Sharia (//; Arabic: شريعة, romanized: sharīʿa [ʃaˈriːʕa]) is a religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the hadith. In Arabic, the term sharīʿah refers to God's immutable divine law and is contrasted with fiqh, which refers to its human scholarly interpretations. The manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between Muslim fundamentalists and modernists.
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Traditional theory of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes four sources of Sharia: the Quran, sunnah (authentic hadith), qiyas (analogical reasoning), and ijma (juridical consensus). Different legal schools—of which the most prominent are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafiʽi, and Hanbali—developed methodologies for deriving Sharia rulings from scriptural sources using a process known as ijtihad. Traditional jurisprudence (fiqh) distinguishes two principal branches of law, ʿibādāt (rituals) and muʿāmalāt (social relations), which together comprise a wide range of topics. Its rulings are concerned with ethical standards as much as with legal norms, assigning actions to one of five categories: mandatory, recommended, neutral, abhorred, and prohibited. Thus, some areas of Sharia overlap with the Western notion of law while others correspond more broadly to living life in accordance with God's will.
Classical jurisprudence was elaborated by private religious scholars, largely through legal opinions (fatwas) issued by qualified jurists (muftis). It was historically applied in Sharia courts by ruler-appointed judges, who dealt mainly with civil disputes and community affairs. Sultanic courts, the police and market inspectors administered criminal justice, which was influenced by Sharia but not bound by its rules. Non-Muslim (dhimmi) communities had legal autonomy to adjudicate their internal affairs. Over the centuries, Sunni Islam muftis were gradually incorporated into state bureaucracies, and fiqh was complemented by various economic, criminal and administrative laws issued by Muslim rulers. The Ottoman civil code of 1869–1876 was the first partial attempt to codify Sharia.
In the modern era, traditional laws in the Muslim world have been widely replaced by statutes inspired by European models. Judicial procedures and legal education were likewise brought in line with European practice. While the constitutions of most Muslim-majority states contain references to Sharia, its classical rules were largely retained only in personal status (family) laws. Legislators who codified these laws sought to modernize them without abandoning their foundations in traditional jurisprudence. The Islamic revival of the late 20th century brought along calls by Islamism movements for full implementation of Sharia, including hudud corporal punishments, such as stoning. In some cases, this resulted in traditionalist legal reform, while other countries witnessed juridical reinterpretation of Sharia advocated by progressive reformers. Some Muslim-minority countries recognize the use of Sharia-based family laws for their Muslim populations. Sharia also continues to influence other aspects of private and public life.
The role of Sharia has become a contested topic around the world. Introduction of Sharia-based laws sparked intercommunal violence in Nigeria and may have contributed to the breakup of Sudan. Some jurisdictions in North America have passed bans on use of Sharia, framed as restrictions on religious or foreign laws. There are ongoing debates as to whether Sharia is compatible with democracy, human rights, freedom of thought, women's rights, LGBT rights, and banking.