“Sharia” is a buzzword seen on many social media and news sites these days. What is it? Is Sharia really as bad as people claim and will it come to America? (Tweet That!) Some are claiming it is a torturous and archaic way of keeping the rule of law. Yet others claim that Sharia law is just a set of guidelines upon which actual laws can be based, and as with any law, there is no simple black and white interpretation.
In its simplest definition, Sharia refers to traditional Islamic law. It is based on four governing sources, with the Quran at its base. Muslims believe that the Quran has existed for all time and was revealed to the prophet Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel in the Arabic language. It is the foundation of the Muslim faith and at the base of the Sharia.
The Sunna is the layer directly above the Quran and is basically the actions and sayings of the Muslim prophet Mohammad. The Sunna is found within a collection of writings known as the Hadith and were written by those close to Mohammad. If answers to an issue cannot be gleaned directly from the Quran then the Hadith should be searched for a resolution. The two main sects of Islam (Sunni and Shia) disagree considerably about which Hadiths are authentic. Each sect has sources they view as trustworthy and those they hold as false, and therefore have differing Sharia systems.
In addition to the Quran and Sunna, the ijam is a third accepted source for the Muslim rule of law. The ijma is the consensus of the Muslim jurists on a particular legal issue. Mohammad himself said, “My followers will never agree upon an error or what is wrong.” If an issue cannot be resolved by the first two sources, then the ijam is to be used.
The Qiyas makes up the fourth critical part of the Sharia. When a legal ruling cannot be found within the first three, then Islamic jurists can employ analogy, reasoning, and legal precedent to arrive at new case law. This is mainly employed by the Sunni followers, but the Shia use a similar form of reasoning.
The specific example of theft can be followed through these various levels. The Quran 5:8 says, “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.” We also see this example in the life of Mohammad in the Hadith: Bukhari 81:780, “The Prophet said, ‘The hand should be cut off for stealing something that is worth a quarter of a Dinar or more.’” There is also consensus among many schools of thought in Islam about the removing of the hand for theft. The Hanbali school of the Sunnis adds further requirements for this punishment: The property must be of value. It must be in a stored place like a cupboard. It needs two witnesses or two confessions by an individual and the person whom the item was taken must ask for it back.
A quick image-search on the term Sharia will return highly negative images, but is Sharia really that bad? You’ll see people holding signs saying, “Democracy is Falling … Sharia is returning.” And “Sharia will dominate the world.” You’ll also see images of people getting their hands cut off, women being buried up to their chest and being stoned, people being beat bloody with whips and individuals having their heads chopped from their bodies.
There are a number of countries that have classical Sharia as their legal system with punishments as listed above— Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Iraq, the Maldives, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and certain regions in Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates. There are many countries that employ a mixed system, where Sharia covers family law, but secular courts handle criminal law.
There are several countries where homosexual behavior can lead to the death penalty (Tweet That!) and prison time. Newsweek reports that about 100 people each year are beheaded in Saudi Arabia for various crimes. As mentioned above, individuals can have their hands and feet amputated for the crime of theft. These examples are harsh, but in normal society they do not happen as often as depicted on the web and in many cases the Sharia does leave room for repentance. To be fair, most often the atrocities we see on news cycles and in our Facebook feeds are performed by extremist groups, but there is still provision for them in many Sharia run governments.
There has been much discussion about Sharia coming to America. There are currently a dozen states that have laws banning Sharia (Tweet That!). The remaining states are split, half of which have rejected legislation that would ban Sharia and half that have no legislation at all. Sharia courts might one day make it to America, but in all truth, Sharia law exists now in the hearts of most Muslims. For the Muslim, submitting to the Sharia is a part of following Allah.
Islam is the fastest growing religion and is growing twice as fast as the general population. It is projected to outnumber Christianity by 2070. If we take a look at the example of the UK we see that the number of registered mosques in 1960 were about seven. The latest number show about 1,500 mosques, and Islam is now the second largest belief system in that nation. It’s difficult to get an exact number, but there are currently about 80 Sharia courts in the UK. These courts really have no power except in moderation of personal disputes, and only when the parties agree to this arbitration, but they do rule on family and religious issues.
As a Christian this info might be a bit disheartening, but it should not be unexpected. 2 Thes. 2, when speaking of the Second Coming says, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” Jesus also said that, “because of iniquity, the love of many would grow cold.” These facts should drive and compel you. Not in anger or fear, but in love as you share your faith with the Muslim.
I’ve felt driven over the past few months to research and write about the topic of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. My motivation is not one of anger but to inform. The Bible speaks of a time of testing that the entire world must face. The prophecies of this great book cannot be changed, but that should not prevent us from demonstrating the love of Christ. You can disagree with others about issues of faith and still care deeply for them, show love to them and work alongside them. Always treat others with kindness and respect. Period. As a Christian it is our job to share the truth of the Gospel with the Muslim.