Sharia Law & Primary Sources of Wisdom & Authority in Islamic Sacred Texts for Guidance

Religious people also have other sources of guidance and help available to them. These include:

  • Sacred texts
  • Founders of the faith
  • Religious principles or rules
  • Faith community leaders
  • Religious tradition
  • Other people in the faith community

Insight and inspiration can sometimes come from the beliefs, teachings, and practices of other religions and from non-religious sources too.

Muslim Law or Shariah:

Sharia law is a core part of Islamic traditions, representing the religious law mainly drawn from the Holy Quran and the Hadith that lays down governing principles for spiritual, mental, and physical behavior that must be followed by Muslims. Regarded as Allah’s command for Muslims, Sharia law is essentially Islam’s legal system.

In Arabic, Sharia literally means “the clear, well-trodden path to water”.

Shari’a is not a legal system. It is the overall way of life of Islam, as people understand it according to traditional, early interpretations. These early interpretations date from 700 to 900 CE, not long after the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) died in 632 CE. Shari’a can evolve with Islamic societies to address their needs today.

Sharia in Arabic means “the way,” and does not refer to a body of law.

Misconceptions About Shariah:

There are a few prevalent misconceptions about the Shari’a among Non-Muslims. They don’t know at all, what the shariah includes. They think, “Shariah” is a word that evokes fear such as medieval legal system that issues draconian punishments, relegation of women and many other. But shariah contains far more. It’s almost about every aspect of life.

Nature & Significance of Islamic law:

In classical form, the Sharīʿah differs from Western systems of law in two principal respects. In the first place, the scope of the Sharīʿah is much wider, since it regulates the individual’s relationship not only with neighbours and with the state, which is the limit of most other legal systems, but also with God and with the individual’s own conscience. Ritual practices — such as the daily prayers (ṣalāt), almsgiving (zakāt), fasting (ṣawm), and pilgrimage (hajj) — are an integral part of Sharīʿah law and usually occupy the first chapters in legal manuals. The Sharīʿah is concerned as much with ethical standards as with legal rules, indicating not only what an individual is entitled or bound to do in law but also what one ought, in conscience, to do or to refrain from doing. Accordingly, certain acts are classified as praiseworthy (mandūb), which means that their performance brings divine favour and their omission divine disfavour, and others as blameworthy (makrūh), which has the opposite implications. However, in neither case is there any legal sanction of punishment or reward, nullity or validity. The Sharīʿah is thus not merely a system of law but also a comprehensive code of behaviour that embraces both private and public activities.

Historical Development of Sharīʿah law:

For the first Muslim community, established under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina in 622, the Qurʾānic revelations laid down basic standards of conduct. But the Qurʾān is in no sense a comprehensive legal code: only about 10 percent of its verses deal with legal issues. During his lifetime, Muhammad, as the supreme judge of the community, resolved legal problems as they arose by interpreting and expanding the general provisions of the Qurʾān, thereby establishing a legal tradition that was to continue after his death. With the rapid expansion of the Islamic realm under Muhammad’s political successors, the Muslim polity became administratively more complex and came into contact with the laws and institutions of the lands that the Muslims conquered. With the appointment of judges, or qadis, to the various provinces and districts, an organized judiciary came into being. The qadis were responsible for giving effect to a growing corpus of administrative and fiscal law, and they pragmatically adopted elements and institutions of Roman-Byzantine and Persian-Sasanian law into Islamic legal practice in the conquered territories. Depending on the discretion of the individual qadi, judicial decisions were based on the rules of the Qurʾān where these were relevant, but the sharp focus in which the Qurʾānic laws were held in the Medinan period was lost with the expanding horizons of activity.

The Sources of Sharīʿah law:

These two are where the majority of the teachings come from. When looking for guidance, a Muslim often refers back to one of these two in order to educate themselves on a topic.

Primary Sources of Sharia Law:

The four primary sources of Sharia Law are:

1. The Holy Quran:

The Holy Quran is the central spiritual-religious text guidance of Islam. It represents the fountainhead of Divine guidance for every Muslim. It is a holy book that is sent down by the ALLAH Almighty for the guidance of the whole of mankind. The chapters in this book touch upon all aspects of human existence, including matters of doctrine, social organization, and legislation. The Holy Quran instructs Muslims on how to behave and sets out what is right and wrong, as in the example below, which teaches about fairness.

“Then is it other than Allah I should seek as judge while it is He who has revealed to you the Book explained in detail?” And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture know that it is sent down from your Lord in truth, so never be among the doubters.

Quran, 6:114

The Holy Quran has a clear focus on education as it starts with “Read with the name of ALLAH who created you”. In Islam, getting an education is compulsory for all men and women.

