Sharia law (yes, “law,” not “Shari-Allah”) is a scary thing to type into the Google search bar, hear on the news, or sometimes say a little too loud, lest you trigger the FBI knocking at your door. And while I like to think of myself as very secure in and proud of my Islam, I can still remember a few times where I braced myself when the topic of Sharia law came up. There are clearly a lot of things about Islam that have been demonized, shamed and misunderstood. But Sharia law, in particular, is something that gets hit the most, and is a breeding ground for Islamophobic rhetoric.
Growing up in a moderately Muslim family, I really didn’t have any idea about what Sharia law was, and the term became a self-imposed curse word around my non-Muslim friends. If the topic ever came up – which I made sure it rarely ever did – I would quickly become defensive and scramble to make sure they knew that I wasn’t “that kind” of Muslim. But if you know anything about Islam and the Sharia, then you know that simply existing as a Muslim automatically makes you “that kind” of Muslim, because the Sharia is literally just a set of guidelines to pave the way for an Islamic lifestyle.
So, let’s break it down: What is Sharia law, and why is everyone afraid of it? Well, according to billionbibles.org: “Sharia law prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation and favors corporal and capital punishments over incarceration. Of all legal systems in the world today, the Sharia law is the most intrusive and restrictive, especially against women.”
Now, I could spend a few hours and a couple thousand words dissecting why this is obviously ignorant, but for the sake of time let’s just agree that this is Islamophobic fearmongering, and move on.
But if you know anything about Islam and the Sharia, then you know that simply existing as a Muslim automatically makes you “that kind” of Muslim, because the Sharia is literally just a set of guidelines to pave the way for an Islamic lifestyle.
Sharia law is a complex maze of laws based on Islamic jurisprudence, of which many people spend years studying, which is why it’s pretty hilarious to watch people claim that they know all about it after looking at the first page of Google.
Billionbibles.org goes on to list a few “rules” within the Sharia (including the ever-so-popular “Muslims like to cut off hands”) tagged with some pretty shady sources. So, in response, here are a few things that you may not know about Sharia law:
- The word “sharia” is an Arabic word that means the “pathway to be followed.” A lot of the narrative and mystery that surrounds the word paints it as some plague that is creeping into the West, when it’s pretty self-explanatory, if you’re living your Muslim life – you’re following the Sharia.
- Following the first point: Sharia law is not a danger to Western countries, nor will it be implemented, like ever.
- Sharia law encompasses anything from financial transactions to marriage to interacting within the Ummah (Muslim community).
- If it wasn’t already obvious, the penalty aspect of the Sharia is often taken out of context. But as is the common theme, a lot of the practices that are already used in Western countries (see: the death penalty), and finally…
- The Sharia covers all aspects and sects of Islam. This means that the interpretation of one sect can differ from the others and is another reason that the term shouldn’t be used to pigeonhole an entire religion.
A lot of these things may seem redundant, but at the end of the day, information about Islamic law just isn’t readily available, which is part of the problem. Trying to search anything with the terms “Sharia” or “Islamic law” pulls up pages flooded with Islamophobia and bigotry. Factual information about the Sharia is few and far between and requires a pretty intense deep-dive on Google.
The Sharia has been branded as an imminent threat to Western values, and is a way to further other Muslims and immigrants from Muslim countries.
And as is the remedy for most ignorance, knowledge and information need to be easily accessible.