For Muslims Only
Classic (some territories)
Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines followed by people who adhere to the Muslim faith. These laws are derived from multiple sources, primarily the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad collected in the hadith. Sharia, which is alternately spelled Sharīʿah, has multiple similar translations, including "the correct path" and “the path leading to the watering place.” Sharia law is widely practiced among the Muslim countries of Africa and the nations of the Middle East, who believe it is God's will for mankind. Sharia is interpreted by Muslim scholars, who then translate it into the fiqh, which is the body of Sharia law. Sharia law includes guidance applicable to all aspects of life, including public behavior, personal behavior, and even spiritual beliefs.
Under Sharia law, all human actions are placed into one of five various categories, alternately known as "the five decisions" (al-aḥkām al-khamsa): obligatory, recommended, permitted, disliked, or permitted.
Nations that follow Sharia law are invariably Muslim majority countries, and each has its own interpretation of the various intricacies of the laws. As a result of these differences of interpretation, nations are rarely exactly in sync in what is allowed, what is forbidden, and what the consequences should be for engaging in forbidden actions. There are, however, a number of popular and well-respected schools of interpretation, called madhhabs:
Countries that follow the most conservative interpretations of Sharia law have come under fire in recent years due to what many observers, especially those in secular countries, believe are intrusive, restrictive, and at times even inhumane rules, particularly against females. Examples of such draconian Sharia restrictions include barring women from getting an education, forcing them to wear restrictive burqa or niqab veils when leaving the home, and implementing arguably misogynistic laws surrounding the rape of women. Moreover, Sharia punishments can often seem archaic, if not inhumane. These include amputation of the hands as a punishment for theft, 100 lashes for those caught in adultery, and the stoning to death of those who turn away from Islam (the sin of apostasy). To be fair, the burden of proof for such punishments is quite high, so most crimes are punished using much less severe methods. Still, the fact that these punishments exist in the first place is considered by many to be cause for concern.
Similarly, critics of Sharia law argue that it is overly rigid and incompatible with modern principles including democracy, women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and principles outlined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Arguments supporting these criticisms often reference lines in the Qu'ran that could be interpreted as advocating spousal abuse and violence against non-Muslims, or offer up a widely publicized 2002 case in which a Nigerian woman was sentenced to be half-buried in sand and then stoned to death for the crime of having a child out of wedlock. The woman was acquitted on appeal, but not before the case garnered international attention and sparked considerable outrage among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Different countries implement Sharia law to different degrees. A few countries, such as Iran and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, allow strictly conservative classic Sharia principles to shape the entirety of their legal system. These are the most demanding systems as well as the systems most likely to be viewed by observers as oppressive. Most Muslim countries instead opt for hybrid systems, in which Sharia laws inform certain parts of the legal code, but not others. For example, a country may base its family and criminal laws on Sharia beliefs, but not its corporate or business laws. Other mixed legal systems may create two separate family codes: A Sharia-based code for Muslims and a separate, secular code for non-Muslims. Finally, a few countries follow Sharia law in some parts of the country, but not in others. The table below is based upon the work of Professor Jan Michiel Otto of Leiden University Law School in the Netherlands, and also incorporates data from newer sources where available.
Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan, and Qatar all follow Classic Sharia law.