Sharia law

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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:
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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:
Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:

Sharia law is a legal framework based upon a scholarly interpretation of the Qur'an and the hadith; being extrapolated where required by Fiqh - which is Islamic jurisprudence. The extrapolations may vary depending on the sect and the school of thought followed. However, the core laws of Sharia remain the same across the different schools of fiqh and the sects. In many countries, Sharia law is the basis for state sanctioned law and is a form of theocracy.

Sharia law is widely criticised for containing unjust laws and mandating cruel punishments. Liberal Muslims overlook the harsher parts of Sharia in the same way that liberal Christians overlook the more uncomfortable parts of the Bible. Westerners travelling to predominantly Muslim countries are subject to local laws, which may be under the aegis of Sharia law. This could become problematic in cases of divorce and child custody. [1]

Sharia courts sometimes operate in Western countries as a "voluntary" arbitration mechanism, in a similar manner to Jewish courts. [2] There is some debate as to whether these courts are truly voluntary, even for those who are citizens of a given Western country. Attempts to ban Sharia courts in the West might do little to reduce their use and instead may drive the practice underground. [3]

Supporting arguments[edit]

Divine sanction[edit]

Since Allah revealed Sharia law, it supposedly is authoritative and it cannot have any errors.

"this is the message of the All-Wise and all-knowing God whose wisdom and knowledge are far beyond the ultimate in human thought and progress. [4]"

Punishments are only used in extreme cases[edit]

Apologists argue that these punishments are only used in extreme cases.

"They are known as hadd penalties (pl. hudud), the extreme limit of the penalty. Thus, if a person was sentenced to having a hand cut off, he or she should not be sent to prison and/or be fined as well. [5]"
"People fail to realize that the Islamic Sharia is perfect. Therefore does not mean that if a poor steals bread it does not mean his hands would be chopped off. Only if you rob or steal a particular big amount, then it is implemented.[6]"

And it is rarely used because of extenuating circumstances or the high standard of evidence:

"to be sentenced to death for adultery, the couple had to be actually witnessed performing the physical act by four people who were in a position to identify both parties without doubt; this virtually ruled out the penalty [5]"

However, the fact that a punishment is rarely applied does not make the punishment just!

Sharia law reduces crime and produces a harmonious society[edit]

Sharia law is claimed to bring benefits to society.

"[Western society] results in immeasurable harm to children and the family: promiscuity, widespread abortion, divorce, out-of-wedlock births and single motherhood. These monsters are the worst child abusers in history. Absolutely disgusting. The problem in Britain is that most native British men are weak and pander to women, footing the bill for all sorts of degeneracy. If men were brought up to be strong leaders and women taught to submit then society would be much healthier. [7]"
"[Sharia law] is the reason the least rate of robbery in any part of the world is in Saudi Arabia, where this law is practiced.[6]"

While some claim that Sharia law is the cause of low crime rates in some Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, these claims are based on questionable official crime statistics. Even if the crime is relatively low in Saudi Arabia, possible alternative explanations include economic power and social equality. There are also countries that attempt to implement many aspects of Sharia law but are unable to reduce crime, such as in Iran. [8]

Condemning Western societies to justify Sharia is a false dichotomy between them.

Sharia is contrary to many formulations of human rights, which means it is a very unjust system.

You are in no position to judge[edit]

Apologists claim that Sharia law cannot be judged by external moral standards. Also, critics that condemn sharia law from the view point of present day moral standards are accused of presentism and their criticisms are dismissed as invalid.

"suffice it to say that the moral framework of civics, living one's life, and behavior cannot and should not be judged by other's standards [9]"

Not everyone agrees with this extreme moral relativism. In fact, appealing to relativism undermines the authority of Sharia law, since Muslims cannot then criticise non-believers.

"It is wrong to tolerate the denial of human rights to non-white Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, when most of us would never tolerate the denial of these rights to white (and non-white) people in Britain. There should be no double standards. No cultural and moral relativism. Defend universal human rights. One law for all. [10]"

There is no rigid Sharia law[edit]

"Within Sunni Islam, there are four schools of thought and much diversity within Shii Islam as well. There are multiple ways of interpreting Sharia and each one is different, depending on the school of legal jurisprudence one follows. [11]"

This mainly rules out the possibility that, in practice, Sharia is "perfect" since there is no agreement over what it says. However, there there is consensus on many issues in Sharia and much is very objectionable. There are many principles that cannot be reformed, such as the death penalty.

