The Legal System of Islam

The Place of Shari‘a in Islam

The word “shari‘a” literally means “a way.” In Islamic terminology, it means the legal system of Islam. It is normally translated as the laws of Islam or the Islamic laws.

Islam is a din—religion. The word din bears a concept wider and more comprehensive than the word `religion’. It means believing in the fundamentals as well as living according to the Islamic laws. This concept of religion is beautifully conveyed in the terms used by Islamic scholars to describe the fundamental beliefs and the practical laws of Islam. The “beliefs” are described as “usūlu ’d-dīn — the roots of religion”. The “sharī‘a laws” are described as “furū‘u ’d-dīn — the branches of religion”. Beliefs without practice is incomplete Islam; and practice without belief may be useful in this world but not of much use in the hereafter.

The sharī‘a is a complete way of life; no aspect of human life is outside its domain. Islam expects a Muslim to follow its laws in every aspect of life: personal and familial, religious and social, moral and political, economic and business, etc. After all, “Muslim” means one who submits to God. The Qur’ān says,

“When Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, it is not for any believing man or believing woman to have a choice in their affairs. And whosoever disobeys Allāh and His Messenger has gone astray into clear error.” (33:36)

The Need for the Sharī‘a

Man’s nature dictates that he can only function properly within a society. Human beings are interdependent by nature. This interdependency of human beings on each other is beautifully expressed in the following passage:

“The baker told me to bake my own bread; the tailor told me to cut and sew my own clothes; the shoemaker told me to make my own shoes; similarly, the carpenter, the engineer, the farmer, and all the labourers and workers told me to do everything by myself. It was then that I looked at myself and realized that I am naked, hungry and powerless with no shelter over my head, waiting for death to overcome me. It was then that I realized that I cannot survive without my fellow human beings; my survival depends on living in the society.”1

A society, however, depends for its existence on laws and regulations. If there are no laws in a society, it is overtaken by the law of the jungle: the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. So the need for laws to regulate the lives of human beings is beyond any doubt.

Islam teaches that because of the imperative need of laws for a civilized society, God has sent a series of messengers and prophets with divine laws for man’s guidance from the very first day of his creation. The last Messenger was Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family) who brought the final and the perfect set of laws, Islam, as a guide for mankind till the end of time.

Many people think that there is no need for God-made laws, we can make laws by ourselves. Islam believes that a human being is a very sophisticated creature; and since he has not made his own body, nor did he create the world in which he lives, he, therefore, is not the best candidate for making laws about himself. Common sense says that when you buy a complicated piece of equipment, like a computer, you should use it according to the ‘instruction manual’ prepared by the manufacturer of that particular machine. To learn the computer by trial and error is not the smart way. Similarly, God as the Creator of man and the earth knows better how the human being should live.

The ‘instruction manual’ that God sent for us is known as the Qur’ān. But the human being is not just any ordinary machine; rather he is more complicated than the most advanced computer a human can ever produce. So God did not only send the Qur’ān—He also sent an instructor known as Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet of Islam brought the Qur’ān to us and also provided practical examples in how to conduct our lives. According to Shi‘a Islam, after the Prophet, the Imams of Ahlu ‘l-bayt are the protectors of the Qur’ān and the interpreters of its laws.

The Superiority of God-made Laws over Man-made Laws

At this point, I would like to show the superiority of Islamic laws over man-made laws. Man-made laws are by necessity influenced by the law-makers’ social and racial biases. The United Nations Organization is the best example of how policies are enforced only when it suits the interest of the super-powers. The rule of the game in man-made laws is not honesty and justice, it is “the might is right”.

God-made laws are superior because of the following facts:

• God is above class status;

• God is above racial prejudice;

• God is above gender rivalry;

• God, as the Creator, fully knows humans as well as the world in which they live.

God-made laws will be just and based on fully informed decisions. Let me demonstrate the superiority of God-made laws by using the example of capital punishment.

The secular system always swings according to the mood of the people: sometimes, the people feel that capital punishment for murder is not right and so they pressure their representatives to vote against capital punishment. But when crimes rates increase and serial murder cases occur more frequently, public opinion changes and the legislators are influenced in favour of capital punishment.

Actually both sides of this issue reflect the Judeo-Christian basis of the Western society. Judaism, on the one hand, insists on the principle of justice which demands “an eye for an eye”. On the other hand, Christianity promotes the principle of mercy by saying “turn thy other cheek.”

Islam, the final version of God-made laws, takes a balanced look at the issue of capital punishment and has beautifully accommodated both the principles of justice and mercy in its system. The Western system did not realize the difference between the two principles of justice and mercy: while justice can be demanded and legislated, mercy cannot be forced or made into a law. You can always plead for mercy but you can never demand mercy.

