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Sharia (Arabic: شريعة šarīʿah, IPA: [ʃaˈriːʕa], "legislation"; sp. shariah, sharīʿah; also قانون إسلامي qānūn ʾIslāmī) is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual intercourse, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting. Though interpretations of sharia vary between cultures, in its strictest definition it is considered the infallible law of God—as opposed to the human interpretation of the laws (fiqh).
There are two primary sources of sharia law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Where it has official status, sharia is interpreted by Islamic judges (qadis) with varying responsibilities for the religious leaders (imams). For questions not directly addressed in the primary sources, the application of sharia is extended through consensus of the religious scholars (ulama) thought to embody the consensus of the Muslim Community (ijma). Islamic jurisprudence will also sometimes incorporate analogies from the Quran and Sunnah through qiyas, though Shia jurists prefer reasoning ('aql) to analogy.
The reintroduction of sharia is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements globally, including in Western countries, but attempts to impose sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare such as the Second Sudanese Civil War. Some in Israel and other countries in Asia have maintained institutional recognition of sharia, and use it to adjudicate their personal and community affairs. In Britain, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal makes use of sharia family law to settle disputes.
The concept of justice embodied in sharia is different from that of secular Western law. Muslims believe the sharia law has been revealed by God. In Islam, the laws that govern human affairs are just one facet of a universal set of laws governing nature itself. Violations of Islamic law are offenses against God and nature, including one's own human nature. Crime in Islam is sin. Whatever crime is committed, whatever punishment is prescribed for that crime in this world, one must ultimately answer to God on the Day of Judgement.
Scholars describe the word sharia as an archaic Arabic word denoting "pathway to be followed", or "path to the water hole". The latter definition comes from the fact that the path to water is the whole way of life in an arid desert environment.
The etymology of sharia as a "path" or "way" comes from the Qur'anic verse[Quran 45:18]: "Then we put thee on the (right) Way of religion so follow thou that (Way), and follow not the desires of those who know not." Abdul Mannan Omar in his Dictionary of the Holy Quran, believes the "Way" in 45:18 (quoted above) derives from shara'a (as prf. 3rd. p.m. sing.), meaning "He ordained". Other forms also appear: shara'u[Quran 45:13] as (prf. 3rd. p.m. plu.), "they decreed (a law)"[Quran 42:21]; and shir'atun (n.) meaning "spiritual law"[Quran 5:48].
Sharia underwent fundamental development, beginning with the reigns of caliphs Abu Bakr (632–34) and Umar (634–44), during which time many questions were brought to the attention of Muhammad's closest comrades for consultation. During the reign of Muawiya b. Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, ca. 662 CE, Islam undertook an urban transformation, raising questions not originally covered by Islamic law. Since then, changes in Islamic society have played an ongoing role in developing sharia, which branches out into fiqh and Qanun respectively.
The formative period of fiqh stretches back to the time of the early Muslim communities. In this period, jurists were more concerned with pragmatic issues of authority and teaching than with theory. Progress in theory happened with the coming of the early Muslim jurist Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i (767–820), who laid down the basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence in his book Al-Risala. The book details the four roots of law (Quran, Sunnah, ijma, and qiyas) while specifying that the primary Islamic texts (the Quran and the hadith) be understood according to objective rules of interpretation derived from careful study of the Arabic language.
A number of important legal concepts and institutions were developed by Islamic jurists during the classical period of Islam, known as the Islamic Golden Age, dated from the 7th to 13th centuries.
Among the Muslims, tribal laws were adapted to conform to sharia "for they could not form part of the tribal law unless and until they were generally accepted as such." Additionally, Noel James Coulson, Lecturer in Islamic law of the University of London, states that "to the tribe as a whole belonged the power to determine the standards by which its members should live. But here the tribe is conceived not merely as the group of its present representatives but as a historical entity embracing past, present, and future generations." So, while "each and every law must be rooted in either the Qur'an or the Sunnah," without contradiction, tribal life brought about a sense of participation. Such participation was further reinforced by Muhammad who stated, "My community will never agree in error".
