A Way of Life

Shariah is much more than ‘Islamic law’ because it is not limited to legal issues. While it covers areas of contracts, family law, and international relations, it also includes a social system that encourages the just and generous treatment of neighbors, the preservation of the environment, and caring for the poor and oppressed, along with personal acts of worship such as prayer, fasting, and charity. In fact, Shariah contains a detailed code of conduct. Here are some examples from the Quran (final revelation of God) and Sunnah (teachings of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh):

Quran
• “And speak good words to all people.” (2:83)
• “The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly
• on the earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply, ‘Peace’.” (25:63)
• “God loves those who seek to purify themselves.” (9:108)
• “…whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.” (42:40)
• “… those who are patient and do righteous deeds; those will have forgiveness and great reward.” (11:11)

Sunnah
• “The believer does not defame, abuse, disparage, nor vilify.”
• “You do not believe until you love for your brother (in faith and in humanity) what you love for yourself.”
• “The world is green and delightful and God has put you in charge of it and is watching how you behave.”
• “Show mercy to those on earth so that He Who is in Heaven (God) will show mercy on you.”
• “Make things easy on people and do not make them difficult, and cheer people up and do not put them off (by your behavior).”

In addition, Shariah seeks to protect all the vulnerable segments of society. The following is a brief list of these:
Women have the right to education, to marry someone of their choice, to divorce, to work, to own and sell property, to vote as well as to participate in civic and political engagement, and to be protected by the law.
• Zakah, an obligatory charity, is collected from individuals who fall above a specific income bracket, amounting to 2.5% of their wealth. This money is redistributed to eight different groups of needy people and institutions, starting with the local needs first.
Children have rights that Shariah protects, including the right not to be abused. When parents get a divorce, custody is granted according to the child’s benefit.
• Caring for the poor, orphans, widows, and the elderly is a collective responsibility of the community.
• Animals are to be treated with kindness, and cruelty towards them is a grave sin.

The primary theme in all of these examples is the individual and collective effort to achieve benefit in material, moral, and spiritual spheres of life through mercy and compassion.

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