by Ishaq Zahid
Dec. 29, 2011
Three states have passed anti Sharia-laws since 2010 and now, 17 others are discussing similar bills. Meanwhile, the powerful Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is suggesting there should be a federal law banning Sharia altogether. Most other Republican candidates are supporting his position.
Such prejudices and campaigns do not augur well for the future of mankind. They can only exacerbate the deep antagonisms and animosities between the West and Muslims which have persisted throughout history and which, if renewed and aggravated, may ultimately tear apart a world already dangerously divided. The need to understand the Shari'ah is therefore urgent and compelling more than ever before. 
So, what is Sharia? What does it mean? How does it impact Muslims’ way of life? As a matter of fact, most Muslims, including devout practicing Muslims, do not even know what it means and may have used this word once or twice in their lifetimes. Most common phrases Muslims use in their conversations are The Holy Quran, the Sunnah, Islam as a Deen, but rarely use the phrase, Islamic Sharia. Allah T’ala has His ways to make Muslims learn more about their religion!
Let us talk about what Islamic Sharia is.
The Islamic Shari'ah is not merely a collection of do's and don'ts, nor just a code of criminal laws prescribing punishments for certain crimes. Though it does contain both, its sweep is much broader and deeper, encompassing the totality of person's life. Shari'ah literally means a 'clear, trodden path to a source of water'. Since water is the source of life, it means a clear path to life. In religious terms, it is the path to the eternal life. It is the path that a person, in Islam, must walk as he toils and strives to reach his Creator. It is the yearning deep within to seek the Lord and the Master that the Shari'ah translates into steps, concrete and specific, on the pathways of life. The Shari'ah is the fulfillment of the total man- inner and outer, individual and corporate-as he seeks to live by the will of his one and only God. 
So for example, Sharia teaches Muslims the best way of performing prayers, giving in charity, fasting, eating, getting married, doing business, and more. A simple example about etiquette of eating is that
We are taught to wash our hands before eating.
Start eating with the phrase “Bismillah Hir-Rahman Ar-Raheem.”
(With the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind.)
And when we finish our meal, teaches us to thank God (and for kids, also their parents) for providing the food and drinks and made us to worship and obey Him.
It is also part of Shariah to speak the Truth, not to lie, not to backbite, not to steal, not to kill, not to abuse, not to deceit in trade, and if you do not like your purchase, take the item back to Walmart or from wherever you purchased it. As you can see, Shariah is already in the US Law in so many good ways. The difference is that when a Muslim follows the Shariah, it abides by the Law with intent to please God. From the outside, it is the same as how anyone else obeys the Law.
So what are the ignorant, uneducated hate-mongers trying to do by banning Shariah? Do they want people to lie, steal, kill, deceit in trade or ban returning of Christmas presents to stores?
Should the Shariah Penal Law be enforced in the USA? The answer is NO. All major Islamic schools of jurisprudence, including the schools of Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam As-Shafie, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmad have given the same verdict centuries ago that Shariah Law is not intended in a non-Sharia environment. Even the Saudi Arabian Government is not qualified to implement Shariah penal laws, as it is a monarchy without any checks and balances. Islamic rule is a democratic government based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. As far as Muslims living in a non-Shariah state are concerned, they are personally responsible to obey the Shariah.
The primary objectives of Shariah are to preserve and promote what is good for human beings in this world and the hereafter and to prevent what is harmful and bad. It is designed to preserve faith, life, reason, progeny, honor and property. The entire spectrum in Sharia, including justice is filled with mercy and forgiveness.
Let us look at the example of capital punishment.
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence such as murder.
The UN General Assembly has adopted, in 2007 and 2008, non-binding resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to eventual abolition. Although many nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world's population live in countries where executions take place, inasmuch as the People's Republic of China, India, the United States of America and Indonesia, the four most populous countries in the world, continue to apply the death penalty (although in India and Indonesia it is used only rarely). Each of these four nations voted against the General Assembly resolutions.
Islamic Sharia does not have capital punishment. Islam has Qisas not capital punishment. In Islam, it is not the state, but the grieved party, the guardian of the victim decides either to forgive the murderer, ask for a compensation or have him executed. In capital punishment, the state takes over full rights of the case and there have been cases when the guardian wanted the murderer to be forgiven, the state said no and carried out the case.
In an authentic tradition, (Sahih Hadeeth), in the time of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.), a man killed someone. The murderer along with the father of the victim were brought to the Prophet. The Prophet asked the guardian to forgive the murderer. The father refused and wanted him to be executed. The Prophet asked the father three times and each time he refused. The Prophet then allowed him to carry out the execution, as we said earlier, the decision is in the hands of the grieved party, not the state. However, while the father was taking the man for execution, the Prophet said that you are like the murderer. The father did not hear this. Others asked the father, did you hear what the Prophet said. He said no. They told him that the Prophet has said that you are like him. Upon hearing this, the father rushed back to the Prophet and said I forgive him. 
Referring to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.), The Holy Quran says:
There has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves; grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, full of concern for you, for the believers full of pity, compassionate. (al-Tawba, 9.128)
In Islamic Sharia, mercy and forgiveness come first even in justice.
Now, let us take the example of drinking alcohol. Islam prohibits Muslims to drink and it is a punishable crime. However, Christians and Jews are permitted to sell, buy and drink even under Islamic Sharia. That shows how tolerant the Sharia is even for non-Muslims. 
The current anti-Sharia campaign is nothing but a campaign of bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. An American Muslim’s practice of Shariah Law is similar to Jewish Halakha Law practiced by Orthodox and Conservative Jews in the U.S. and how Catholic Canon Law is practiced in the U.S.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike, need to learn, educate and speak up against all forms of bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. Let us help, cooperate and work together for justice and peace for all of mankind.
"...Help and Cooperate one another in righteousness and piety, but help and cooperate not one another in sin and rancour..." (The Holy Quran, 5:2)
1.The Islamic Law and Constitution, Syed Abul Ala Maududi
2.Shariah – the Way to God, Khurram Murad
3.Workshop on ‘Nature and Objectives of Shariah’ at 17th ICNA Southern Convention, Dec. 2011, Atlanta by Shaikh Mukhtar Maghroui
4.The Message Magazine by ICNA, Sept-Oct 2011 issue