The Umayyads initiated the office of appointing qadis, or Islamic judges. The jurisdiction of the qadi extended only to Muslims, while non-Muslim populations retained their own legal institutions. The qadis were usually pious specialists in Islam. As these grew in number, they began to theorize and systemize Islamic jurisprudence. The Abbasid made the institution of qadi independent from the government, but this separation wasn't always respected.
Both the Umayyad caliph Umar II and the Abbasids had agreed that the caliph could not legislate contrary to the Qur'an or the sunnah. Imam Shafi'i declared: "a tradition from the Prophet must be accepted as soon as it become known...If there has been an action on the part of a caliph, and a tradition from the Prophet to the contrary becomes known later, that action must be discarded in favor of the tradition from the Prophet." Thus, under the Abbasids the main features of sharia were definitively established and sharia was recognized as the law of behavior for Muslims.
During the 19th century, the history of Islamic law took a sharp turn due to new challenges the Muslim world faced: the West had risen to a global power and colonized a large part of the world, including Muslim territories. In the Western world, societies changed from the agricultural to the industrial stage, new social and political ideas emerged, and social models slowly shifted from hierarchical towards egalitarian. The Ottoman Empire and the rest of the Muslim world were in decline, and calls for reform became louder.
In Muslim countries, codified state law started replacing the role of scholarly legal opinion. Western countries sometimes inspired, sometimes pressured, and sometimes forced Muslim states to change their laws. Secularist movements pushed for laws deviating from the opinions of the Islamic legal scholars. Islamic legal scholarship remained the sole authority for guidance in matters of rituals, worship, and spirituality, while they lost authority to the state in other areas.
The Muslim community became divided into groups reacting differently to the change: secularists believe that the law of the state should be based on secular principles, not on Islamic legal doctrines; traditionalists believe that the law of the state should be based on the traditional legal schools; reformers believe that new Islamic legal theories can produce modernized Islamic law and lead to acceptable opinions in areas such as women's rights. This division persists until the present day (Brown 1996, Hallaq 2001, Ramadan 2005, Aslan 2006, Safi 2003, Nenezich 2006).
There has been a growing religious revival in Islam, beginning in the eighteenth century and continuing today. This movement has expressed itself in various forms ranging from wars to efforts towards improving education.
Definitions and descriptions
Sharia, in its strictest definition, is a divine law, as expressed in the Qur'an and Muhammad's example (often called the sunnah). As such, it is related to but different from fiqh, which is emphasized as the human interpretation of the law. Many scholars have pointed out that the sharia is not formally a code, nor a well-defined set of rules. The sharia is characterized as a discussion on the duties of Muslims based on both the opinion of the Muslim community and extensive literature. Hunt Janin and Andre Kahlmeyer thus conclude that the sharia is "long, diverse, and complicated."
From the 9th century, the power to interpret and refine law in traditional Islamic societies was in the hands of the scholars (ulema). This separation of powers served to limit the range of actions available to the ruler, who could not easily decree or reinterpret law independently and expect the continued support of the community. Through succeeding centuries and empires, the balance between the ulema and the rulers shifted and reformed, but the balance of power was never decisively changed. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution introduced an era of European world hegemony that included the domination of most of the lands of Islam. At the end of the Second World War, the European powers found themselves too weakened to maintain their empires. The wide variety of forms of government, systems of law, attitudes toward modernity and interpretations of sharia are a result of the ensuing drives for independence and modernity in the Muslim world.