Islam takes this difference into full consideration, and, therefore, it talks about capital punishment on two different levels: legal and moral. On the legal level, it sanctions the principle of justice by giving the right of retaliation to the victim. But, immediately, the Qur’ān moves on to the moral level and strongly recommends the victim to forgo his right of retaliation and either to forgive the criminal or to settle for monetary compensation. This issue has been clearly mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’ān:

In it (the Torah), We wrote to them: “A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and there is retaliation for wounds.” But (before you act according to your right, remember that) whosoever forgoes (his right of retaliation), it shall be expiation for him (against his own sins). (5:45)

Thus Islam has very beautifully provided the legal safeguard for human life on the social level and also encouraged mercy from a moral point of view on the individual level. If human beings are left on their own in this issue, they will always swing between the two extremes of justice and mercy—only Islam, the final version of God-made legal system can accommodate both these principles.

1. Jurdāq, G., al-Imām ‘Ali: sawtu ‘l-`adālati ‘l-insāniyyah, vol. 5 (Beirut) p. 14.

The scope of Man’s freedom

The freedom granted to the individual in such areas as economics and politics is, in Islam, conditioned by the following principle: that such freedom does not conflict with man’s spiritual imperatives, nor undermine the foundations of public welfare.
In fact, the philosophy of obligation in Islam is rooted in the need to make man aware of the extent of his responsibility, so that he properly safeguards his essential dignity, while at the same time upholding public welfare. The prohibition of idolatry, alcohol and other vices is founded, precisely, upon the need to safeguard the dignity and sanctity of the human state; in this light one can better appreciate the wisdom of the law of reprisal in Islam.

The Qur’an considers the law of proportionate retaliation to be a source of preserving human life:

And there is for you in legal retribution [saving of] life, O you [people] of understanding, that you may become righteous. (Sura al-Baqara, II:179)

The Holy Prophet said:

‘If somebody commits a sin in secret, he harms only himself. But if he commits it openly, and is not stopped, the whole society is harmed.’ 1

Imam Sadiq, after narrating some hadiths, said:

‘The one who openly and actively displays his sins violates the sanctity of God’s rulings, and the enemies of God become his followers.’2

There is no compulsion in religion

One of the expressions of the principle of the freedom of the individual in Islam is that there is no obligation in respect of which religion one chooses to follow:

There is no compulsion in religion. The right way is distinct from error. (Sura al-Baqara, II:256)

In Islam, religion is sought after only as a result of inner conviction and heartfelt faith, and such things cannot be forced upon the soul from without; rather, they flow from the prior realization of a whole series of factors, the most important of which is the ability to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal. Once such discernment is attained, the individual-under normal circumstances-will choose to follow the truth.


It is true that Jihad is an obligation for all Muslims; but this does not in any way mean forcing others to accept Islam. The aim of Jihad is, rather, the removal of barriers that prevent the divine message from being [peacefully] conveyed to people throughout the world, so that the ‘right way’ can indeed be clarified and presented to all. It is to be expected that if the liberating message of Islam is prevented from being spread peacefully, then Jihad must be undertaken, [but only] in order to remove these obstacles and establish the conditions necessary for the peaceful propagation of the message among all peoples.
As we have tried to show, the Islamic perspective illuminates. the nature of man and the universe. There are, of course, many other principles and points to be considered in this vast subject.

1. Wasa’il al-Shi’a (Beirut, 1403/ 1982), vol. 11,ch. 4, p. 407.
2. Ibid.

Terrorism and increasing Sectarianism in the Islamic world

Unfortunately there are many terrorist groups in some of the Islamic countries who kill the followers of different Islamic sects in order to increase sectarianism and denominational tensions in the Islamic world. But it is clear that any sort of denominational tensions in the region is absolutely dangerous for all the people of the region and that is why we must be aware of the consequences of the presence of terrorist groups in the Islamic countries.

During the recent years the military presence of the western powers in Iraq and Afghanistan has only served to raise denominational and racial tensions between different religious sects and ethnic groups. It is due to the strategy of the terrorist groups, backed by the non-Islamic powers in the region, that they have killed thousands of innocent followers of different religions and Islamic sects in the Islamic countries Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan since 2010.

