Sharia is an Arabic word that literally means “straight path.” The term is used to describe the rules that govern Islam’s way of life as prescribed by Allah. Sharia law encompasses everything a Muslim should and should not do in their faith. It is authoritative because it is based on four sources: the Quran, the ijma, the Sunna, and the qiyas.
Because it reflects direct divine revelations, the Quran is considered the primary source of Sharia. In the Muslim community, it is regarded as Allah’s uncreated word. Muslims believe that the Quran has existed since the beginning of time, and that it was revealed to Prophet Mohammed in the 7th century by Archangel Gabriel. Its revelation was in Arabic, the native language of Mohammed. The Quran is made up of 114 chapters (Suras) with verses (ayat) totaling to 6, 236. Muslims believe that its revelation spanned for 22 years. Worth noting I that the Quran is not arranged in the order in which revelations were made but arranged from the longest verses to the shortest verses. The Quran is the holder of all the directives regarding lifestyle, war as well as other issues related to Muslim life (Roudi-Fahimi 3).
Sunna is the second most authoritative source of sharia in the Muslim parlance. It is believed to document the actions and saying of Prophet Mohammed. It includes the collections of Prophet Mohammed’s sayings and deeds (ahadith). It also includes the biographical accounts of Prophet Mohammed known as Sira. Suna’s legally significant element is the Sira and not the ahadith. Ijma and Qiyas are considered the secondary sources of sharia. Ijma is the consensus of the scholars while qiyas is the logical deductions. It is believed that early Muslim scholars consulted ijma in the event they could not establish a particular ruling in the Quran or the Sunna (Roudi-Fahimi 3).
Qiyas means judging by comparing things. The approach it uses in deductive reasoning is derived from the Quran, the Sunna, and the ijma. He Muslim jurist employed reasoning, analogy and legal precedents in making a ruling when it could not be found in the above three discussed sources. Apart from the Shiite Muslims, the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi, which form the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence take ijma as a legit source of sharia. The Shiite Muslims aql (reason) in place of ijma (Roudi-Fahimi 3). Muslims base their deeds on Allah’s words which are documented in the Quran and the Sunna and they, therefore, cannot entrust the society to determine what is right or wrong. This is because Muslims scholars believe human beings are inherently weaker (Boykin et al., 59). Muslims cannot give a verdict in a case of law independently but have to rely on these sources to come up with a verdict. Importantly is that all these sources complement each other and a judgment anchored on law. Notably, even the violent and extremists justify their actions from the sources of sharia. They are completely in line with the Islamic law and doctrine (Boykin et al., 60).
Muslims have moral obligations that they have to adhere to. The first basic moral obligation is the confession of faith that “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet,” and belief in Allah and in the way the Quran and the Ahadith describe him. A Muslim also has to know the 99 names of Allah.
The second obligation is prayer. According to Islam traditions, Muslims have to pray five times in a day while facing Mecca. It is a daily rhythm to the Muslim community. This is done to please Allah by being connected to him through the prayers. In addition, they believe that these prayers will help them avoid temptations and immorality.
Jihad is another added moral obligation to the Muslims. Jihad has two phases with the first encompassing the fight against temptation and for the purpose of developing virtues and self-control. The second battle is for those who oppose Muslim religion and practices. According to Muslims, jihad is the noblest deed that they can partake in. They believe that those who die in jihad are guaranteed a place in Paradise with plenty of virgins all for men. Women are, however, not informed of what awaits them if they die in jihad. Jihad, according to the Quran and Sunnah has several interpretations. It can be interpreted as internal or external efforts to be a believer or a good Muslim working towards informing others about the Muslim faith. In the military perspective, Jihad is intended to protect the Muslim faith against others. In this instance, jihad can be executed by use of anything be it legal, economic, political or diplomatic means. However, if there is a lack of peaceful alternative, force can be applied with strict rules of engagement.
Notably, not all can declare jihad except by a duly constituted authority advised by scholars who deem that the Muslim people and religion is under threat and it is only through violence that they can be protected. According to scholars, the concept of jihad has been hijacked for many years by several religious and political groups in justifying various facets of violence. However, according to scholars, this is a misuse of jihad, and it contradicts Islam (Kabbani and Hendrick 10).
In conclusion, Islam is a religion that strictly observes its teachings in the Quran and the other sources of sharia. Rarely do they make judgments and decisions on their volition. It will thus be proper to assert that Islam is deeply rooted in the teachings and practices in their sources of sharia.
Boykin, William J., et al. “Shariah: The threat to America: An exercise in competitive analysis (Report of Team B II).” Washington DC: Center for Security Policy (2010).
Kabbani, M. H., and S. Hendrick. “Jihad: A misunderstood concept from Islam.” Available from islamicsupremecouncil. org [May 11th, 2014] (2006).
Roudi-Fahimi, Farzaneh. Islam and family planning. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2004.