By Jayson Casper
If sharia law is for Muslims, what is its place in a Muslim-majority nation? If the answer seems obvious, that may be part of the problem.
But another part is understanding sharia law in the first place, and in a helpful article on the blog of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grand Mufti Dr. Shawki Allam elaborates on what it is, and what it isn’t:
“Far from a medieval code of capital punishments, the Shari’ah is a dynamic ethico-legal system designed to safeguard and advance core human values. In fact, just as the US Constitution references the basic human values of unity, justice, tranquility, welfare, and liberty, so too each of these is also a fundamental value of the Shari’ah.”
“The rules of the Shari’ah are derived from the Qur’an and the model behavior of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, which complements and/or supplements the Qur’an on issues where it may be silent or require clarifying teachings. “Islamic law” is not just the Shari’ah but rather is a methodology and the collection of positions adopted by Muslim jurists over the last 1,400 years. That period is marked by a remarkable intellectual diversity with dozens of schools of legal thought at one point.
Interpretation is the endeavor of scholars in each generation. In other words, some rules can change with time and place. The articulation of the Shari’ah is based on built-in mechanisms which aim for articulations of “Islamic Law” to be purpose-driven and considers the prevailing customary, social and political contexts of the time. This makes the system fluid and dynamic.”
And he concludes:
“The flexibility and adaptability of Islamic law is perhaps its greatest asset. To provide people with practical and relevant guidance while at the same time staying true to its foundational principles, Islam allows the wisdom and moral strength of religion to be applied in modern times. It is through adopting this attitude towards the Shari’ah that an authentic, contemporary, moderate, and tolerant Islam can provide solutions to the problems confronting the Muslim world today.”
There are many good questions that could be put to the mufti. How would he explain such-and-such behavior of Muhammad? Is Muslim history in this-or-that phase in conformity with sharia, or against it?
But on the whole, his essay is a good reminder that neither Muslims nor sharia are a monolith. As some pull from the Islamic heritage to destroy the current age, others access it in conformity – and presumably both seek first and foremost a fidelity to religion.
But a key question comes to mind.
Click here to read the rest of the article Sharia, Mosque and State