Demystifying “Shariah”

· Sharia Law
Authors

Source / Courtesy: Washington Post

By Nasim Rehmatullah and Amjad Mahmood Khan

Shariah is a misunderstood and misused concept. Critics of Islam frequently employ terms like “creeping shariah” to stoke fear amongst the masses. The Park 51 controversy and the increasing media focus on Islam provide an opportunity to educate Americans about the true teachings and practices of Islam concerning shariah.

Shariah literally means “a path to life-giving water,” and refers to a defined path upon which all God-fearing people are advised to tread. It is grounded in the recognition of God’s existence. Shariah presupposes that there is a God. God reveals His desire of how man should shape his destiny, and God’s will is manifested in the form of certain laws or principles. These laws or principles constitute shariah.

Shariah is not unique to Islam. Every faith has its own form of shariah. In the United States, for example, our legal system already permits some narrow civil matters to be settled through alternative dispute resolution. Among such alternative mechanisms is the beit din, or rabbinical law courts. American Jews routinely go before beit din to arbitrate real estate deals, divorces and business disputes.

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