What is Shariah and Why Does It Matter?

By: Sherman Jackson

“At the most basic level, Shari‘ah is the Muslim universe of ideals. It is the result of their collective effort to understand and apply the Quran and supplementary teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (called Sunna) in order to earn God’s pleasure and secure human welfare in this life and attain human salvation in the life to come. While the Quran and Sunna are transcendent and unchangeable, Shari‘ah itself is the negotiated result of competing interpretations. In fact, most Muslims tend to speak not of Shari‘ah but of fiqh, which literally means “understanding” and underscores the distinction between God’s prescriptions on the one hand and the human attempt to understand these on the other.”

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