The Ethical Foundation of Sharia (Islamic Law)
Sharia is a religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Qur’an and the Hadith. In Arabic, the term sharīʿah refers to God’s immutable Divine law and is contrasted with fiqh, which refers to its human scholarly interpretations. The manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists.
The traditional theory of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes four sources of sharia: the Quran, Sunnah (authentic Hadith), qiyas (analogical reasoning), and ijma (juridical consensus). Different legal schools—of which the most prominent are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Jafari—developed methodologies for deriving sharia rulings from scriptural sources using a process known as ijtihad.
Traditional jurisprudence distinguishes two principal branches of law, ʿibādāt (rituals) and muʿāmalāt (social relations), which together comprise a wide range of topics. Its rulings assign actions to one of five categories: mandatory, recommended, neutral, abhorred, and prohibited. Thus, some areas of sharia overlap with the Western notion of law while others correspond more broadly to living life in accordance with God’s will.
This series of talks were delivered at the Muslim Community Center – East Bay (MCC East Bay) in Pleasanton, California in December 2012.
All lectures by Zaid Shakir
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