For instance, last year On February 23, masked gunmen kidnapped 30 Shia Muslims in the southern province of Zabul as they were traveling on two buses in central Afghanistan. On April 6, Afghan authorities recovered the dead bodies of some of the hostages in the southern province of Zabul. [1] In another incident, 17 Hazaras beheaded by Taliban in Gizab, Afghanistan on July 7, 2014. [2] Terrorists have decapitated five Shia Muslims belonging to the Hazara ethnic group in the southeastern Afghan province of Ghazni on April 17, 2015. [3] |

Fortunately the Shiite and Sunni scholars tried their best to decrease the tensions, but, despite this the ISIL and other Takfiri terrorist groups are willing to destabilize the whole region. Muslims must understand that the terrorist militants are paving the ground for military presence of the non-Islamic powers in the region. No one can deny that Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have witnessed years of instability in the presence of foreign troops, while, before the military appearance of the US as well as its western allies in the Islamic territory, they were stable and secure countries.

Finally, it must be noticed that the western military presence in the Islamic territory and intervention in the affairs of the Islamic countries caused instability, civil war, poverty and backwardness; as a result, the Islamic world is now full of conflicts. Based on the mentioned facts all Muslims must know that what the role and mission of the terrorist groups is in the Islamic countries and how important it is to resist against them as well as arrogant powers in the region.



A perfect explanation of the reality of Islam

 Islam[dropcap]I[/dropcap] slam is an Arabic word which means submission and surrender. Thus as a religion, Islam means complete surrender and submission to God and his laws. In Islamic texts the word Islam is used in three ways:
1) In its general sense, the whole universe is considered to be Muslim because it follows the laws that God has made for it. The sun, moon, earth, and all physical and biological entities follow the unalterable laws of God and do not make even the slightest deviation from this course.
A person who takes up the path of submission to God and follows his laws brings himself into harmony with the whole universe, but even if he denies God, biologically his own body follows the laws made by his lord. That is why unbelief in Islam is called Kufr (concealment), because by his Kufr the unbeliever tries to conceal what is inherent in his nature.

2) In its more specific sense, Islam implies the true revealed religion of God, which entails belief in God, in the prophets and in the hereafter. In this sense, Islam is the religion preached by all the Prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them all:

Indeed the only true religion in the sight of Allah is Islam; those who had received the Books differed only after the knowledge came to them, due to their hearts’ envy;…[1]

3) In its particular sense, Islam means the last and the most perfect religion and Shari’a (law) of God revealed through Prophet Muhammad (S). Islam is a universally attributable name, whoever takes on this attribute is a Muslim, irrespective of race, color, region, or country.
As mentioned, we believe that the true religion of God was the same from Adam to Muhammad peace be upon them, but that the Shari’a or detailed law of conduct has changed according to the requirements of different times and different communities. The process ended with the advent of Prophet Muhammad (S) who brought the final Shari’a and the religion in its most complete form, which was to apply to the whole of humanity for all time to come. All the previous religions and Shari’as stand abrogated, and it is the duty of all mankind to follow this religion.

Din (religion) consists of the following elements: the aqa’id (beliefs) and the shari’a (law). The fandamental beliefs are:
1) Belief in one God (tawhid),
2) Belief in the divine justice,
3) Belief in the institution of prophethood,
4) Belief in the institution of the divine leaders,
5) Belief in the hereafter (ma’ad),

The Shari’a consists of Akhlaq (ethics) and Ahkam (the legal precepts), the Ahkam includes the norm of personal behavior, the norms of social behavior, the precepts of the religious rites, and the precepts concerning worship.[2]

1. إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ الْإِسْلَامُ ۗ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ
chapter.3, verse. 19.
2. A manual of Islamic beliefs and practice, v.1, p.1,

Islam is a Religion of Peace and Tolerance

UNESCO’s Member States adopted a “Declaration of Principles on Tolerance” [1] on November 16, 1995, according to which the variation of our world’s cultures must be respected. Since people are naturally diverse and variety is the spice of life, we must recognize the fundamental freedom of others as universal human rights; otherwise, no one can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe. That is to say that tolerance could not be qualified only as a moral duty, but also as a political and legal requirement for individuals, groups and States.

Now let’s have a look at the verses of the holy Quran to see whether this Holy and divine scripture ensures tolerance or not; Because, there might be a mistaken belief, especially in the western societies, that Islam is categorically opposed to the principle of tolerance due to the miss-behavior of the terrorist groups, known as so called Islamic fighters, towards Muslims or non-Muslims. Referring to the holy Quran and the tradition of the holy Prophet Muhammad (P) we find out that not only Islam is not opposed to the existence of other religions but also encourages its followers to tolerate and respect the people of other faiths.

There are many verses in the Holy Quran that orders Muslims to tolerate others and do not force others to accept t