Sharia law is fundamental to Islam[edit]

Apologists argue that Sharia law and Islam are inseparable. Sharia law is therefore a matter of religious freedom.

"Muslims without Sharia are like Catholics without their personal laws or the Jews without their Halakah. [11]"

This assumes literalism when interpreting scriptures which is a minority view in many religions, including Christianity and Islam. Many believers, including Muslims, are also secular and do not accept religious law unquestioningly. Secular Muslims are sometimes accused of not being true Muslims, which is an equivocation of the word "Muslim".

"A Muslim who does not follow the sharia is not a true Muslim"

— Maulana Mohammad Sajid Rashid [12]

Some good laws[edit]

Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:

Apologists argue that Sharia law has some just laws and represents an improvement on pre-Islamic practices in many cases.

  • Execution of criminals may be avoided if the family of the victim calls for clemency. This is argued to be superior to other justice systems.
  • Sharia forbids lending money except for interest free loans. Since sale contracts are allowed, Islamic banks can purchase an item on a customers behalf and have them pay for it over a period of time (rather like a hire purchase agreement). [13]
  • Women were granted limited independence, such as to own property, receive (limited) inheritance, involvement in politics and have employment. [4]
  • Female infanticide is banned, which was formerly practiced by some tribes. [4]
"[The intrinsic truthfulness of Sharia] would demonstrate the divine origin of the Quran and the truthfulness of the message of Islam, which, unlike human philosophies and ideologies, was far from proceeding from its human environment [4]"

This cherry picking of the just laws does not justify the unjust laws in Sharia law.

Problems with Sharia law[edit]

Ridiculous prohibitions[edit]

There are many activities that are criminalised by sharia law. [14]. It should be noted that these are not universally considered to be forbidden (haram).

Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:

While many religions have similar rules, they are usually just sins and you would not necessarily expect punishment in this life. Sharia law is keen to administer punishment in the here and now.

Incompatible with liberal norms[edit]

Sharia law is incompatible with:

Spread by force[edit]

Sharia law is sometimes imposed by force when the majority of the population, political leaders or militias decided to enforce a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. [25]

"And fight them until there is no fitnah [disbelief] and [until] the religion, all of it [globally], is for Allah."

Surah 8:39 Bible-icon.png

A version of Sharia law is sometimes dispensed by extra-judical groups, such as mobs or militias. More mainstream proponents of Sharia law are usually opposed to vigilantism and point out Sharia law is complex and requires a great deal of study.

"with the expansion of the Sharia legal system to the field of criminal law by states in northern Nigeria, some people are tried, convicted and executed for not breaching any criminal criminal law of the land; but for transgressing some religious injunctions [26]"

Death penalty[edit]

Most countries that use Sharia law also have capital punishment. Capital punishment is a cruel practice and often results in miscarriages of justice as the innocent are sometimes executed in error. Some crimes have specific forms of execution specified in the Qur'an (e.g. Surah 5:33-34 Bible-icon.png) while others are punishable by unspecified method of execution. [27]

Saudi Arabia is known to conduct executions by beheading, firing squad, crucifixion [28] and stoning. Many of these executions were carried out in public. The notoriety of beheading is perhaps leading to firing squads becoming the favoured means of execution. Stoning is mainly used in cases of adultery, such as the execution of Misha'al bint Fahd al Saud in 1977.

Laws allowing crucifixion and other barbaric punishments in Hamas controlled territories have been passed. [29]

Beheading a prisoner with a single blow is difficult. Many beheading are conducted by non-experts that require multiple blows to hack the head from the body.

Stoning is a particularly brutal method of execution in which the victim is restrained, usually by being partly buried and stones of a prescribed size thrown by a crowd at the victim until dead. [30]

Iran has used hanging as the punishment for homosexuality. [31]


A 2016 statement signed by 300 abused women said Sharia courts caused great harm:

"We know from personal experiences that many religious bodies such as Sharia Councils are presided over by hard line or fundamentalist clerics who are intolerant of the very idea that women should be in control of their own bodies and minds. These clerics claim to be acting according to the word of God: but they are often corrupt, primarily interested in making money and abuse their positions of power by shaming and slandering those of us who reject those aspects of our religions and cultures that we find oppressive. We pay a huge price for not submitting to domestic violence, rape, polygamy and child abuse and other kinds of harm.[32]"

Domestic violence against wives[edit]

While not the first punishment cited, wives may be beaten if husband "fears" her arrogance or disobedience. [33]

"Men are in charge of women [...] those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them."

