Islam Questions
1. Islam is a religion with many sects in which all followers share the central theme of the belief in one God who sent His revelation, called the Qur’an, through the Prophet Muhammad and conduct their lives based on the rules given in the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet and is set apart from other monotheistic religions by its followers belief in the finality of Muhammad’s prophetic mission.
2. The thing that surprised me the most while reading the book was the number of sects that fall under Islam and the major separation of the sects (primarily Sunni and Shi3i) and the sects that fall under them as well, yet they are all still “united” by the central theme and Shahada.
3. Elias characterizes Islamic law as follows: while being an important and visible part of the Islamic society, it is but one facet of the religion, and is just that, a very religiously based law. He seems to place faith and the core religious expectations over the devotion to traditions of law, but still places Islamic Law over Western Law in that it is a more mediating system.



Notes on Islam – Islamic Law: Sharia
 Sources
 Sharia – the collected prescriptions dictated by God for the running of the universe
 Qur’an provides rules on diverse issues; cannot account for all situations; not a problem until the Islamic community spread/multiple generations after Muhammad
 Fiqh – a system of law that provides a method by which rules can be developed to deal with new situations; four principles called Principles of Jurisprudence (Usul al-fiqh)
 The Qur’an
 Sunna
 Reasoning by analogy (qiyas)
 Consensus of the community (ijma)
 Principles of Jurisprudence
 Primary source of law is the Qur’an
 Rules are not open to debate, must be accepted at face value (i.e forbiddance of pork)
 Not in Qur’an, look to Sunna – the example of the Prophet Muhammad
 Living Sunna – preserved in traditions of a virtuous Islamic community
 Recorded Sunna – preserved in hadiths, anecdotes concerning Muhammad’s actions
 Open to interpretation; often contradict one another
• In regards to Living Tradition/Sunna, not everyone agrees which traditions agree with what Muhammad would have done and which are innovations
 Balancing the Qur’an and Sunna and deriving laws from these sources that can then be applied to new situations involves reasoning by analogy and consensus of the community
 Ijtihad – system of independent legal reasoning to come up with new laws
 Mujtahid – someone qualified to engage in ijtihad
 Sunni Muslim jurists belong to four schools:
 Maliki – North Africa; living Sunna of community > human reason
 Hanbali – Saudi Arabia; literal interpretation of written texts > reasoning by analogy
 Shafi3i – Arabs of Middle East and Indonesia; use ijtihad more frequently
 Hanafi – South and Central Asia and Turkey; use ijtihad more frequently; most influential legal tradition in the Islamic world
 Shafi3i and Hanafi account for majority of Sunni Muslims
 Faqih – scholar who engages in the theoretical study and interpretation of Islamic law
 Mufti – appointed by the ruler for the purpose of answering questions concerning the law; many times a high-respected faqih
 Fatwa – a legal opinion or decree, theoretically binding on the person who posed the question to the mufti, practically ignored if a displeasing answer
 Qadi – someone who presides over a court and has the power of the state and its police to enforce his opinions; government officials appointed by rulers
 Sharia attempts to regulate all aspects of human life
 Divides activities into ritual/devotional acts and myriad details of relationships between humans
 Scholars have created a scale judging every human activity, ritual obligations on one end, forbidden behaviors at the other, with key points between the two occupied by recommended and discouraged actions
 Dietary matters vary by region
 Certain scholars said jurists should never rely completely on legal precedent, look at each case singularly, circumstances of each individual are unique
 Has prevented Shari3a from developing as a codified legal system
 Focus on the individual = mediatory not inquisitorial like Western law
 Western Law = accused by corporate entity, Islamic law = two individuals
 Goal = arriving at a settlement (Islamic,) not reaching a verdict (Western)
 If codified, people who are unfamiliar with the law have fewer safeguards than if they were subject to a rigid legal code