Would you say Shariah is better than Western Civil Law?

Would you say Shariah is better than Western Civil Law?


Can you tell us why traditional Muslim law is better than Western civil law? What is the philosophy behind sharia, besides being a good Muslim?

Salaam alykum,

I have never made the argument that one legal system is better than the other, because a legal system only works if people believe in it. 

Let me put it to you this way: if a bunch of us come together to play a sport, most of us want to play handball but I impose soccer’s rules onto the game, the game will be horrendous.

A legal system must be seen as legitimate by the people for it to work, and when you look at the legal systems across the Muslim World, they are (for the most part, but not all) are not seen as legitimate by the people and are nearly all products of either colonialism or western models, and thus the benefit of “Muslim Law” can only be realized if the people are indeed Muslim and desirous of such a legal system.

I believe that Shariah is the most comprehensive legal system, because unlike other legal systems, it has a mechanism to move past the limitations that the law will necessarily have. So, when you have a moral problem, how do you solve it?

I have said before that “once you need law to solve an issue of morality, you have an issue that law cannot solve,” and that is true, and that is why Shariah is quite different, because there are always limitations on what the law can do, Shariah included, but what makes Shariah different is that it is paired with the larger social construction of Islam, which means that if you think of the law as half a loop, Islam is the second half that “completes the loop” so that you can have a comprehensive methodology to tackle societal issues.

Therefore, if you want to combat gender discrimination, you can enact all the most fantastic legislation in the world, but if people don’t respect it, if women don’t see it as something that is real, then what can you do? Nothing.

However, when you have the power of Islam, as a force of social and moral mobilization, then you have the channels to enact change on two levels: the official and the unofficial, which is why Islam was so effective, even in the pre-nation state structures that it primarily existed in.

Regardless, though, if the people do not see Islam as relevant, then Shariah becomes no different to any other legal system, and it will be judged simply on its ability to adjudicate fairly and efficiently, but, if people do not have a stake in the system, the chance of that system running fairly or efficiently is quite slim.

So you have to have people “buy-in” or else it doesn’t matter if you have Mongolian or American law, it will not work.

I hope that made sense. If you, or anyone else, have any other questions on this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask me, insha Allah.

For more information on Shariah please watch my lecture on the subject which you can watch here, insha Allah.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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