Sharia law is a set of principles derived from the words of Prophet Muhammad (Hadith), his actions (Sunnah), and the Quran. It is not a list of rules and regulations but instead principles that guide the various aspects of life. Sharia law cannot be altered, but the interpretation (fiqh) by Islamic jurists (muftis) is given some latitude depending on the situation and the outcome.
Sharia law is broad, as it covers public both public and private behavior, and even intrudes into individual beliefs. Sharia law has come under constant criticism for its harshness and strong punishments. However, a classical Sharia system is still used in some Islamic states, though most countries have integrated Sharia law with civil or common laws. The following are countries that follow Sharia law.
Countries That Follow Sharia Law
The judicial system in Afghanistan consists of Islamic, customary and statutory rules. Throughout the history of the country, the legal system has been affected by the government in place. The Mujahideen (1992-1996), and the Taliban regime (1996-2001) enforced strict Sharia laws, but the modern Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in the process of integrating civil and Sharia laws. Much of the country is still under the control of the Taliban and Islamic law continues to be used as the principal legal system.
Pakistan restricted Islamic law to personal issues until 1978 when President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq introduced Sharia courts. Constitutional amendments designated supreme power to the Sharia courts and declared Islamic law the principal laws of the country. Cases of women being stoned to death for alleged infidelity are not unheard of in Pakistan.
Since the creation of the kingdom in 1932, the policies of the government of Saudi Arabia have been governed by Sharia laws. Under the Saudi laws, the government can only issue regulations that do not contradict the principles of Islamic law.
Controversy of Sharia Law
Critics of Sharia law condemn its punitive nature. Another common criticism is that women suffer more from the enforcement of these laws. In 2009, a Christian woman named Aasiya Noreen (Asia Bibi) was arrested for alleged blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging. After serving eight years in prison, she was released after a successful appeal. Her release led to massive protests across Pakistan with the public demanding her immediate execution. The use or handling of alcohol in Saudi Arabia earns at least seven years in prison. Other controversial punishments include chopping off the hand for petty thieves.