The Advantages of a Petrified Legal Tradition

Sharia's Superiority Summarized

Same comprehensive code of conduct for everyone

The word sharia means "the path to a watering hole". Some simply call it "God's Law".

The Sharia, or Islamic law is more than a criminal or civil code of justice. It is a comprehensive code of conduct complete with penalties for non-compliance. It is a code which would regulate every waking moment of a believer's life, from prayers to fasting, to what they can eat, to how to dress, to interactions with others in and outside the home… with women's behavior being its single largest component.

Everyone knows the Code

Children learn the essence of the Code before they can count.

Crime and Punishment

Crime is what Allah and His Messenger say it is e.g. Hadd offences.

The punishment usually takes one of three forms: blood money, mutilation (5:38 As for the thieves, whether male or female, cut off their hands in punishment for what they did, as an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty and Wise) or death.

There are five mitigating factors which may impact on the severity of the punishment where the crime has to do with religious observances or non-conforming behavior:

1. Actions obligatory on believers.

2. Desirable or recommended (but not obligatory) actions.

3. Indifferent actions.

4. Objectionable, but not forbidden, actions.

5. Prohibited actions.


Death and mutilation sentences are usually carried out in public in front of men, children and properly attired accompanied women as a reminder of the brutality of Allah's punishment.


A thief with no hands is a thief in name only, a murderer who lost his head will never kill again, a female stoned for adultery or for having pre-marital sex will never have illegal intercourse again …


In Islamic Law there are no juries, no time-consuming pre-trial examinations, no trials in the Western sense, although defendants in some jurisdiction can avail themselves of an expect in Islamic law.

The judge is prosecutor, jury and if so inclined, executioner.

On August 15, 2004 Atefeh Rajabi, a sixteen year old Iranian girl from the town of Neka was hung from a crane and agonized for more than forty-five minutes inside her black burqa which was sealed at the top with a hangman’s knot.

The girl's crime: having pre-marital sex and being disrespectful to the presiding judge. The mullah who sentenced her to death was so incensed at the teenaged girl, that he personally put the noose around her neck before ordering the crane operator to hoist her into the air.

Least Costly

In the Prophet’s time, where the purest form of Islamic justice was the norm, there was no need for prisons.

Revenge is good for the soul!

2:179 In retaliation there is life for you, O people of understanding, that you may be God-fearing.

Inspired Fossilization

Ijmā is an Arabic term referring ideally to the consensus of the ummah (the community of Muslims, or followers of Islam) ... it is ijima' (sic) which guarantees the authority of the text of the Koran and of the Traditions. It is ijma' which determines how the words of their texts are to be pronounced and what they mean and in what direction they are to be applied.

But ijima' goes much farther; it is erected into a theory of infallibility, a third channel of revelation ... When, therefore, a consensus of opinions had been attained by the scholars of the second and third centuries AH (after Hegira)  on any given point, the promulgation of new ideas on the exposition of the relevant texts of the Koran and Hadith was as good as forbidden.

Their decisions were irrevocable. The right of individual interpretation (ijtihad) was in theory (and very largely in practice also) confined to the points on which no general agreement had yet been reached.

As these were narrowed down from generation to generation, the scholars of later centuries were limited to commenting and explaining the treatises in which those decisions were recorded.

The great majority of Muslim doctors held that the ‘gate of Ijtihad’ was shut once and for all, and that no scholar, however eminent, could henceforth qualify as a mujtahid, an authoritative interpreter of the law; although some few later theologians did from time to time claim for themselves the right of ijtihad.

It was for example, only after the general recognition of ijima' as a source of law and doctrine that a definite legal test of ‘heresy’ was possible and applied. Any attempt to raise the question of the import of a text in such a way as to deny the validity of the solution already given and accepted by consensus became a bid'a, an act of ‘innovation’, that is to say, heresy.

The most remarkable feature of this whole development is its logical formalism. Although the presuppositions which it rests may certainly be derived from the Koran, the later scholars of Medina and Iraq, in their zeal to make the system completely watertight, did not hesitate to push the conclusions derived from these presuppositions to their extreme logical limits ...

The hadith of Muhammad which states that "My community will never agree upon an error" is often cited as support for the validity of ijma ... [and the reason why] Islamic Law (or Koranic Law, as it is often called) has remained in a petrified state ever since the ‘gate of Ijtihad’ was closed in the third century AH.

Mohammedanism, H. A. R. Gibb, Oxford University Press, 1962

Bernard Payeur

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