Allah does command you to render back your trust to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice.

The Holy Quran 4:58

2. Hadith :

Muslims also seek guidance from the Hadith, which are writings about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. They were remembered by close followers of the Prophet and were later written down. The hadith is information about the Prophet and the Sunnah is what the Prophet has said or done and Quran was revealed on Prophet Muhammad seen by Allah. How the Prophet practiced what was revealed in Holy Quran is recorded in sunnah and hadith, which Muslims use as guidance to emulate.

In the Quran, there will be a verse from God that will state “All Muslims must pray five times a day.” However, from all of the collections of Hadiths, we are guided on how we are supposed to perform our prayers. The hadiths give us an in-depth process for every step of the prayer from start to finish. Whereas in the Quran we were only commanded to do the prayers.

One gives you the ordinance (Authority) the second gives you the methodology of implementation and execution. Or prevention.

Implied Sources from the above two.

Other important Muslim sources of authority:

If a Muslim is struggling to interpret or understand the teachings of the Holy Quran or needs advice in their day-to-day lives, they may seek guidance at their local mosque. The imam, the cleric or scholar who leads prayers in the mosque, will usually have studied the Holy Quran and its teachings in-depth and will have the knowledge and experience to guide or teach other Muslims.

3. Consensus (Ijma):

These are the consistent choices of the legal advisers. At the point when the Quran and different increments couldn’t flexibly a standard of law, law specialists utilized their simultaneous sentiment and set out another law. These law specialists were not allowed to give their choice with no premise. The authority of Ijmaa, as a wellspring of law dependent on convention, “my supporters can never concur upon what’s up”.

4. Qiyas:

Qiyas is the analogy from the Quran, the Sunnat, and the Ijma. Qiyas doesn’t purport to create new laws but applies the old principles to the new circumstances.

Secondary Sources of Sharia Law:

without essential sources, the law can be gotten from the accompanying sources. Secondary sources of Islamic laws use the same principle as qiyas, which is the deduction of Islamic laws and opinions based on the use of discretion. Because the rulings and opinions are based on discretion, this leads to some differences among various schools of thought.

  • Urf or Custom
  • Judicial decision
  • Legislation
  • Equity, Justice, & Good conscience

Intricacies of Sharia Law:

Sharia law encompasses legal as well as moral and ethical directives. It characterizes all man’s acts into the following five categories:

  • Obligatory
  • Recommended
  • Permitted
  • Discouraged
  • Forbidden

Basic Elements of Sharia Law:

Sharia comprises three basic elements:

1. Aqidah:

Aqidah concerns all forms of faith and belief in Allah, held by a Muslim. Many schools of Islamic theology expressing different views on aqidah exist. However, this term has taken a significant technical usage in the Islamic theology, denoting those matters over which Muslims hold conviction. It is a branch of Islamic studies describing the beliefs of Islam.

2. Fiqh:

Fiqh governs the relationship between man and his Creator (ibadat) and between man and man (muamalat). Political, economic, and social activities fall within the ambit of muamalat. Islamic finance, covered in economic activities, is thus linked with Sharia principles through muamalat.

3. Akhlaq:

Akhlaq covers all aspects of a Muslim’s behavior, attitude, and work ethic. While directives relating to aqidah, ibadah, and akhlaq are fixed and unchangeable, directives of muamalat (including rulings such as contractual law transactions, criminal law, the judiciary, and Islamic finance) which govern the relationship between man and man, may change with the changes in circumstance, custom, time and place.

While directives relating to aqidah, ibadah, and akhlaq are fixed and unchangeable, directives of muamalat (including rulings such as contractual law transactions, criminal law, the judiciary, and Islamic finance) which govern the relationship between man and man, may change with the changes in circumstance, custom, time and place.

The Substance of Traditional Sharīʿah law:

Sharīʿah duties are broadly divided into those that an individual owes to God (the ritual practices, or ʿibādāt) and those that the individual owes to other human beings (interpersonal matters, or muʿāmalāt). Only the latter category of duties, which constitutes law in the Western sense, is described here.

Penal law:

Offenses against another person, from homicide to assault, are punishable by retaliation (qiṣāṣ), the offender being subject to precisely the same treatment as the victim. This type of offense is regarded as a civil injury rather than a crime in the technical sense, since it is not the state but only the victim or the victim’s family who has the right to prosecute and to opt for compensation or blood money (diyah) in place of retaliation.

Law of Transactions:

A legal capacity to transact belongs to any person “of prudent judgment” (rāshid), a quality that is normally deemed to accompany physical maturity or puberty. The law presumes that (1) boys below the age of 12 and girls below the age of 9 have not attained puberty and (2) by the age of 15 puberty has been attained for both sexes. Persons who are not rāshid, on account of minority or mental deficiency, are placed under interdiction: their affairs are managed by a guardian, and they cannot transact effectively without the guardian’s consent.

