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Dr. Yasir Qadhi addresses this question in the video below:
Dr. Yasir Qadhi:
“Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (peace and blessings of Allah be upon you).
A lot of people ask, “What exactly is Shariah? Is there something that Americans should be scared of, you know? What type of totalitarian ideology is this?”
Well, the fact of the matter is that Shariah is a personal set of laws and ethics that Muslims follow in their daily life. There’s nothing to be worried about. It’s nothing that’s scary about the Shariah.
Every single religious system has its own laws, its own ethics, you know, its own norms. Observant Jews follow the halakha. They eat kosher. Well, I mean, Muslims have an equivalent where they will follow the Shariah; they’re going to eat halal foods.
And in fact, the Shariah is a personal set of laws that Muslims basically live their lives by.
And it is true that the Shariah tells us what to eat and what not to eat; it tells us how to dress. It tells us what is permitted in transactions and what is not permitted: that we cannot be unjust, we cannot take advantage of the poor. We cannot do this, we cannot do that.
We’re also encouraged to give charity; we’re encouraged to be generous; we’re encouraged to be merciful. So, the Shariah is a set of personal laws and values.
Now, some people bring up certain laws of the Shariah that might have been applied in Islamic caliphates some centuries ago, such as the cutting off of the hands or this or that. And there is no denying that elements of the Shariah did discuss national laws.
Because unlike… many other religions… —for example Judaism, that has not had a Jewish state for a long time—Muslims have had States for most of their existence and these states did judge by the laws of the Shariah.
And, therefore, the Shariah did discuss issues of a national level; Issues of the Penal Code: what to do with thieves, what to do with highway robbers. And the laws that were enacted based on the Shariah were laws that Muslim societies did live by.
Now, we as American Muslims, or any Muslims living in western lands, we understand that these laws are laws that apply in an Islamic state.
And in the modern world, these laws are up for grabs in the sense that Muslim scholars will have to negotiate, Muslim theologians are going to have to discuss: should these laws be modified? Or should they be kept as they are? That’s something for Muslim governments and Muslim institutions that are in Islamic lands to decide.
As American Muslims—as Western Muslims, Canadian Muslims, Muslims living in western lands—we wish to practice the Shariah in our personal lives, and that means we want to live in a certain ethical lifestyle, a certain morally upright lifestyle. We wish to eat the food that God has been permitted for us.
So there are no organizations or institutes in America that are claiming that they want to establish the Shariah as a type of a global Caliphate, or as a type of supplanting of American law. This is hysteria, this is fear-mongering, and we have seen this as Americans.
We’ve seen this done to Japanese-Americans in, you know, post-World War II, we’ve seen this done to other demographics. We’ve seen this done to African-Americans throughout the Civil Rights and pre-Civil Rights time.
The fact of the matter is that we need to see through the Islamophobia. We need to see through the bigotry that is being taught, the fear that is being stoked intentionally and for political and racial reasons.
Muslims are like all other religious Americans. We have a set of personal laws that we cling to, but that’s our personal belief.
Even within our own community, if a Muslim chooses not to practice the Shariah… well, I know plenty of Muslims like that! What are you going to do about it? That’s their business.
If they come to me as a scholar, as a cleric, I will tell them this is the law of God, you should try to apply it, you should try to practice in your personal life. But if they refuse to do so, that’s their business and it’s not my business to force it on them.
If this is the way that we see this within the Muslim community, within our own mosques, how about outside of our mosques?
The bottom line is that the Shariah is a set of personal laws that Muslims who choose to do so will apply in their daily lives.
The Shariah tells us to be merciful [and] compassionate, to be God-fearing. The Shariah tells us to give our charity, to pray on time. The Shariah tells us to live according to what we believe are the laws of God.
And the American Constitution guarantees those freedoms to every single American, and that’s something we are very proud of and very grateful for.”
I hope this helps answer your question. You can also check out more from Dr. Yasir Qadhi at the link here.
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