Shari’ah Law and the U.S. Constitution
This is a divisive topic around which there are considerable differences of opinion, heightened emotion, and deep confusion. One speaker I heard recently explained the difference between Shari’ah and Islamic law better than I had ever heard it explained, and he did it in one short sentence. He said that the U.S. Constitution is to Shari’ah as American law is to Islamic law.
What does this short sentence mean? The U. S. Constitution sets forth in a general way the values and principles upon which American law is to be formed and evaluated. The Congress, the legislative branch of government, passes law, whereas the judicial branch of the government checks whether that law is consistent with the values of the Constitution. The Constitution is thus not synonymous with American law, but American law is supposed to be grounded in the Constitution. Similarly, Shari’ah embodies the values upon which Islamic law is to be generated. For example, while there is one Qur’an comprising a major part of Shari’ah, there are multiple schools of jurisprudence in Islam that interpret the Qur’an as they generate Islamic law. So, Shari’ah is not synonymous with Islamic law, but Islamic law is supposed to be grounded in the Qur’an…