What is Shariah?

The Islamic Shari’ah prescribes directives for the regulation of our individual as well as collective life. These directives touch such varied subjects as religious rituals, personal character, morals, habits, family relationships, social and economic affairs, administration, rights and duties of citizens, judicial system, laws of war and peace and international relations. In short, it embraces all the various departments of human life.

  • Shari’ah is the code of law for the Islamic way of life which Allah the Almighty has revealed for mankind and commanded us to follow.
  • Shari’ah, or Islamic law, is the code of conduct for Muslims and is based on two main sources: The Qur’an and the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. It aims towards the success and welfare of mankind both in this life and the life after death.
  • Shari’ah prescribes a complete set of laws for the guidance of mankind so that Good (Ma’ruf) may triumph and Evil (Munkar) disappears from society. It provides a clear and straight path which leads to progress and fulfillment in life and the attainment of Allah’s pleasure.
  • The Qur’an is the main basis of Shari’ah. It states the principles while the Prophetic teachings provide the details of their application. For example, the Qur’an says: establish Namaaz, pay charity, take decisions by consultation, do not earn or spend in wrong ways – but it does not describe how to do these things. It is the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) which gives us the details.
  • The Qur’an is the main book of guidance and the Holy Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) taught how to follow it. The Prophet not only told us how to follow the guidance, he also practiced it himself.  Shari’ah has rules for every aspect of life. It is complete and perfect, and guarantees us success, welfare and peace in this life on earth and in the life after death.
  • Shari’ah has two other sources: Ijma’ (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy or reasoning on the basis of similar circumstances). These sources must still be based on the Qur’an and the Prophetic teachings.
  • Ijma, or consensus, applies to a situation where no clear conclusion can be made from the Qur’an and the Prophetic teachings. In this situation the representatives of the people who are well-versed in the Qur’an and the Prophetic teachings will sit together and work out an agreed formula to solve the particular problem. Ijma’ as a tool was developed during the period of the rightly guided companions of the Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him.
  • Qiyas means a reference or analogy or a comparison of one thing with a similar one. It is applied in circumstances where guidance from the Qur’an and teachings of Holy Prophet (pbuh) is not directly available. A solution to a problem is reached by a process of deduction from a comparison with similar situations in the past. An important point here is that Qiyas cannot be defined as use of the aql i.e. rationale, rather it is a mechanism to use an analogy based upon the shariah/divine reason.


Please, further refer to the article “How is Shariah Formed?” at http://iichyderabad.org/article/how-shariah-formed for more details.