Shariah the Core of Islamic Culture

  August 01, 2021   Read time 2 min
Shariah the Core of Islamic Culture
The Shariah, or Divine Law of Islam, not only is central to the religion, but also constitutes Islam itself in its ritual, legal, ethical, and social aspects.

Muslims believe that the Shar ‘ah contains the concrete embodiment of the Will of God, how God wants them to act in this life to gain happiness in this world and felicity in the hereafter. A Muslim can fail to practice the injunctions of the Shar ‘ah and still remain a Muslim, although not a practicing and upright one, but if he or she no longer considers the Shariah to be valid, then he or she practically ceases to be a Muslim.

The life of the Muslim from the cradle to the grave is governed by the Shariah, which sanctifies every aspect of life, creates equilibrium in human society, and provides the means for human beings to live virtuously and to fulfill their functions as God’s creatures placed on earth to submit themselves to His Will and to live according to His laws. A Muslim may go beyond the outer meaning of the Shariah and through the Path, or the Tar qah, reach the Truth, or Haq qah, which resides within the sacred forms and injunctions of the Law, but he or she must start with the Shar ‘ah and follow it to the best of his or her ability.

The Shar ‘ah is like the circumference of a circle, each point of which represents a Muslim who stands on that circumference. Each radius that connects every point on the circumference to the center symbolizes the Tariqah, and the center is the Haqiqah, which generates both the radii and the circumference. The whole circle, with its center, circumference, and radii, may be said to represent the totality of the Islamic tradition. One can follow one of the radii to the center, but only on the condition of beginning on the circumference—hence, the great significance of the Shariah, without which no spiritual journey would be possible and the religion itself could not be practiced. Furthermore, even the greatest saints and sages who have reached the Haqiqah do not cease to practice the Shariah throughout their earthly lives.

The word Shariah comes from the root shar', which means “road,” and the Shariah is the road that men and women must follow in this life. Since Islam is a complete way of life, the Shar ‘ah is all-embracing; it includes all of life from rites of worship to economic transactions. Usually, however, it is divided for the sake of clarification and to facilitate learning its injunctions into ‘ibadat (what pertains to worship) and mu‘amalat (what pertains to transactions). In the first category are included all the injunctions that apply to Islamic rites, both the obligatory and the recommended, such as prayer and fasting; the second category includes every kind of transaction, whether it is social, economic, or political and whether it is concerned with one’s neighbor or with the whole of society.

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