It has been reported that today (June 19m 2017) has been set aside for protests around the nation against Sharia law, the legal system used in most Muslim countries to a greater or lesser extent. The principles for Sharia are derived from both the Quran and Hadith, the alleged sayings of Muhammed and have been more or less systematized into various schools of legal thought (five to be precise), all having significant overlap. There are a number of groups today both around the world and in the United States that have been interested in incorporating aspects of Sharia law into their own legal systems. Some even go so far as to wish to replace the existing, Western-based, legal system with Sharia, presumably after the Caliphate has conquered those nations. And in parts of Europe, Sharia is allowed to be the “chosen law” for some disputes (Great Britain for example).
As for the content of Sharia, how does it compare to Western law today, taking the United States as the prime example? For details the reader can look a t any number of good books on the topic, but here I simply present some general conclusions. First, Sharia gives no rights to women except minimally, and actually punishes them for rape (remember they are thje victims) in some countries. Theft is punished by severing limbs. Various behaviors we would punish with fines of imprisonment Sharia punishes by flogging and execution. Some behaviors we don’t punish at all, but Sharia calls for death or flogging (not minimal number of lashes, but in some cases, hundreds). There is no constitutional concept in the system that would protect rights or limit the acts of the state.
In short, the Sharia system is incompatible with the Western legal tradition rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And despite the claims that Islam and Judaism and Christianity have common roots which would also imply common legal roots, this is simply false. The Western tradition evolved quite differently from the Islamic system, even though in the Old Testament there is a superficial similarity between Sharia and the Mosaic civil code. A cursory reading of the Mosaic Code shows that there were protections and limits to what could be done to a person and the substance of the Mosaic Code was less expansive against individuals. Yes, there was execution (for murder, rape, etc.). But these are heinous crimes and we do have Genesis 9: 6 as well as other texts to illuminate on the acts in question. But theft is punished by restitution, not cutting off limbs (restitution would still be a great idea).
Besides all that the United States legal system is founded on both the English Common Law system, itself rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, and a “fundamental law” called the Constitution, which establishes the conditions by which other (ordinary) law functions, and which limits the operation of that ordinary law (with rights and a limited government). Let me add that if an individual wishes to live by the standards of the Quran personally, as long as he/she acts within the parameters of American law, that is fine. But to impose it on others is unacceptable and to live it out in such a way as to infringe on others’ rights is also unacceptable.
In short, a constitutional system founded on a Judeo-Christian legal theory and practice is fundamentally incongruent with Sharia. It can never be made consistent and no court ought to be allowed to utilize it. Thus, the protests, and from people who fear some judges (and there have been some) might actually allow it to be used. I can’t say I would actually protest and violence is never sanctioned, but I do vigorously protest here in writing even the thought of using the Sharia system in the United States.
For further reading:
Harold Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. Harvard University, 1983.
Wael Hallaq, The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Cambridge University, 2005.
Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law. Clarendon Press, 1983.