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Sharia Law: is it a”Sharia Threat”?

Even though the internet is full of reputable sources for finding out about Sharia Law, people continue to misunderstand it.  This is partly because of the recent trend that associates Sharia Law with extremism and terrorism.  This trend stems from one clear source: a 2010 report published by the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

The CSP is a conservative think tank that supports mainly neoconservative values.  Their mission is to inform the public and policymakers on what they consider to be threats to national security.  In their 2010 report titled “Sharia: The Threat to America” they outlined what they considered to be the most important threat of our time, Sharia Law.  The term “Sharia Threat” was born and conservative bloggers have never had so much fun.

But the basic message of the report is based on a flawed understanding of Sharia Law, or at least some major contradictions.  The report correctly states that:

…Sharia is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.

But then goes on to state that Sharia law is a threat to freedom and is incompatible with our Constitution.  How can a reference point for your personal life be incompatible with our Constitution, which was was designed partly to protect freedom in personal life?

Sharia Law is interpreted differently by different communities of Muslims.  Some are extreme, yes, but most are not.  In the same nature, some Jews and Christians are extreme  and most are not.

The “Sharia Threat” must sound silly to most Muslims, since for them Sharia law determines how they conduct their personal religious lives.  How can prayer and fasting threaten national security?

The Sharia Threat theory is based on an ill-advised understanding of Sharia law that allows an extremist, anti Muslim group to cherry-pick phrases from Muslim sacred texts.  The selected phrases are used to paint an incorrect picture of Sharia law.  The same could be done with the Bible, or the Torah.

Christians don’t do half the terrible things mentioned in the Bible, like stoning people to death.  Same with sharia law, which is also full of antiquated, extreme-sounding punishments that have faded out over time.

Sharia Law – the Jurists

There is a lot of debate in the Muslim community over whether modern jurists are doing their job properly.  Some say they are failing to elicit divine will when it comes to modern circumstances and today’s complex global society.  Let’s take a look at the history of the jurist community, which is responsible for specifying Sharia law for current society.

The legal aspect of Sharia law received a big blow when it was replaced by Western legal codes.  There is normally a strong community of scholars or jurists whose job it is to interpret the religious texts, and this community was broken up and experienced serious decline.  The tradition and culture of this jurist community was broken up in the 19th century.

So today there is criticism aimed at the modern jurists, whom some feel aren’t keeping up with the times. The system of Sharia law isn’t criticized…but rather the modern jurists.  Perhaps it has something to do with the break in their community and loss of historical teachings, lineage, tradition etc which occurred in the 19th century.  The body of knowledge failed to grow and prosper during that time when the Western legal code was installed on devout Muslim society.

What is Sharia Law?

Sharia Law is hard to define because it’s not merely a specific body of laws, nor is it merely a list of things that are prohibited or required of a society.  It’s more of a methodology.   It’s basically a way of arriving at decisions on how to live life by studying religious texts to determine divine will. Sharia law is also not just a legal system…it’s also a moral system, a structure for living life as a devout Muslim.

What is Sharia Law?  For Muslims who are devout, living life according to the divine will is the basis for existence.  Sharia law is the anchor for society for devout Muslims and it’s based on several factors in a complex web of history, religious texts, interpretation, modern influence, scholars, community, custom, public interest, regionalism and the conduct of the Prophet Mohamed.

Sharia law is flexible and like many systems based on analyzing ancient texts, subject to various interpretations. Jurists are the people who study Sharia law and come up with the specifics on how to conduct life in modern society.

Jurists look at the following to determine divine will for Sharia law:

  1. the Quran (the Muslim holy scripture)
  2. the Sunna (the sayings and behavior of the Prophet Mohammed)
  3. consensus of the jurists, scholars & community
  4. reasoning by analogy to the above sources
  5. preferences of the jurists, public interest, and custom