Shariah: Understanding the Misunderstood

Shariah is not a magic word. It is an Arabic word linguistically meaning “a road leading to uninterrupted source of water.” Legally, it means a clear, unambiguous straight path…

Lately the word Shariah has been thrown around in all kinds of places by people who have little or zero knowledge of Shariah. This has lead to misunderstandings about the real meaning of Shariah. Some states have even introduced drastic legislations based on unfounded fear and propaganda. These legislations potentially endanger vast numbers of innocent Muslim Americans.

Because of the ever increasing Islamophobia in our nation and across our world, I want us to take a moment together, as people who inhabit the same planet, to shed our biases, prejudice and ulterior motives by opening our minds and hearts to the real meaning of Shariah – and by treating one another as we would like to be treated.

Shariah is not a magic word. It is an Arabic word linguistically meaning “a road leading to uninterrupted source of water.” Legally, it means a clear, unambiguous straight path with regards to comprehending the matters of religion by adhering to the teachings of prophet Muhammad (PBUH*).

Contrary to the rampant injustice that we see and witness, Islamic Sharia’s most fundamental aim is to foment the concept of justice among all people, thus according to the Qur’an, God says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin…” (4:135). The importance of justice in Islamic Shariah cannot be over emphasized and that is the reason why it is considered a supreme virtue next to the oneness of God. Justice is an integral part of Islam, demanding that it be extended to all humanity irrespective of their color, nationality, sex, and religion – at all times and under all circumstances.

Islamic Shariah is not the penal codes that we are accustomed to, and defining it that way would be a fundamental error on our part. Rather, Islamic Shariah is a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of a Muslim’s life, which is essentially geared towards providing a functioning framework for a society linking individuals to other individuals for the betterment of the society as a whole. Non-Muslims are in no way obligated to observe Shariah and its principles and that is a fact which in essence demolishes the rhetoric argument that Muslims want to force non-Muslims in the US to implement Shariah in all aspects of their lives, and, in the process, subvert the US constitution.  

Seeking knowledge is a fundamental obligation upon the whole society and that is what Shariah is all about Click To Tweet

The culmination of Islamic Shariah is concerned with five inalienable rights. These rights are faith, life, family, property, and intellect. The protection of these undeniable rights provide all persons with the same footing to pursue liberty and happiness without the fear of being attacked because of their professed faith, kind of life they chose, the root of their family including their color, status of their economy, or their intellectual believes.

Because of Islamic Shariah, I pray five times a day, fast the holy month of Ramadan, give charity to the needy and perform pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In actuality, if the outrageous calls to outlaw Shariah succeeds, my right to freedom of religion would be denied. I believe that, if that happens, eventually they will also come after your religion and when that comes, there will be no one left to stand with you. Outlawing Sharia or illuminating a negative light on Shariah without understanding its core principles is not only unwise; it will certainly demean millions of peace loving Muslim Americans and  systematically embolden Islamophobia fanatics who want to tear our communities apart.

The intriguing theory behind Shariah is the concept of free of choice, justice and equality. The very freedom and justice that we so fondly talk about in respect to our constitution is the foundation of Islamic Shariah, hence without them Shariah is not Shariah. For clarity purposes, Shariah is completely compatible with the constitution in many aspects.

Some of these aspects are:

  • Presumption of innocence until proven guilty
  • Humane treatment of prisoners
  • Prohibition of torture  
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Justice for all

According to the US constitution, compatibility of any religion should not be on the discussion table because religion is a private matter, separate from state and public matters. Although there are quite a number of requirements related to holding a public office, a religious test is not one of them (as article VI, paragraph 3 of the US Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.“) So, as highlighted by the constitution, a Muslim has as much right as anybody else to hold any public office.

All this fuss is because of ignorance. Even though ignorance is a serious disease, many individuals are forgetting that its first victim is the ignorant themselves. Thus, seeking knowledge is a fundamental obligation upon the whole society and that is what Shariah is all about. We have embraced pure hatred over objective facts, however, according to Shariah, God says in the Quran “Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice.  Be just, for this is closest to righteousness…” (Quran 5:8). In other words, a Muslim must decide issues on merit and not on his or her feelings towards certain people. All forms of hate are categorically prohibited under Shariah.

So in a nut shell, that is the Shariah, which a true Muslim is supposed to follow.  

Equating all Muslims with any terror organization who commit un-Islamic acts is akin to associating KKK acts with Christians and to a greater extent with Christianity. Their reprehensible act do not represent me or my beautiful religion. Demanding an apology whenever terrorists engage in inhumane or genocide acts in the name of Islam is not only unjust, it is also unconstitutional.

We use Shariah to make us better by fulfilling our duties to God, and to the rest of the creation.

*PBUH: Peace Be Upon Him

About the Author
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Hassan Yussuf

My name is Hassan Yussuf, a father of four, owner of Hassan Tax and Immigration services. A resident of Saint Cloud since 2001, I hold a criminal justice degree from Saint Cloud State in addition to a Public Administration Masters from Mankato State. I consider myself a community organizer, meaning I take pride finding ways to help my community organize themselves to better understand challenges and find lasting amicable solutions for the generations to come. I am also the treasurer for Eagle, Inc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization geared towards finding solutions for the persistent achievement gap problem. Eagle is an acronym standing for: Eradicating Achievement Gap Learning Empowerment - Changing lives one at a time! However, for me, the best description of who I am is what I call “Student of Knowledge.” I am always learning and seeking out people who can help me understand all kinds of issues.