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     Countries with a Muslim majority, and members of the OIC, where Sharia does not play a role in the legal system.      Countries with a secular system of laws, where some parts of civil law (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and childcare) are influenced by Sharia      Countries where all laws are those of Sharia.      Countries where the application of Sharia varies by region.

Sharia law (Arabic: شريعة) is the body of Islamic law. The term means "way" or "path"; it is the legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam.

There is not a strictly codified uniform set of laws that can be called Sharia. It is more like a system of several laws, based on the Qur'an, Hadith and centuries of debate, interpretation and precedent.

Sections of Sharia law

Sharia law is divided into three main sections:

  1. Faith (Aqaida).
  2. Ethics (Akhlaq).
  3. the acts of Muslim which divided into two sections;-
    1. The acts of worship, or al-ibadat, called the 5 pillars of Islam:
      1. Prayers (Salah)
      2. Fasts (Sawm and Ramadan)
      3. Charities (Zakat)
      4. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)
    2. Human interaction, or al-mu'amalat, which includes:
      1. Financial transactions
      2. Endowments
      3. Laws of inheritance
      4. Marriage, divorce, and child care
      5. Foods and drinks (including ritual slaughtering and hunting)
      6. Penal punishments
      7. Warfare and peace
      8. Judicial matters (including witnesses and forms of evidence)

See mu`amalat laws according to 5 major schools of jurisprudence and The Majallah

Laws and practices under Sharia

Marriage laws

  • The Muslim man who is not currently a fornicator can only marry a woman who is not currently a fornicatress or a chaste woman from the People of the Book.
  • The Muslim fornicator can only marry a Muslim fornicatress.
  • The Muslim woman who is not currently a fornicatress can only marry a Muslim man who is not currently a fornicator.
  • The Muslim fornicatress can only marry a Muslim fornicator.
  • The woman cannot marry without the consent of her guardian. If she marries, her husband becomes her new guardian.
  • The guardian may choose a suitable partner for a virgin girl, but the girl is free to contest and has the right to say 'no'.
  • The guardian cannot marry the divorced woman or the widow if she did not ask to be married.
  • "Do not marry unless you give your wife something that is her right." It is obligatory for a man to give bride wealth (gifts) to the woman he marries.

The penalty for theft

The Qur'an and several hadith set out two different punishments for theft (stealing). They say that the punishment should depend on how many times the person stole, and what he stole. One punishment is imprisonment. Another is amputating (cutting off) the hands or feet. However, before a person is punished, two eyewitnesses must swear, under oath, that they saw the person stealing. If this does not happen, then the punishment cannot be carried out. Also, some other requirements have to be met. These requirements have to do with the theft, what was stolen, and how the theft happened. All of these requirements must be met, as decided by a judge.[Qur'an 5:38][1]

The penalty for adultery

In The Quran it is stated that if an unmarried man or woman commit adultery (sleep with a person they are not married to), the punishment should be 100 lashes.[2] In the Hadith the punishment is 100 lashes and banishment for a year, and if a married man or woman commit adultery the punishment should be 100 lashes and then stoning to death.[3] There are some requirements that need to be met before this punishment can happen. For example, the punishment cannot happen unless the person confesses, or unless four male eyewitnesses each saw, at the same time, the man and the women in the action of adultery. Every requirement must be met, as decided by a judge, before the punishment can happen.(Qur'an 24:2)


There are two festivals that are considered Sunnah.[4]

  1. Eid ul-Fitr
  2. Eid ul-Adha

During these festivals, specific rituals are used:

  • Sadaqah (charity) before Eid ul-Fitr prayer.[5]
  • The Prayer and the Sermon on Eid day.
  • Takbirs (glorifying God) after every prayer in the days of Tashriq (see footnote for def.)[6]
  • Sacrifice of unflawed, four-legged grazing animal of appropriate age after the prayer of Eid ul-Adha in the days of Tashriq.[7]

Dietary laws

Islamic law does not list every food and drink that is thought to be pure. It does list some specific foods and drinks that are not allowed.[8]

  1. Pork, blood, and the meat of dead animals are not allowed. People are also not allowed to eat animals that were slaughtered in the name of someone other than God.
  2. Animals must be slaughtered in the manner of tazkiyah (cleansing) by taking God’s name.
  3. Intoxicants (like alcoholic drinks) are not allowed.

While Islamic law prohibits (does not allow) dead meat, this does not apply to fish and locusts.[9][10][11] Also, hadith literature prohibits beasts having sharp canine teeth, birds having claws and tentacles in their feet,[12] Jallalah (animals whose meat stinks because they feed on filth),[13] tamed donkeys,[14] and any piece cut from a living animal.[8][15]

Muslim apostates

Most interpretations (or ways of understanding Sharia) do not allow Muslims to convert to other religions. This is strictly forbidden, and is called apostasy. In Muslim theology, apostasy is equal to treason. In most interpretations of Sharia, the punishment for apostasy is death. However, in some interpretations, there is no capital punishment for a Muslim who peacefully converts away from Islam (i.e. without becoming violent or aggressive towards the Muslims).

In many Muslim countries, some people may be accused of apostasy even if they have non-conventional (non-traditional or unusual) interpretations of the Quran. The severe persecution of the famous expert in Arabic literature, Prof. Nasir Hamid Abu Zayd, is an example of this. In some countries, Sunni and Shia Muslims often accuse each other of apostasy. Many people explain the current civil conflict in Iraq by pointing to the very harsh religious opposition between Sunnis and Shias in the country.


  1. Islamic Law: Myths and Realities, by Denis J. Wiechman, Jerry D. Kendall, and Mohammad K. Azarian,
  4. Sunan Abu Da'ud 1134
  5. Sahih Bukhari 1503
  6. Normally these are thought to be the days in which pilgrims stay at Mina once they return from Muzdalifah i.e. 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th of Dhu al-Hijjah
  7. Ghamidi, The Ritual of Animal Sacrifice
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ghamidi(2001), The dietary laws
  9. Sunan ibn Maja 2314
  10. Nisai 59
  11. Al-Zamakhshari. Al-Kashaf, vol. 1, (Beirut: Daru’l-Kitab al-‘Arabi), p. 215
  12. Sahih Muslim 1934
  13. Nisai 4447
  14. Sahih Bukhari 4199
  15. Sunan Abu Da'ud 2858


  • Rights and Islamic Law Dead Link
  • Laleh Bakhtiar and Kevin Reinhart (1996). Encyclopedia of Islamic Law: A Compendium of the Major Schools. Kazi Publications. ISBN 1-56744-498-9
  • Muhammad ibn Idris al- Shafi'i (1993). Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence. ISBN 0-946621-15-2
  • Khaled Abou El Fadl 2003). Reasoning with God: Rationality and Thought in Islam. Oneworld. ISBN 1-85168-306-2
  • Cemal Kafadar (1996). Between Two Worlds: The Construction of the Ottoman State. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20600-2
  • Omid Safi (2003). Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-316-X
  • Mumisa, Michael (2002) Islamic Law: Theory & Interpretation. Amana Publications. ISBN 1-59008-010-6
  • Daniel W. Brown (1996). Rethinking traditions in modern Islamic thought. Cambridge University Press, UK. ISBN 0-521-65394-0
  • Human Rights Documents Archives
  • Weiss, Bernard G. (2002). Studies in Islamic Legal Theory. Boston: Brill Academic publishers. ISBN 90-04-12066-1

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