The Aims and Purposes of Sharia

Chebika Oasis, Tunisia. Photo: Flickr, Miodrag Bogdanovic.

Asmah Sultan Mallick is a master’s student in International Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Given the revolutions across the Middle East, with countries trying to rebuild and form stable governments better able to serve their people, the topic of sharia law has been a common subject of debate. We’ve even heard about “threats” of sharia taking over areas within the United States.

Putting these perceptions aside, my intention is neither to defend sharia nor delve into how it can or cannot be implemented. Rather, I want to shed some light on its goals.

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The Opening

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Al-Fatiha, Yusuf Ali Translation)

Al-Fatiha Calligraphy Artist: Fahad Kehar

Al-Fatiha, or “The Opening,” contain the first seven verses in the Qur’an, and is repeated  at least seventeen times per day by Muslims who perform five or more daily prayers. Depending upon which scholar you ask, it may even be the most important prayer in Islam. It speaks of God’s grace and mercy, and asks for guidance and support for believers to follow the “straight path.” The real question, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is what is the straight path. (For more background on the English translation of Al-Fatiha, see this explanation.)

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