Surah 4:34 Bible-icon.png

This is an example of unacceptable behaviour being commanded by the Qur'an. Apologists argue that the Qur'an only allows domestic violence as a last resort.[34] Domestic violence is a problem in many countries that employ Sharia law, such as Afghanistan [35] and Saudi Arabia. [36]


Sharia law allows for polygamy. Surah 4:3 Bible-icon.png Polyandry (women having multiple husbands) is not allowed.

A woman's testimony is worth half a man's (or nothing at all)[edit]

For some crimes, a women's testimony has half the weight of a man's testimony. [37] [38] In other cases, such as hudud crimes, most Sharia scholars consider a woman's testimony to be inadmissible. [38] The implementation of this depends on the jurisdiction. The issue has divided Islamic scholars and some conclude that there is equality between sexes in testimony. [39]

Easier for men to divorce[edit]

It is easier for men to be granted a divorce under Sharia law, if the partner opposes the divorce. Surah 2:229 Bible-icon.png

"It is easier for a Muslim man to end a marriage in Islam, but a wife must persuade the judges to grant her a dissolution if her husband is opposed to divorce.[40]"

A woman's inheritance is half that of a man[edit]

A woman's inheritance is half that of a man Surah 4:11 Bible-icon.png. [38]

Wives and Employment[edit]

A husband has an obligation under Sharia to support his wife, including all her expenses. If she obtains a job, the husband would still normally be responsible for work clothing and transportation. The wife does not need to contribute her salary to the household but may do so voluntarily.

"A husband is obliged to earn the living for his wife and fulfill all her needs although his wife is a rich woman. The riches of a wife doesn’t nullify her right, which is the obligation of her husband.[41]"
"He must still support his wife and look after her, providing all she needs of food, clothes and housing. She does not have to spend anything on the family home. Having said this, I should add that nowadays many married couples work, and the wife’s work leads to extra family expense, such as extra transport, nursery fees for young children, help with housework etc. It is right, therefore, that the woman pays a share of the family expense, which should at least offset the extra expense they incur. What is left is her own property and her husband cannot have a claim to it. [...] Regrettably, some husbands use the traditional status given to them by their local culture and try to impose their will on their wives and take away all, or most of their salaries. If they do it, they are committing a sin. A husband cannot take any portion of his wife’s money without her full agreement. He does not have any say as to how she uses it.[42]"


Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:

Sharia allows slavery. Mohammed himself owned 40 unfortunate slaves. Slavery is now almost universally condemned. In Islam, slaves are helpless before their masters Surah 16:77 Bible-icon.png, can be bought and sold and masters can have sex with female slaves whenever they want Surah 4:3 Bible-icon.png. [43] [44]

Death for apostasy[edit]

Main Article: Apostasy

The penalty for leaving Islam is imprisonment or death, according to Sharia law. Surah 9:11-12 Bible-icon.png This is obviously an extreme punishment for a victimless crime.

Ritual slaughter (Halal food)[edit]

Meat from livestock must be ritually slaughtered by cutting the throat of a conscious animal, which is then drained of blood. This is referred to as halal food. This practice has been criticised as a cruel method of slaughter and has been banned in several countries. The eating of pork is forbidden.


Homosexuality is forbidden under Sharia law Surah 7:80-81 Bible-icon.png. Unmarried homosexuals of either sex who have intercourse should be whipped and given a hundred lashes, this severely lashing can be fatal. Adultery is punished even worse, male adulterers are hanged while female adulterers are buried in a pit up to their heads and stoned to death.

Traditionally homosexuals were sometimes burnt alive but as recently as the 21st Century in Taliban controlled Afghanistan were routinely executed. Lucky ones were thrown from tall buildings and died relatively quickly though it must have been terrifying. Unlucky homosexuals were put into a pit and a wall was toppled onto them so they were buried alive. In Iran women caught doing lesbian acts were/are given a hundred lashes each but if they have not “reformed after three such punishments they are executed the fourth time.

