Islamic Law Media Misconceptions

Preserving Divine Law

Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series
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There is a heavy vibe in the media these days that “Shari`ah law” is the modern boogieman that we should all fear. Before going into this issue, we need to make one thing clear. The phrase Shari`ah law is redundant because the word Shari`ah is a transliteration of an Arabic word meaning law, more specifically Islamic Law. Since the English language properly represents this word then there is no need to transliterate the Arabic.

The reason behind the fear and aversion over Islamic Law is twofold. What some Muslim countries do in the name of Islamic law is appalling to many Muslim scholars and laymen alike. In many cases we see a strict “literalism” to some texts without any real scholarly or human insight. When we take into consideration scholarship and basic human insight, we see a different, wiser and correct scholarly application of Divine law. An example of this would be the most successful Caliph in applying Islamic Law: `Umar ibn al-Khattab. This was a man whose scholarly insight was such that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺsaid that if there were to be a Prophet after him, it would be `Umar. It is well known that during his Caliphate there were some areas of famine and economic strain. When a few people were caught stealing, some hasty literalist people of knowledge wanted to amputate their right hands as a stern punishment and societal deterrent to theft. It was `Umar who told these people to let the thieves go without punishment. We pray scholars and leaders attempting to apply Islamic Law anywhere would remember this great example of scholarly wisdom and true leadership, which is concerned equally with the state of the people while understanding and upholding the law.

The second reason for fear mongering over Islamic Law is the lack of true journalism, which should be void of political agendas or lobbies. There are many modern media outlets that don’t hesitate to spread disingenuous reporting. It is our job to stand firm for truth and justice in journalism. We must make our own media presence so the reality may be known that our faith is the only religion that provides a divinely legislated system of religious tolerance and co-existence as Law.

This brings us to the next characteristic of the true servants of the Merciful. Almighty God says they are,



“Those who do not invoke other than the one God, they don’t kill life which God has made sacred to except by divine right nor do they fornicate. Whoever would commit these sins will meet a penalty. His punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be multiplied and he will abide therein humiliated.” (Qur’an, 25:68-69)

This verse declares the true servants of the Merciful to be those who conserve society by preserving the three most important objectives of Islamic Law:

  1. The first of these objectives is to preserve the pure monotheistic faith. This is primarily done by recognizing the exalted sublimity of our Creator, that He alone should be worshiped without exception; as part of this, Islamic law gives precedence and respect to the ‘People of the Book.’ This is defined as those who uphold their belief in monotheism and revealed scripture although choosing to disbelieve in the Prophethood of Muhammad. These people were allowed to freely live as citizens of the Islamic Caliphate and prosper religiously and financially over centuries. Now if we compare that to the Christian empires (or any other for that matter) we see the value of Islamic law as a modernity compatible system of Law.
  2. The second chief objective of Islamic Law mentioned in the verse is that of keeping human life sacred. This is done by not killing anyone except by Divine right. In a nut shell, the Divine right which allows an individual to kill someone else is in self-defense against an aggressor, or in the case of capital punishment. Other than that, the only form of killing by Divine right is in a war which can only be declared by a Muslim leader of an Islamic state and effective commander of the army. Anyone with the basic knowledge of Islamic Law knows that it is forbidden to kill someone based on a vigilante claim to their own interpretation of “just right,” as is the case with al-Qaeda and other misguided extremist groups.
  3. The third objective mentioned in this verse is that of preserving family lineage and integrity. This is simply done by not only abstaining from fornication as is mentioned in this verse, but more clearly as it is mentioned in another verse,

“Do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse…” (Qur’an, 17:32)

This means to not do anything that could possibly lead to fornication. This verse is the founding principle, which is expounded upon in the Sunnah where we learn that it is forbidden for Muslims to be alone with or touch the opposite gender. It is definitely forbidden to have dating relationships which are un-chaperoned and not part of a plan to find a spouse.  Preserving this primary objective of Islamic Law  protects society, in that it preserves the sanctity of family and integrity of lineage. It protects society and prevents many social harms.

In conclusion, Islamic Law is practical and reasonable. It is about preserving the rights of mankind and protecting society from the evil and injustices of the desires of man. It is sad to see today that most Muslim governments have marginalized Islamic Law to marriage, divorce and inheritance. This is because of widespread ignorance and the fact that most of these dictatorships are either hypocrites who don’t believe in Islamic Law or are influenced by the West who frown upon any influence of religion upon state law. Another sad reality is seeing the negative outcome of a few attempts of some Muslim governments to implement a more comprehensive Islamic Law. According to many Muslim scholars, this is due to the low level of social and economic development, the prevalence of un-Islamic cultural norms, as well as a lack of wisdom and understanding of the priorities in building a society upon Islamic Law. We pray that God Almighty bless our leaders with the faith, wisdom and guidance to lead the Muslim world to greatness once again by fully implementing His Law in a balanced manner compatible with the world we live in.

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.


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