According to Jan Michiel Otto, Professor of Law and Governance in Developing Countries at Leiden University, "Anthropological research shows that people in local communities often do not distinguish clearly whether and to what extent their norms and practices are based on local tradition, tribal custom, or religion. Those who adhere to a confrontational view of sharia tend to ascribe many undesirable practices to sharia and religion overlooking custom and culture, even if high-ranking religious authorities have stated the opposite." Otto's analysis appears in a paper commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sources of sharia law
There are two sources of Sharia (understood as the divine law): the Qur'an and Sunnah. According to Muslims, the Qur'an is the unalterable word of God. Much of the Qur'an exhorts Muslims to general moral values; only 80 verses of the Qur'an contain legal prescriptions. The Sunnah is the life and example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Sunnah's importance as a source of Sharia, is confirmed by several verses of the Qur'an (e.g. [Quran 33:21]). The Sunnah is primarily contained in the hadith or reports of Muhammad's sayings, his actions, his tacit approval of actions and his demeanor. While there is only one Qur'an, there are many compilations of hadith, with the most authentic ones forming during the sahih period (850 to 915 CE). The six acclaimed Sunni collections were compiled by (in order of decreasing importance) Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Al-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah. The collections by al-Bukhari and Muslim, regarded the most authentic, contain about 7,000 and 12,000 hadiths respectively (although the majority of entries are repetitions). The hadiths have been evaluated on authenticity, usually by determining the reliability of the narrators that transmitted them. For Shias, the Sunnah may also include anecdotes The Twelve Imams.
The process of interpreting the two primary sources of Islamic law is called fiqh (literally meaning "intelligence") or Islamic jurisprudence. While the above two sources are regarded as infallible, the fiqh standards may change in different contexts. Fiqh covers all aspects of law, including religious, civil, political, constitutional and procedural law. Fiqh depends on 4 sources:
- Interpretations of the Qur'an
- Interpretations of the Sunnah
- Ijma, consensus amongst scholars ("collective reasoning")
- Qiyas/Ijtihad analogical deduction ("individual reasoning")
Amongst the sources unique to fiqh, i.e. ijma and qiyas/ijtihad, the former is preferred. In Shi'a jurisprudence the fourth source may be expanded to include formal logic (mantiq). Historically the fiqh also came to include comparative law, local customs (urf) and laws motivated by public interest, so long as they were allowed by the above four sources. Because of the involvement of human interpretation, the fiqh is considered fallible, and thus not a part of Sharia (although scholars categorize it as Islamic law).
There exist five schools of thought of fiqh, all founded within the first four centuries of Islam. Four are Sunni Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali and one Shia: Ja'fari (followed by most Shia Muslims) Many Islamic scholars today advocate renewed approaches to fiqh that don't necessarily follow the traditional five allegiances. The Salafi movement attracts followers from various schools of fiqh, and is based on the Quran, Sunnah and the actions and sayings of the first three generations of Muslims.
Although there are many different interpretations of sharia, and differing perspectives on each interpretation, there is consensus among Muslims that sharia is a reflection of God's will for humankind. Sharia must therefore be, in its purest sense, perfect and unchanging. The evolution or refinement of sharia is an effort to reflect God's will more perfectly.
Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh)
Schools of law
Madhhab is a Muslim school of law or fiqh (religious jurisprudence). In the first 150 years of Islam, there were many such "schools". In fact, several of the Sahābah, or contemporary "companions" of Muhammad, are credited with founding their own. The prominent Islamic jurisprudence schools of Damascus in Syria (often named Awza'iyya), Kufa and Basra in Iraq, and Medina in Arabia survived as the Maliki madhhab, while the other Iraqi schools were consolidated into the Hanafi madhhab. The Shafi'i, Hanbali and Zahiri schools were established later, though the latter school eventually died out.
Some Sunni Muslims prefer one madhhab out of the four (normally a regional preference) but also believe that ijtihad must be exercised by the contemporary scholars capable of doing so. Some also rely on taqlid, or acceptance of religious rulings and epistemology from a higher religious authority in deferring meanings of analysis and derivation of legal practices instead of relying on subjective readings.
Categories of human behaviour
Fiqh classifies behaviour into the following types or grades: fard (obligatory), mustahabb (recommended), mubah (neutral), makruh (discouraged), and haraam (forbidden). Every human action belongs in one of these five categories.
- Actions in the fard category are those required of all Muslims. They include the five daily prayers, fasting, articles of faith, obligatory charity, and the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
- The mustahabb category includes proper behaviour in matters such as marriage, funeral rites and family life. As such, it covers many of the same areas as civil law in the West. Sharia courts attempt to reconcile parties to disputes in this area using the recommended behaviour as their guide. A person whose behaviour is not mustahabb can be ruled against by the judge.
- All behaviour which is neither discouraged nor recommended, neither forbidden nor required is of the Mubah; it is permissible.