Despite these laws, homosexuality has been a component of Middle Eastern culture throughout recorded history. [45]

Punishment of rape victims, rapists go unpunished[edit]

Because four witnesses (typically male) are required for serious crimes to be prosecuted, it is rare for rapists to be found guilty or punished. However, this problem occurs in many legal systems.

Rape victims are often punished because they "being alone with unrelated men", and for "adultery". [46][47]

"Because such “proofs” are almost impossible to obtain and because circumstantial evidence is not accepted, a rape cannot be proved as rape in a Sharia court. Instead, “sex outside marriage” is proved for the woman by her complaint or physical scars or torn cloths or pregnancy etc. [48]"

Circumcision and FGM[edit]

Male circumcision is either obligatory for Muslims, or highly recommended. This procedure has little benefit, is often carried out without consent on infants and the procedure has some risks. The status of female genital mutilation in Sharia is controversial and views range from being un-Islamic [49] and outlawed to making FGM mandatory. [50] FGM is considered by most medical authorities to be very harmful.

Restrictions on interfaith marriage[edit]

Sharia law places restrictions on interfaith marriage. Muslim men are generally disallowed to marry non-Muslim women (Surah 2:221 Bible-icon.png) but an exception is made for the "people of the book" i.e. Jewish or Christian women. Any children must be raised as Muslims. [51]

Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-muslim men. If both are originally non-Muslim and the wife converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until the husband converts. Surah 60:10 Bible-icon.png [51]

Cruel punishments[edit]

A range of non-capital punishments are mandated in Sharia law which have been largely abandoned in western countries because of their cruelty. This section describes some of the means of punishment that have been employed by Sharia law in the last one hundred years.

Sharia law uses the principle that harsh punishment acts as a deterrent to others. [5] The Qur'an encourages "a punishment by way of example" Surah 5:38 Bible-icon.png.


Flogging is the prescribed punishment for many breaches of Sharia law, such as fornication Surah 24:2 Bible-icon.png or making accusations of sexual crimes without 4 witnesses Surah 24:4 Bible-icon.png. It is a cruel punishment and may cause death.

Eye for an eye punishment[edit]

Sharia law allows for punishments that repeat bodily injury on the criminal, in a literal interpretation of an eye for an eye. Surah 5:45 Bible-icon.png For instance in Iran, a man was blinded in one eye as part of the punishment for blinding another man with acid. [52] In Saudi Arabian, a man who paralysed another with a clever while they were fighting has been sentenced to be paralysed under Sharia law. [53]

Thieves should have their hands amputated[edit]

Sharia law states that the ultimate punishment for theft is amputation of the hand. Surah 5:38 Bible-icon.png[54] This is a cruel punishment that does not reliably prevent further crime. It also limits their usefulness to society if they do reform their behaviour.

Not open for review and improvement[edit]

Sharia law is not open to review and improvement as better ways of ordering society are found. The old and obsolete laws are in scripture and there is no way to add, modify or remove them.

"[Sharia law is] a message which established such humane principles as neither grew obsolete during the course of time and after these many centuries, nor can become obsolete in the future.[4]"

The possibility of reform is sometimes discussed but there is no central religious authority in Islam to make wide reforms. Islam, and particularly Islamic jurisprudence, has a tradition of literalism when interpreting scripture.

"It is reasonable to assume that many Islamic scholars know the dysfunctional nature of the Islamic laws, but they are afraid of not only losing their livelihoods but also their lives, by stepping in front of the masses.[55]"

Multiple versions of a "perfect" legal system[edit]

Sharia law has multiple schools of Islamic jurisprudence. They are a broken compass in that they can't all be right but they can be all wrong.

Selective application of law[edit]

Sharia law is often applied selectively to the weak and not the powerful, who are usually doing the punishing. [56]

No evidence of divine sanctioning[edit]

There is no reliable evidence that the Qur'an is divinely inspired. It is more likely an invention of the people at the time. The Qur'an contains teachings that were conveniently tailored the Muhammand's immediate needs, implying a more human origin. Also, evidence indicates that the Qur'an did not exist in it's final form until after Muhammad's death.

