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What Is Sharia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sharia is Islamic law, which is taken from the Qur’an and from other sources depending upon one’s Muslim sect. The law may be applied completely in theocracies, or it may be applied partially, depending upon the country. Some predominantly Islamic countries interpret Sharia and have secular judicial systems. Some have both secular and religious courts, and other have courts based only on strict interpretations of Sharia.

When Sharia is used in a theocracy it governs all aspects of life. It tells one what to eat, the punishment for adultery, how one can get a divorce, or what clothing is required. Sharia may be modernized and interpreted, but this is more common in countries that recognize a secular court. When there is separation between church and state, Sharia governs social behaviors, but does not set punishments for violation of social behaviors or for criminal behaviors.

When debate about a certain code in Sharia occurs, this is called fiqh. It is not considered wrong to attempt fiqh so one can best interpret Sharia. Other books besides the Qur’an may be considered when determining law. For example, the Sunni Muslims tend to use both the Qur’an and the Sunna to determine laws. Some Muslims use only the Qur’an for legal guidance.

Interpretation of Sharia, and its importance comes down to four basic groups of Islamic thought. Salafis advocate for a return to the old Islamic ways, and attempt to strictly follow the laws of the Qur’an. Secularist Muslims, wish a distinct separation between Sharia and civil and criminal laws. Traditionalists tend to follow Sharia but attempt to reconcile it to the modern world, particularly in the case of women’s rights. Reformers back new Islamic theories on legal proceedings, particularly as they relate to the modern women.

Interpreting Sharia can cause dissension between Muslim sects and the different Islamic countries. Yet certain laws are always applicable. Blasphemy, for example, is never permitted. Codes on dress, divorce, circumcision and dietary laws are all highly interpretive however. It is valuable to understand the degree to which a country holds to traditional Sharia prior to visiting that country.

InfoBloom is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a InfoBloom contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001633 — On May 26, 2019

She was probably raped by a married Imam, and therefore she committed adultery.

By anon1001632 — On May 26, 2019

What gets me with Sharia Law is who can apply a law that is based on a fallacy? I mean the Qur'an states that it confirms the books before it, in fact "that which is with you", so it is a lie that they have been changed, as this is stated more than ten times in the Qur'an.

So it now disregards all the teachings of Christ, and instead follows the false teachings of the Church, inasmuch as being involved in bloodshed and false books.

So what a stupid law system, and no, it is not based on Theocracy as God is not involved in Sharia Law, but it is following a man. A man who married a six year old, and his best friend's wife, let alone 13 others.

If the leader can't follow his own religion, then how and why should anyone else?

By christym — On Jan 12, 2011

@stormyknight: I just read that story. It said that when the crime occurred, the girl was said to be 22 years of age and that was the reason she was treated as an adult. On August 15, 2004, she was hanged in a public square in Neka, an Iranian city.

A journalist who was covering the case got word that the girl was only 16 years old. He talked with the family who provided the girl’s birth certificate, confirming the fact that she was just 16. It’s a very sad story.

Along with drug smuggling and murder, sex outside of the sanctions of marriage is considered a capital crime. Since the death of that young girl, Iran has sworn not to execute anyone else under the age of 18.

By CellMania — On Jan 12, 2011

@stormyknight: First of all, I am absolutely no expert on this subject. The information that I am going to share with you is what I pulled up by doing a Google search.

Apparently, a few years ago, there was a 16 year old girl by the name of Atefah Sahaaleh who was, indeed, executed. It was said that she was charged with “crimes against chastity”. They said that she committed adultery. Later, it was released that the girl had never even been married.

In the same year that Atefah was executed, there were around 160 more executed in accordance with the Islamic law, based on the Sharia code.

By StormyKnight — On Jan 11, 2011

It seems like I read somewhere that a young girl was sentenced to death in accordance with the Sharia code. Is that true?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a InfoBloom contributor, Tricia...
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