Shariah: An Introduction
The final prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him, began receiving revelations from God at the age of 40 in 610 C.E. Over the next 23 years, the Quran, the holy book of Islam, was gradually revealed which represents not only the spiritual fountainhead for Muslims but is also the foremost source for Shariah.
Shariah is an integral part of Islam. It is often defined as ‘Islamic law,’ causing one to assume that it consists mostly of criminal rulings and penalties. However, Shariah encompasses much more than the conventional understanding of law. While Shariah provides the legal framework for the foundation and functioning of a society, it also details moral, ethical, social and political codes of conduct for Muslims at an individual and collective level. Shariah is derived mainly from the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, along with interpretive, analogous, and/or consensus rulings for cases where no evidence could be sought from primary sources.
Most people who speak passionately against Shariah do not, in reality, understand it and often reduce it to merely a penal code. This section strives to set the record straight, explaining that Shariah is a comprehensive social and legal system based on mercy and compassion and its core objectives are designed to achieve benefit and justice.