- Makruh behaviour, while it is not sinful of itself, is considered undesirable among Muslims. It may also make a Muslim liable to criminal penalties under certain circumstances.
- Haraam behaviour is explicitly forbidden. It is both sinful and criminal. It includes all actions expressly forbidden in the Quran. Certain Muslim dietary and clothing restrictions also fall into this category.
The recommended, neutral and discouraged categories are drawn largely from accounts of the life of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. To say a behaviour is sunnah is to say it is recommended as an example from the life and sayings of Muhammad. These categories form the basis for proper behaviour in matters such as courtesy and manners, interpersonal relations, generosity, personal habits and hygiene.
Topics of Islamic law
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Topics of Islamic law include:
- Hygiene and purification laws, including the manner of cleansing, either wudhu or ghusl.
- Economic laws, including Zakāt, the annual almsgiving; Waqf, the religious endowment; the prohibition on interest or Riba; as well as inheritance laws.
- Dietary laws including Dhabihah, or ritual slaughter.
- Theological obligations, including the Hajj or pilgrimage, with its rituals such as Tawaf, Sa'yee and the Stoning of the Devil; Salah, formal worship; Salat al-Janazah, the funeral prayer; and celebrating Eid al-Adha.
- Marital jurisprudence, including Nikah, the marriage contract; and divorce, known as Khula if initiated by a woman.
- Criminal jurisprudence, including Hudud, fixed punishments; Tazir, discretionary punishment; Qisas or retaliation; Diyya or blood money; and apostasy.
- Military jurisprudence, including Jihad, offensive and defensive; Hudna or truce; and rules regarding prisoners of war.
- Dress code, including hijab.
- Other topics include customs and behaviour, slavery and the status of non-Muslims.
Shari'ah law can be organized in different ways and Professor Abdur Rahman I. Doi, author of Shari'ah: The Islamic Law has divided Shari'ah content into five main branches: Family relations, Crime and punishment, Inheritance and disposal of property, The economic system, External and other relations.
"Reliance of the Traveller", an English translation of a fourteenth-century CE reference on the Shafi'i school of fiqh written by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, organizes sharia law into the following topics: Purification, Prayer, Funeral prayer, Taxes, Fasting, Pilgrimage, Trade, Inheritance, Marriage, Divorce, Justice.
In some areas, there are substantial differences in the law between different schools of fiqh, countries, cultures and schools of thought.
Legal and court proceedings
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Sharia judicial proceedings have significant differences with other legal traditions, including those in both common law and civil law. Sharia courts traditionally do not rely on lawyers; plaintiffs and defendants represent themselves. Trials are conducted solely by the judge, and there is no jury system. There is no pre-trial discovery process, and no cross-examination of witnesses. Unlike common law, judges' verdicts do not set binding precedents under the principle of stare decisis, and unlike civil law, sharia does not utilize formally codified statutes (these were first introduced only in the late 19th century during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, cf. mecelle).
A confession, an oath, or the oral testimony of a witness are the main evidence admissible in a hudud case, written evidence is only admissible when deemed reliable by the judge, i.e., notaries. Testimony must be from at least two witnesses, and preferably free Muslim male witnesses, who are not related parties and who are of sound mind and reliable character; testimony to establish the crime of adultery, or zina must be from four direct witnesses. Forensic evidence (i.e., fingerprints, ballistics, blood samples, DNA etc.) and other circumstantial evidence is likewise rejected in hudud cases in favor of eyewitnesses, a practice which can cause severe difficulties for women plaintiffs in rape cases. Non-Muslim minorities, however, could and did use sharia courts, even amongst themselves.[not in citation given]
Sharia's rules on written evidence necessarily diminish the utility of written contracts to structure economic relations, and Timur Kuran has noted the predominance of a "largely oral contracting culture" in pre-modern Islamic society.
