The Difference Between Sharia Law and an Islamic State

Sharia is the Islamic legal system. All mainstream Islamic sects agree that the practice of Islam, and the way a Muslim lives, must comply with Sharia. However, although most Islamic sects believe that Sharia was completed by the death of Mohammad, Many schools of understanding and applying Sharia were developed after his death.

The original Sharia covered a wide spectrum of topics, from theological obligations to the Islamic dress code. According to the original Sharia, There is no clear political system for the Islamic state, however, Muslims are advised to consult with each other in their matters (See Quran 3:159 and 42:38), and this teaching was the basis for designing all the political systems that Islam has known. Understanding this teaching is an essential cornerstone in understanding how Sharia works as a political system.

Although the name of Surah 42 is "The Consultation", and although in 3:159 The Prophet (or the Leader) is ordered to consult with "them" about "the matter", Sharia has never produced a political system in which people's opinions were regularly consulted before the ruler would make a decision about "matters". Verse 3:159 says clearly:

"And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]".

This verse can explain why Sharia application has only produced absolute monarchies, and makes the existing Islamic monarchies of our time (Al Saud kingdom for example) an extension of the previous families that ruled Islamic states in the past 1400 years.

The progress of Sharia

Contrary to the traditional belief, Sharia has an inherent mechanism of progress. Two of the main sources of Sharia are "Islamic consensus" and "Islamic Deductive analogy". Those Sharia sources allow Muslims to agree on how to handle a new matter, and to compare a new matter to an old matter in order to see it the new matter can be handled the same way as the old matter. Historically, Muslim communities have used these rules to agree on new forms of political systems. For example, In Iran the Muslim communities agreed on the "Islamic republic" political system, and in Egypt and Syria, the majority of the Muslim communities agree on a secular democratic state where sharia is one of the sources of the constitution.

Relying on the application of those two Sharia sources, Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and other Muslim-majority countries can claim that they live under Sharia rule in their respective political systems.

The Islamic State doctrine

The same Sharia sources used to make Sharia compatible with modern political systems were used to revive the old political system of the early days of Islam. This system considers that the leader of the state, called Caliph, is commanded by God to spread the message of his religion to the whole world. This makes the Caliphate a colonial imperial system, not just another absolute monarchy.

The last Islamic empire was the Ottoman Empire, dismantled in 1918 after the First World War. The first reincarnation of this doctrine after 1918 was in Afghanistan, where Taliban created a Caliphate system with a Caliph and a commandment to spread Islam and conquer infidelity.

The Current Islamic state is another incarnation of the same doctrine. Its propaganda links the supposed Caliph with old Caliphs, and invites all Muslims in the whole world to swear allegiance to new Caliph. According to the Islamic state’s version of Sharia, Any Muslim who does not follow the Caliph is sentenced to death as a renegade. This legal rule is applied to all existing monarchies and states, in the Arab region and worldwide. The only exception is Israel, the Jewish state, because, according to the Salafist ideology, Muhammad had a truce with the Jews, and the Caliph cannot repeal what the Prophet has approved.  

Although the gulf monarchies have supported other terrorist organizations in Syria and other places, Al Saud and all their satellite families understand that ISIS represents a destabilization threat to their rule. In a future Article I will discuss ISIS as a destabilization operation in further details, and analyze the Saudi response to the threat.

Al-Ayham Saleh

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