Islamic Law: An Introduction to Sharia in the UK

Shariah Courts in Britain

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the UK and its legal system – Shariah also spelled Sharia – is increasingly becoming a part of the UK judicial system.  In 2008 the Government sanctioned five Shariah courts to operate in this country, ruling on a range of civil matters including financial disputes and divorce.  The rulings of these courts are now enforceable in the English Legal System.  British Courts can now enforce Shariah judgements!  It is for these reasons we need to know more about this legal system.     

What is Shariah?

It is the system of laws within Islam. There are three Basic Sources for Shariah Law.  One major source is the Islamic holy text – The Koran, the other is the Sunnah – which is the custom and practice of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.  The other source, known as Fatwas, are the rulings of various Islamic scholars on certain matters. It is different from the common law of England and Wales in many ways. First and foremost Shariah deals with all aspects of a Muslim’s life, and not necessarily just in terms of relations between private parties or between a private party and the state. In other words it deals with both matters that are both private and public in nature.

Within the Sunni Branch of Islam there are four schools of thought which are known as “madhab”. The Sunni branch of Islam schools of thought are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali.  Shiite Islam – found mainly in Iran – has its own school of thought called the Jafari Madh’hab. Many Shariah practitioners spend decades studying Shariah law and usually within the respective Madhabs.  

How is Shariah Law actually practised?

It can deal with many aspects of a Muslim’s daily life. The whole objective of Shariah is to promote social welfare. These aspects of daily life that promote social welfare are separated into two categories which are necessities and needs and comforts.

Many of the topics covered by Shariah law involve situations in the daily life of Muslims that can seem very ordinary and commonplace to the outside observer. However, Muslims simply wish to ensure that their actions comply with Islamic law and rites.

What are types of Shariah Law Rulings?

Islamic Shariah law has a very ancient tradition and is complicated in many respects and involving various schools of thought. However the basic essence of Shariah can be placed in five easily definable categories.

Firstly there are obligatory actions; these must be carried out with good intentions in order to attain a reward from God. Then there are recommended actions and these are actions that should be carried out. Thirdly, there are disliked actions which are simply not considered good or proper in the eyes of God. Fourthly there are forbidden actions which are not allowed whatsoever.

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For more information on:

  • How is Shariah Law practiced within the UK Regulatory and Legal Framework?
  • Shariah Law within the Family
  • Shariah Compliant Finance Regulation in the UK