaning duties.
Sharia as True Path
Being formed from the words of the Koran, Sunnah, and Hadith, the sacred texts of Islam, Sharia law is believed to have come directly from Allah, the god of Islam, and, as stated earlier, it has historically governed fundamentalist Islamic society, life, and action. To explain, Islam teaches that human life does not begin at birth. On the contrary, Muslims believe Allah created the souls of all men before the world came into being.
In accordance with this belief, man's time here on Earth is like an extended legal trial in which his actions will be recorded. At the end of his life, a man will be judged according to these actions. Those who have followed Sharia law will be welcomed into eternal paradise. This helps us to understand why Sharia is often translated as the 'Way' or the 'True Path.' Those who have lived outside of Sharia, or those who have chosen a lesser path, will be condemned to everlasting woe. With the stakes so high, it's not hard to see why those who adhere to and revere Sharia law would take it so very seriously.
Sharia is the sacred law of Islam that has historically governed every aspect of fundamental Islamic life. Based on the words of the sacred texts of Islam, known as the Koran, the Sunnah, and the Hadith, Sharia is believed to have come directly from Allah, Islam's god. As evidence of its great effect on Islamic society, countries like Saudi Arabia still hold Sharia law as the basis for their criminal law system. Adding to this, most Islamic nations' civil law rests on it, as well. Translated as the 'Way' or the 'True path,' orthodox Muslims, or followers of Islam, believe those who follow Sharia law will enter into eternal paradise upon their deaths.
When this lesson concludes, take the opportunity to:
- Provide the meaning of orthodox
- Define and describe Sharia law, including its origins
- Give examples of Sharia laws
- Discuss the beliefs of followers of Islam regarding life and death