In lieu of written evidence, oaths are accorded much greater weight; rather than being used simply to guarantee the truth of ensuing testimony, they are themselves used as evidence. Plaintiffs lacking other evidence to support their claims may demand that defendants take an oath swearing their innocence, refusal thereof can result in a verdict for the plaintiff. Taking an oath for Muslims can be a grave act; one study of courts in Morocco found that lying litigants would often "maintain their testimony 'right up to the moment of oath-taking and then to stop, refuse the oath, and surrender the case." Accordingly, defendants are not routinely required to swear before testifying, which would risk casually profaning the Quran should the defendant commit perjury; instead oaths are a solemn procedure performed as a final part of the evidence process.
In Nigeria, where imposition of sharia was highly controversial, even Nigeria's justice minister was compelled to admit that in sharia courts, "if a man owes you money, you can get paid in the evening. Whereas in the regular courts, you can sit in court for ten years and get no justice."
Application by country
Since the early Islamic states of the eighth and ninth centuries, sharia always existed alongside other normative systems. Today, the majority of Muslim countries apply sharia selectively. Some countries adopt only a few aspects of sharia, while others apply the entire code. Many predominantly Muslim countries have not adopted hudud penalties in their criminal justice systems. The harshest penalties are enforced with varying levels of consistency.
In September 2008, newspapers in the United Kingdom stated the government had "quietly sanctioned" the recognition of sharia courts. This refers to situations where both sides in a legal dispute freely choose a sharia court as a binding arbitrator rather than taking a matter before the official courts. The decision did not break new ground: the decisions of similar Jewish beth din court arbitrations have been recognized in England for over 100 years.
Sharia law is officially recognised by the justice system in Israel in matters of personal status of Muslims if they choose a sharia court (e.g. marriage, divorce, guardianship). Judges' salaries are paid by the state. Lebanon also incorporates sharia law for Muslims in family matters. Some states in northern Nigeria have reintroduced sharia courts. In practice the new sharia courts in Nigeria have most often meant the reintroduction of harsh punishments without respecting the much tougher rules of evidence and testimony. The punishments include amputation of one/both hands for theft and stoning for adultery.
A bill proposed by lawmakers in the Indonesian province of Aceh would implement sharia law for all non-Muslims, the armed forces and law enforcement officers, a local police official has announced.[clarification needed] The news comes two months after the Deutsche Presse-Agentur warned of "Taliban-style Islamic police terrorizing Indonesia's Aceh".
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The mutaween (Arabic: المطوعين، مطوعية muṭawwiʿīn, muṭawwiʿiyyah) are the government-authorized or government-recognized religious police (or clerical police) of Saudi Arabia. They are also religious-policing organizations in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with at least some government recognition or deference which enforce varied interpretations of Sharia law.
A 2013 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that support for making sharia the official law of the land varies significantly among Muslims in different countries. In countries across South Asia, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region, a majority favours making sharia their country’s official legal code. By contrast, only a minority of Muslims across Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe want sharia to be the official law of the land; among the surveyed countries outside of these regions, Lebanon, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Tanzania also have a majority against the introduction of official sharia.
Since the 1970s, the Islamist movements have become prominent; their goals are the establishment of Islamic states and sharia not just within their own borders; their means are political in nature. The Islamist power base is the millions of poor, particularly urban poor moving into the cities from the countryside. They are not international in nature (one exception being the Muslim Brotherhood). Their rhetoric opposes western culture and western power. Political groups wishing to return to more traditional Islamic values are the source of threat to Turkey's secular government. These movements can be considered neo-Sharism.
Fundamentalists, wishing to return to basic religious values and law, have in some instances imposed harsh sharia punishments for crimes, curtailed civil rights, and violated human rights. These movements are most active in areas of the world where there was contact with Western colonial powers.
Extremists have used the Quran and their own particular version of sharia to justify acts of war and terror against Western individuals and governments, and also against other Muslims believed to have Western sympathies.  Friction between the West and Islam, particularly with regard to the Palestinian question, continues to fuel this conflict.
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Compatibility with democracy
Sharia law involves elements of a democratic system, namely electoral procedure, though syntax as to what a "democracy" constitutes leaves this in question. Legal scholar L. Ali Khan argues that "constitutional orders founded on the principles of sharia are fully compatible with democracy, provided that religious minorities are protected and the incumbent Islamic leadership remains committed to the right to recall".
