November 13, 2016

What is sharia law?

Sharia is the Islamic law that codifies the individual and collective rights and responsibilities of Muslims.

Stemming from the Koran and the Sunnah — teachings attributed to the prophet Mohammed — it is a collection of rules, restrictions and sanctions covering personal and family status, criminal and public law.

It is imposed with varying degrees of strictness in certain Muslim countries and is subject to interpretation.

Among the punishments, it calls for the death penalty for murder, 100 lashes for adultery — whether by a man or woman — and the amputation of the right hand for theft.

Adultery is punishable by death by stoning in Muslim countries where sharia has the force of the law.

Marriages can be ended in three ways — an annulment pronounced by a qadi, or judge; divorce by mutual consent, or unilateral repudiation (talaq), usually by the man.

A divorce demanded by the woman (khula) generally requires giving up financial assistance, including any return of the dowry.

Under sharia, the right to divorce rests with the man. A civil divorce is therefore not automatically valid under Islamic law — only if the man agrees.

In Britain, sharia councils or courts mainly handle Islamic divorces. Their decisions are not legally binding but have weight in the Muslim community.