What is Shariah Law?

Dr. Jonathan A.C. Brown

(Georgetown University)

Nouman Ali Khan on the Qur'an

Get the 411 on the Basics !

Islam is a monotheistic faith, believing in the existence of one God (Allah in Arabic) and has 1.6 billion followers worldwide.  Along with Judaism and Christianity, Islam (meaning submission to the will of God) is an Abrahamic faith, i.e., Islam also esteems the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Noah, and more (peace be upon them.)  
Muslims (meaning one who submits) also believe in the prophethood of Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them).  
The Qur'an (the recitation) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Allah (glorified is He or subhana wa ta'alah (swt) through the Angel Gabriel in the 7th century CE in what is now Saudi Arabia.  The Qur'an enlightens the straight path one is to follow in order to submit to God's Will.  In the 1400 years since its revelation, not a single word or letter has been altered.
The basic beliefs in order to call oneself a Muslim can be considered in five pillars. 


FIVE PILLARS

  • Declaration of Faith (shahadah

          Laa illaha ilallah qa Muhammadan abdullu wa rasoolu - "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His slave and messenger."

        This is a firm statement that no other being or thing has the right to be worshipped but God.  It also confirms that Muhammad (pbuh) is the last of the prophets Allah (swt) has sent to mankind.


اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ (      39:62)

GOD is the Creator of all things, and He alone has the power to determine the fate of all things.



  • Prayer (salaah)

         ​Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day.  These prayers occur respectively at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.   When salaah is prayed a Muslim woman or man must face in the direction of the Kaba, the house of worship originally built by Prophet Abraham and his son Isma'il (pbut).  The Kaba is in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

         The prayers are performed using the examples Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave.  But not just only him, we believe this is the manner in which all of God's prophets worshiped.  

         Outside of salaahMuslims can also say supplication prayers, called dua'a, at any time and for any concern.  


  • Charity (zakat)

          The word zakat translates as "purifying" or "cleansing".  Helping the poor, as well as those with other needs, is an obligation upon every Muslim man and woman.  In this light, a Muslim washes away past sins by worshiping Allah (swt) by helping His creation.

        Zakat requires that 2.5% of one's wealth be given to the needy once a year.  

         In the Qur'an salah and zakat often occur next to each other.  This fact clearly emphasizes the importance of charity in Islam.



وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ (2:43)

and be constant in prayer, and spend in charity, and bow down in prayer with all who thus bow down.



    • Fasting (sawn)

    ​          Fasting is required on Muslim women and men during the Islamic month of Ramadan.  This is a complete fast from all food and drink, even water.  Someone fasting is also prohibited from sexual relations with one's spouse.  

             This fasting from sunrise to sunset is obligated upon those who are physically capable.  Young children, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, and those who are too sick do not have to fast.

              The month of Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year.  Fasting enables people to think more of the less fortunate and hungry, and also helps them be more mindful of God.  


    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ (2:183)

    O YOU who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God



    • Pilgrimage (hajj)          

            Every year more than 2 million Muslims from across the globe travel to Makkah to perform this pilgrimage.  Hajj is required of every Muslim man and woman at least once in their life if he or she is financially able to make the journey.

            The rituals performed during hajj​ are in honor of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his wife Hagar.  


    وَأَذِّن فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَى كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ (22:27)

    Hence, [O Muhammad,] proclaim thou unto all people the [duty of] pilgrimage: they will come unto thee on foot and on every [kind of] fast mount, coming from every far-away point [on earth]

    ​​          


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    focus on similarities

    Too many times we as humans focus on what the differences are, what divides us.  The culture of "us and them" runs rampant in cultures and countries all over the world.  Focusing on our common humanity, being creations of God, and wanting to please Him, we can come closer together.  Let us drop the "them" and just keep "us".


    • People of the Book (ahlal kitab)

    ​          In the Qur'an, Jews and Christians are referred to as ​ahlal kitab​ numerous times.  This literally translates to "people of the book".  In Islam, Muslims believe that Allah (swt) revealed the Torah to Prophet Moses and the Gospel to Prophet Jesus (pbut).  These revelations over time became corrupted by man.  As a Mercy to humanity, Allah (swt) revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad (pbuh).  Muslims believe the Qur'an sets the record straight of what was altered in the previous revelations.

              As a result of these similarities, Muslims respect and esteem the Torah and Gospel.


    • Jesus, son of Mary (pbut)

    In Islam, Jesus (pbuh) is a prophet and messenger.  He was born of the Virgin Mary (Maryam).  Mary (pbuh) is considered one of the most pious Muslim women in Islamic history.  As in Christianity, she is highly respected for her obedience to God's Will.

    Her son Jesus (pbuh) delivered a message of God's Mercy, compassion, and love.  Muslims do not believe that he was God's son, nor is he in any way divine.

     

    • Moses (pbuh)


    The prophet who is mentioned most in the Holy Qur'an is Prophet Moses (pbuh).  The story of his early life in the house of the Pharoah and eventual calling to lead the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt is very similar to thatin the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur'an that He has sent prophets to every community in the world throughout human history, all with the same message of One True God.


    The Kaba, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj ​pilgrimage.

    Talks on basics of Islam and Muslims today.

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    Useful Links


    Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

    Check out the ISNA website for information on Islam, interfaith efforts and opportunities, and how Muslims in America are active members of society.



    CAIR - Council on American/

    Islamic Relations

    Muslim advocacy organization



    Fiqh Council of North America

    Resources on Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh)