top of page

Sharia Law



Sharia (also Shariah) Law is the basic Islamic legal system, derived from the Quran and the Hadith (sayings and teachings of Muhammad).  The law itself cannot be changed because it is based on the holy texts of Islam, but it is subject to interpretation so there can be a fair amount of leeway.


In Western society, we think of law as dealing primarily with public behavior.  But Sharia Law also covers private behavior and beliefs, and is far more intrusive and strict than any other legal system.


It is regarding Sharia Law that I have to cast aside my pretense of objectivity and detachment, for many aspects of Sharia Law are truly horrific.  Consider the following:

  • Denying or Criticizing any part of the Quran is punishable by death, as is criticizing Muhammad or denying him as prophet.

  • A man is permitted to beat his wife for a variety of offenses, including 'insubordination.'  Apparently there are guidelines available for just how to beat one's wife.

  • The penalty for theft is the amputation of the right hand.

  • The testimony of four male witnesses is required to prove a charge of rape, while a woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against the accused.

  • In general, a woman's testimony in court is given half the weight of a man's testimony.

  • Apostasy (leaving the Muslim faith) is punishable by death.

  • A non-Muslim who marries a Muslim woman or who leads a Muslim away from the Islamic faith may be put to death.

  • A Muslim will be forgiven for murder of: 1) an apostate 2) an adulterer 3) a highway robber. Vigilante street justice and honor killing is acceptable.

  • A woman cannot drive a car and cannot speak alone with a male who is not a relative.

  • A man may have up to four wives; a woman may have one husband.

  • A man may divorce at any time for any reason; a woman must have the consent of her husband to divorce.

  • The punishment for homosexuality is death.

  • There is no minimum age for a girl to be married.  A marriage may be (but does not have to be) consummated when the wife reach the age of 9.

  • Non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims under Sharia, but must obey Sharia to remain safe.  A non-Muslim may not enter a mosque without permission and either may not build a church at all, or may only build one if it is shorter than nearby mosques.  Note that churches tend to be rare in Muslim countries (understatement of the year).

  • Slavery is legal under Sharia, including sexual slavery.  A man is allowed to have sex with slave women and women captured in battle.  If such a slave woman is married her marriage is automatically annulled.

  • Punishments for various crimes include beheading, hanging, death by stoning, amputation of limbs and flogging.

  • Jihad ("to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion"), is the duty of every Muslim.

  • In public a woman must cover every part of her body that is considered sexual.  In some interpretations of Sharia, this includes her face, in others it does not.

  • A Muslim man is forgiven if he kills his wife at the time he caught her in the act of adultery.

  • It is obligatory for a Muslim to lie if the purpose is obligatory. That means that for the sake of abiding with Islam's commandments, such as jihad, a Muslim is obliged to lie and should not have any feelings of guilt or shame associated with this kind of lying.


Does this give you a taste for Sharia Law?  The above list is hardly comprehensive. 


It is also important to note that Sharia courts are quite unlike courts in other legal systems.  There is no jury and generally no lawyers.  There is naturally no cross-examination.  The trial is conducted by a judge and the judge renders the verdict.  Oral testimony is given the highest priority, though only testimony from Muslims is considered valid.  As noted above, testimony of a woman is given half the weight of that of a man.  In some interpretations of Sharia, a woman's testimony in criminal cases is considered worthless.  Physical and circumstantial evidence do not carry significant weight. 


While the above listing includes widely accepted components of Sharia Law, such law is not actually codified - there is no written legal code labeled Sharia.  There are actually several 'schools' of Sharia thought and each individual judge may include their own interpretation of the law, for better or for worse.  The fundamental, universal commonality is that legal requirements, judgments and punishments are based solely on the Quran and Hadith.


Many Muslims feel that Sharia was strictly followed in the early days of Islam during which time Islam expanded to cover a third of the 'known' world, and that the relative lack of dominance on the part of Islam in the modern world is a result of moving away from strict Sharia law. 


It should be obvious that not all Muslims are Islamic scholars!  A Muslim may naturally say that they 'believe in' Sharia law without actually considering the theoretical and practical ramifications of such belief.  Just as there are many 'casual' Christians, there are many 'casual' Muslims as well.  Still, given the estimates that 15-25% of Muslims qualify as 'radical,' it is dangerous to assume that Islam taken as a whole is 'casual' and 'moderate,' although that may be a safe assumption to make concerning individual Muslims you might know. 



Preparation for Stoning.  Victims are stoned until dead.  The stones are not to be so large as to cause death in one or two blows, nor so small as to not be considered 'stones.'

Punishment for theft.

Just another example of justice under Sharia.

Many Muslims are not content to live under the laws of the country in which they live.

Additional Information on Sharia Law
  • 5 Things You Need To Know About Sharia Law.  This is an article from the Huffington Post, and pretty much everything in it is wrong.  According to the article, the first thing you need to know: "Sharia is primarily about a personal relationship with God."  Actually, the God of Islam isn't interested in "personal relationships."  The God of Islam is interested only in conformity and obedience.  But read the article.  It is an interesting exercise in misrepresentation.

  • The ugly truth about Sharia law.  This article from the Washington Times is a little more clear-headed than the Huffington Post article.

  • Shariah: The Threat to America.  This article - well, it is actually an entire book - is from The Center for Security Policy.  It covers everything concerning Shariah.  Given the length (300+ pages), you probably can't take in the whole thing - but start with the "Executive Summary" beginning on page 13.  Use the Table of Contents to select other info that may be of interest to you.

  • Shariah Law vs. the Constitution.  This article (pdf) is also from the Center for Security Policy.  It briefly compares bits of the Constitution to Sharia.  Just two pages! (new)

bottom of page