Sharia is described as Islamic rules of right action that govern the moral and religious lives of Muslims. The term sharia comes from the Arabic term sharīʿah, which means a body of moral and religious law derived from religious prophecy.
The human interpretation of Sharia called “fiqh” was created by individual scholars who interpreted the Koran and hadith, the stories of the prophet Muhammad’s life. Sharia law includes rules about marriage, divorce, inheritance, and punishments for criminal offenses. For devout Muslims, Sharia also governs the way they eat, how they treat animals and protect the environment, and how they do business. Sharia is not practiced uniformly as its implementation varies greatly across the Muslim world. A Pew religious landscape survey found that 57% of American Muslims say there is more than one way to interpret Islam’s teachings.
A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 30 percent of Americans believe Muslims want to establish Sharia in the United States. Several states – Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee – have implemented laws to enforce foreign law bans. The most recent, legislation in Kansas, prohibits that state’s judges from considering foreign law in their rulings. The law declares that any court decision will be considered void if it relies “in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code or system….” Anti-Sharia law bans have been considered in at least 16 states.
According to a survey by Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, the general public rejects the notion that American Muslims want to establish Sharia law in the U.S. by a margin of 2-to-1, or 61 percent to 30 percent.
Sharia law has been referenced in several U. S. legal proceedings, such as in 2002, Odatalla v. Odatalla, a New Jersey couple had signed an Islamic marriage contract. When the wife filed for divorce, she asked the court to enforce the mahr, or dowry provision in her contract, which called for the husband’s payment of $10,000 upon the dissolution of their marriage. The marriage contract was ruled valid under New Jersey law. Also, in a case involving Exxon Mobil and a Saudi company, the parties had agreed that Saudi law would govern any disputes. After the Saudi company sued Exxon Mobil, a judge on Delaware’s Superior Court instructed the jury to base its decision on testimony provided about Saudi law, including traditional Sharia.
For more information on Sharia law, read this piece from The Washington Post.
For more information on Muslims and Islam in the United States and around the world, read this Pew Research report.
To report hate crimes against Muslims and anti-Muslim sentiment, you can visit this page.