Family law:

A patriarchal outlook is the basis of the traditional Islamic law of family relationships. Fathers have the right to contract their daughters, whether minor or adult, in marriage, but jurists agree that an adult woman who is no longer a virgin must give her explicit consent to a marriage. The question of whether a virgin daughter has the right to object to a marriage contracted for her by her father has been the subject of debate among jurists, given that a widely accepted saying of Muhammad seems to imply this right. Some jurists have held that the daughter’s objection should be taken into account but is not binding, while others have considered such an objection to preclude the marriage. In Ḥanafī and Shiʿi law, an adult woman may conclude her own marriage contract, but her guardian may have the marriage annulled if his ward has married beneath her social status.

Law of Succession:

An individual’s power of testamentary disposition is basically limited to one-third of his or her net estate (i.e., the assets remaining after the payment of funeral expenses and debts). Two-thirds of the estate passes to the legal heirs of the deceased under the compulsory rules of inheritance.

Procedure & Evidence:

Traditionally, Sharīʿah law was administered by the court of a single qadi, who was the judge of the facts as well as the law, although on difficult legal issues he might seek the advice of a professional jurist or jurisconsult (mufti). There was no hierarchy of courts and no organized system of appeals. Through his clerk (kātib), the qadi controlled court procedure, which was normally characterized by a lack of ceremony or sophistication. Legal representation was not unknown, but the parties would usually appear in person and address their pleas orally to the qadi.

Sharīʿah law in Contemporary Islam:

Scope & Mode of Administration:

During the 19th century the impact of Western civilization on Muslim society brought about radical changes in the fields of civil and commercial transactions and criminal law. In these areas, the Sharīʿah courts were felt to be wholly out of touch with the needs of the time, not only because of their system of procedure and evidence but also because of the substance of the Sharīʿah doctrine, which they were bound to apply. As a result, the criminal and general civil law of the Sharīʿah was abandoned in most Muslim countries and replaced by new codes, based on European models, with a new system of secular tribunals to apply them. Thus, with the notable exception of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Sharīʿah is still formally applied in its entirety, the application of Sharīʿah law in Islam has been broadly confined, from the beginning of the 20th century, to family law, including the law of succession at death and the particular institution of waqf endowments.

Reform of Sharīʿah law

Traditional Islamic family law reflected to a large extent the patriarchal nature of Arabian tribal society in the early centuries of Islam. Not unnaturally, certain institutions and standards of that law have been deemed out of line with the circumstances of contemporary Muslim societies, particularly in urban areas, where tribal ties have disintegrated and movements for the emancipation of women have arisen. At first, this situation seemed to create the same apparent impasse between the changing circumstances of modern life and an allegedly immutable law that had caused the adoption of Western codes in civil and criminal matters. Hence, the only solution that seemed possible to Turkey in 1926 was the total abandonment of the Sharīʿah and the adoption of the Swiss Civil Code (chosen for its simplicity and modernity) in its place. No other Muslim country, however, has as yet followed this example. Instead, traditional Sharīʿah law has been adapted in a variety of ways to meet present social needs.

Book Recommendation For Sharia Law:

Understanding Sharia: Islamic law in a Globalised World:

The book, ‘Understanding Sharia, Islamic Law in a Globalised World’ has been written for both Muslim and non-Muslim readers to debunk the negative global discourses on Sharia or Islamic law.

Reviews on Understanding Sharia: Islamic law in a Globalised World;

Final Thoughts:

Islamic Sharia law is a code of basic principles which determine the relationship between man and Allah on one hand and among the individuals themselves. It prescribes the limits to do or not do certain things. These four sources namely Quran, Sunnah, Ijma, and Qiyas are the primary sources of law. Muslim law is mainly based on verses of the Quran and practices of hadith.

verily good deeds do away with evil deeds.

And that is a reminder for those who remember.

Be patient with yourself. And Keep learning!!

I will be calmer, I will spread love as long as I can, I will live a spiritual life, I would do what I please no matter what and I would prove my theories.

Always start your day with renewing your intention that everything you do for yourself and your community, whether it be your acts of worship or daily chores. It all has to be merely for the sake of Allah (SWT) and Also, I ask Allah (SWT) to make my work dedicated only to him and forgiveness from Allah (SWT), if I have got anything wrong. It is He who is the hearing, the knowing.

Yeah, don’t forget to follow me for more amazing content. Happy Reading!!!

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Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

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Writer | network engineer | Traveler | Biker | Polyglot. I’m so deep even the ocean gets jealous