Shari’ah is an ethical, legal and spiritual framework for all aspects of a Muslim’s life. It covers everything from prayer, charity and well-being, to marriage, finance and family.
The Arabic word ‘Shari’ah’ literally refers to a waterway that leads to a main source.
The principles of Shari’ah echo any ethical governing system that aims for the collective goals of public welfare, peace and security.
Shari’ah is based on two building blocks: the moral guidelines of the Quran, and the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad. These go through a process of reasoning and consensus between scholars and legal experts, who accommodate a wide range of interpretations and opinions.
Shari’ah is often applied in a case by case manner, taking all circumstances into consideration.
While the Shari’ah aims to protect all of society from harm, its rulings are only applied to Muslims and not to people of other faiths or beliefs. Shari’ah serves both a public and private function, guiding interactions between the individual and God, as well as interactions between human beings.
The six main goals of Shari’ah are to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life, to protect and nurture religion, to preserve the right to education and intellectual development, to safeguard family and social inclusion, to uphold the right to dignity and self-esteem, and lastly to protect the right of property and relief from poverty.
Islamic law states that it is better to acquit a guilty person than to mistakenly punish an innocent one. Justice and fairness are key, as the fourteenth century Muslim thinker and legal expert, Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya said: “God has made clear that the objective of the Shari’ah is the establishment of justice between His servants and fairness among the people, so whichever path leads to justice and fairness is part of the religion”.