However, European and American courts have generally ruled against the implementation of Sharia law, both in jurisprudence and within a community context, based on Sharia's religious background. Whereas groups within a number of nations are actively seeking to implement Sharia law, in 1998 the Constitutional Court of Turkey banned and dissolved Turkey's Refah Party on the grounds that "Democracy is the antithesis of Sharia", the latter of which Refah sought to introduce.
On appeal by Refah the European Court of Human Rights determined that "sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy". Refah's sharia-based notion of a "plurality of legal systems, grounded on religion" was ruled to contravene the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It was determined that it would "do away with the State's role as the guarantor of individual rights and freedoms" and "infringe the principle of non-discrimination between individuals as regards their enjoyment of public freedoms, which is one of the fundamental principles of democracy".
Several major, predominantly Muslim countries criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. Iran claimed that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law. Therefore in 1990 the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a group representing all Muslim majority nations, adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.
Ann Elizabeth Mayer points to notable absences from the Cairo Declaration: provisions for democratic principles, protection for religious freedom, freedom of association and freedom of the press, as well as equality in rights and equal protection under the law. Article 24 of the Cairo declaration states that "all the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic shari'a".
Professor H. Patrick Glenn notes that the European concept of human rights developed in reaction to an entrenched hierarchy of class and privilege contrary to, and rejected by, Islam. As implemented in sharia law, protection for the individual is defined in terms of mutual obligation rather than human rights. The concept of human rights, as applied in the European framework, is therefore unnecessary and potentially destructive to these mutual obligations. By "giving priority to human welfare over human liberty," Islamic law justifies the formal inequality of individuals by collective goals.
Many secularist, human rights, and leading organisations have criticized Islamic states' stance on human rights. In 2009, the journal Free Inquiry summarized this criticism in an editorial: "We are deeply concerned with the changes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by a coalition of Islamic states within the United Nations that wishes to prohibit any criticism of religion and would thus protect Islam's limited view of human rights. In view of the conditions inside the Islamic Republic of Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Syria, Bangdalesh, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we should expect that at the top of their human rights agenda would be to rectify the legal inequality of women, the suppression of political dissent, the curtailment of free expression, the persecution of ethnic minorities and religious dissenters — in short, protecting their citizens from egregious human rights violations. Instead, they are worrying about protecting Islam."
Freedom of speech
Slander, gossip, and backbiting, or "ghiba" is regarded as a major sin in the Sharia law.
However, the Qur'an does not command a death penalty for blasphemy.
Homosexual sex is illegal under sharia law, though the prescribed penalties differ from one school of jurisprudence to another. For example, these Muslim-majority countries may impose the death penalty for acts perceived as sodomy and homosexual activities: Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. In contrast, in some Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia (outside of Aceh province), Egypt, and Iraq, same-sex sexual acts are illegal but there is no specific penalty.[original research?] In Turkey and Jordan, homosexual acts between consenting individuals are legal. However, there is a new movement of LGBT Muslims, particularly in the UK with Imaan and Al-Fatiha in America. Books such as Islam and Homosexuality by Siraj Scott has also contributed to playing a proactive role in LGBT- and Islam-related ideas.
There are no priests or clergy needed in order to perform rites and sacraments in Islam. The leader of prayer is known as an imam. Men can lead both men and women in prayer, but women do not traditionally lead men in prayer, and usually lead other women in prayer. In practice, it is much more common for men to be scholars than women, however in the early days of Islam, female scholars were much more common. Islam does not prohibit women from working in a servile, secondary state to men, as it says, "Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."
Islam unequivocally allows both single and married women to own property in their own right. Islam grants women the right to inherit property from other family members, and these rights are detailed in the Quran. A woman's inheritance is different from a man's, both in quantity and attached obligations.[Quran 4:12] For instance, a daughter's inheritance is usually half that of her brother's.[Quran 4:11]
Up until the 20th century, Islamic law granted women certain legal rights that Western legal systems did not grant women. Noah Feldman, a Harvard University law professor, has noted: "As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them – hardly progress toward equality of the sexes."
Since the 20th century, Western legal systems have been thought to allow more women's rights than Islamic law, by allowing women to hold equal positions in society, with regards to employment, positions in government, and societal independence as in within familial settings.
