Islam is a comprehensive faith with guidance in all fields of life. The word Sharia makes it clear that Islamic guidance paves a path for the believer through life and its challenges. To properly appreciate the meaning of Sharia, one needs to seek the assistance of devout Islamic scholars.
In an Islamic context, the word refers to obligations and prohibitions revealed by God (Allah) to humanity. The rulings of the Sharia stem from the Holy Book of Islam (the Quran) as well as the teachings and example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Sharia contains guidance that covers all aspects of human life, from marriage and divorce to trade and politics. Sharia is comprehensive as it guides a person through life and has answers to the most critical and delicate of matters.
Since the Sharia is set by the Creator, every aspect of it is beneficial and improves the individual’s life. The purpose of Sharia is not to restrict people’s lives nor stop them from moving forward, in fact, the benefits of the Sharia was seen and witnessed during the European dark ages, a time unanimously seen as the golden age of Islam. The best civilisation witnessed by humanity was the Muslim civilisation during that time. This was purely due to the fact that Muslims of the time followed the guidance of the Sharia.
Sharia being from the Omniscient Allah, the Creator of all things, is flawless and timeless. Whilst Sharia is perfect, human understanding is often coloured by environmental factors and may not always render a time-relevant interpretation of every aspect of Sharia. Of course, there are certain matters that are stated in very clear terms, these do not require interpretation. At the same time, we are tested with matters that require scholarly interpretation, these matters reveal which people prefer to find “convenient” solutions and which people choose to remain faithful to the spirit as well as the text of Islam.
Ultimately, Muslims are encouraged through Sharia to show kindness, treat their neighbours well, be just and fair, honour pledges and contracts, avoid lying, corruption and any kind of harm to people and society. Murder, manslaughter, rape and theft are all prohibited by Sharia. These are universal values that Islam honours. There are many teachings specifically targeting to Muslims that are widely appreciated in western societies. Examples of shared prohibitions include intoxicants, eating swine, gambling, fornication, abortion and atheism (not believing in God) are prohibited and considered major sins for Muslims.
Muslims living in western societies must respect and adhere to the laws of the country where they reside. Overall, Western laws do not enforce a breach of Sharia values. Most Western laws were derived from Christian values, Muslims respect Christ as a great messenger of Allah hence the numerous similarities. The differences are found in man-introduced law, though even in those cases, conflicting laws are not compulsory, for example, these laws do not compel citizens to consume intoxicants, eat swine, gamble, fornicate, abort a pregnancy or be an atheist. Western society have left such matters to individual choice.
As Western societies introduced laws to reflect the will of the people, in like manner, majority Muslim countries have the right and the obligation to posit their beliefs into law.
In essence, we know that Sharia just and fair and that it alleviates oppression, spreads peace and equality and protects human rights.
Sharia in fact condemns terrorism, oppressive laws and harsh penalties. It is guidance for Muslims and it presents the best life-model.
Whether in Australia or any Muslim country, the Sharia helps Muslims to better appreciate and respect law and order.
Dr Rateb Jneid