"The evidence is clear that the Qur'an that Muslims have today cannot be an exact replica of the tables in heaven as Von Denffer would have us to believe. There were clearly variant reading which differ from quotes in the hadiths, which itself serves as a witness to the mutability of the Qur'an. [57]"

Ramadan fasting and midnight sun[edit]

Places inside the Arctic circles, such as northern Norway, Canada, Alaska and Russia experience the midnight sun (no night at all) at certain times. If Ramadan falls in this time (eating and drinking is forbidden during the day, except in certain circumstances), then it is impossibly to fulfil the normal fasting requirements without starving or dehydrating. Muslim communities in certain regions have adopted the fasting schedule of Mecca, which is taxing but less difficult than that followed by Muslims in southern Norway. Muslims are also wary of setting a precedent that is not supported in Sharia and final consensus on the issue has not been reached. [58] This absurd requirement and lack of guidance in this context is an error, or at least omission, in the Qur'an.

Intolerance of dogs, including guide dogs[edit]

Dogs are considered ritually unclean and are not tolerated by some Muslims. Entry to guide dogs have been refused at certain establishments based on religious considerations. [59]

Sharia law harms society[edit]

Main Article: Religion is harmful to society

Sharia law is no better than any other authoritarian theocratic system and inferior in many respects to liberal and secular societies. [60]

Sharia law is not a matter of religious freedom[edit]

In Western societies, freedom of religion only extends to ones own behaviour. The right to punish others based on one's religious belief is not granted by this principle. In fact, coerce believers into accepting Sharia punishments by threatening other consequences is a violation of religious freedom. In secular societies, Sharia may be a personal code of conduct but not an authoritative judicial system.

The possibility of a person voluntarily accepting punishment is admitted on principle. It is sometimes used as an arbitration system in western countries. [2] However, it is questionable if the decision to accept a Sharia judgement is voluntary or coerced.

Threats and murder of non-Muslim critics[edit]

Western countries have adopted freedom of religion and free speech. Non-Muslims living in non-Islamic states are not subject to Sharia law. When non-Muslims criticise or depict Muhammad or other Islamic topics, the speaker is sometimes threatened with death, or in some cases murdered. The author Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding for decades because of death threats issues by the religious authorities in Iran. Cartoonists at Jyllands-Posten were threatened with death after a series of cartoons of Muhammad were punished. In 2004, Theo van Gogh was murdered after making a film criticising the treatment of women in Islam. These actions are based in Sharia law and its laws forbidden the criticism of Muhammad.


  1. Sheetal Parmar, Britons 'liable to Sharia divorces' in UAE, BBC, 5 August 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Patrick Worrall, FactCheck Q&A: sharia law in the UK, July 14, 2014
  3. [1]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Jamal Badawi, The Status of Women in Islam, Al-lttihad, Vol. 8, No. 2, Sha’ban 1391/Sept 1971
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, A personal view of Sharia
  6. 6.0 6.1 [2]
  7. Comment #29, Would society be better under sharia law?, The Student Room
  8. [3]
  9. [4]
  10. [5]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sabith Khan, 5 Myths About Sharia Law, July 21, 2013
  12. [6]
  13. [7]
  14. [8]
  15. [9]
  16. [10]
  17. [11]
  18. [12]
  19. [13]
  20. [14]
  21. [15]
  22. [16]
  23. [17]
  24. 24.0 24.1 Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im Na, ʻAbd Allāh Aḥmad Naʻīm, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a, 2009
  25. [18]
  26. [19]
  27. [20]
  28. [21]
  29. Hamas enacts Islamic (Sharia) laws
  30. [22]
  31. [23]
  32. [24]
  33. The Koran instructs men to beat their wives
  34. [25]
  35. [26]
  36. [27]
  37. [28]
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 James M. Arlandson, Women are inferior to men in the Quran
  39. [29]
  40. [30]
  41. [
  42. [31]
  43. Why Sharia is an Evil Abomination, October 30, 2007
  44. Slavery in Islam
  45. [32]
  46. [33]
  47. [34]
  48. [35]
  49. [36]
  50. [37]
  51. 51.0 51.1 [38]
  52. [39]
  53. [40]
  54. Eyewitness: Nigeria's Sharia amputees
  55. [41]
  56. [42]
  57. [43]
  58. Dennis Betzholz, The Muslims of Tromsø: Ramadan in the Land of the Midnight Sun, spiegel, July 25, 2014
  59. [44]
  60. Ten empirical deficiencies of Islamist sharia societies

See also[edit]

  • Mitzvah, law commended in the Bible for Judaism.

External links[edit]