Parallels with Western legal systems
Similarities and influences on English legal institutions have led some scholars to suggest that Islamic law may have laid the foundations for "the common law as an integrated whole".
Hawala, an early informal value transfer system, later influenced the development of the Aval in French civil law and the Avallo in Italian law. The "European commenda" limited partnerships (Islamic Qirad) used in civil law as well as the civil law conception of res judicata may also have origins in Islamic law.
Islamic law also made "major contributions" to international admiralty law, departing from the previous Roman and Byzantine maritime laws in several ways. The "Islamic influence on the development of an international law of the sea" can thus be discerned alongside that of the Roman influence.
After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of faqih (meaning "master of law"), mufti (meaning "professor of legal opinions") and mudarris (meaning "teacher"), which were later translated into Latin as magister, professor and doctor respectively.
Sharia classically recognizes only natural persons, and never developed the concept of a legal person, or corporation, i.e., a legal entity that limits the liabilities of its managers, shareholders, and employees; exists beyond the lifetimes of its founders; and that can own assets, sign contracts, and appear in court through representatives. Interest prohibitions, also imposed secondary costs by discouraging record keeping, and delaying the introduction of modern accounting. Such factors, according to Kuran, have played a significant role in retarding economic development in the Middle East.
- Ritter, R.M. (editor) (2005). New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors – The Essential A-Z Guide to the Written Word. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 349.
- Hamann, Katie (December 29, 2009). "Aceh's Sharia Law Still Controversial in Indonesia". Voice of America. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
- Iijima, Masako (January 13, 2010). "Islamic Police Tighten Grip on Indonesia's Aceh". Reuters. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- "Aceh Sharia Police Loved and Hated". The Jakarta Post.
- Staff (January 3, 2003). "Analysis: Nigeria's Sharia Split". BBC News. Retrieved September 19, 2011. "Thousands of people have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims following the introduction of sharia punishments in northern Nigerian states over the past three years".
- Harnischfeger, Johannes (2008).
• p. 16. "When the Governor of Kaduna announced the introduction of Sharia, although non-Muslims form almost half of the population, violence erupted, leaving more than 1,000 people dead."
• p. 189. "When a violent confrontation loomed in February 200, because the strong Christian minority in Kaduna was unwilling to accept the proposed sharia law, the sultan and his delegation of 18 emirs went to see the governor and insisted on the passage of the bill."
- Mshelizza, Ibrahim (July 28, 2009). "Fight for Sharia Leaves Dozens Dead in Nigeria – Islamic Militants Resisting Western Education Extend Their Campaign of Violence". The Independent. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
- "Nigeria in Transition: Recent Religious Tensions and Violence". PBS.
- Staff (December 28, 2010). "Timeline: Tensions in Nigeria – A Look at the Country's Bouts of Inter-Religious and Ethnic Clashes and Terror Attacks". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved September 19, 2011. "Thousands of people are killed in northern Nigeria as non-Muslims opposed to the introduction of sharia, or Islamic law, fight Muslims who demand its implementation in the northern state of Kaduna.".
- Ibrahimova, Roza (July 27, 2009). "Dozens Killed in Violence in Northern Nigeria" (video (requires Adobe Flash; 00:01:49)). Al Jazeera English. Retrieved September 19, 2011. "The group Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia (Islamic law) across the country, has attacked police stations and churches."
- . Library of Congress Country Studies: Sudan:. "The factors that provoked the military coup, primarily the closely intertwined issues of Islamic law and of the civil war in the south, remained unresolved in 1991. The September 1983 implementation of the sharia throughout the country had been controversial and provoked widespread resistance in the predominantly non-Muslim south ... Opposition to the sharia, especially to the application of hudud (sing., hadd), or Islamic penalties, such as the public amputation of hands for theft, was not confined to the south and had been a principal factor leading to the popular uprising of April 1985 that overthrew the government of Jaafar an Nimeiri".
- "PBS Frontline: "Civil war was sparked in 1983 when the military regime tried to impose sharia law as part of its overall policy to "Islamicize" all of Sudan."". Pbs.org. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
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