What is meant by Hudud?

What many do not realise is that the hand cutting punishment is not an automatic thing. The criminal must first be assessed as to why he or she stole. And if it is because of poverty, then instead of cutting off the thief’s hand, he or she has to be put under welfare and be taken care of by the state. In fact, the head of the welfare department instead would be punished for neglecting the poor and destitute that resulted in them having to steal to survive.

By Raja Petra Kamarudin and Masterwordsmith

The origins and obligations of Sharia law

Sharia is the body of Islamic religious law based on the Qu’ran and the words and actions of the prophet Mohammed and his followers.

In the West, Sharia has become synonymous with the brutal punishments meted out in Islamic states, but the majority of laws are to do with everyday issues, ranging from personal hygiene to banking.

Hard line Muslim leaders claim that Sharia is eternal and can never be changed, while moderates argue that it is not a strict set of laws but should be open to interpretation.

Sunni and Shia Muslims follow different schools of thought in interpreting the Sharia laws, but all Muslims are required to live according to Sharia wherever they are.

Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have implemented Sharia as the legal system of the country, but in Britain it has no legal standing, despite the introduction of Sharia-compliant banking and food.

Examples of obligatory laws

• Earnings must be lawfully obtained

• Food must be halal

• Personal hygiene must be of a very high standard

• Couples must have a full bath in flowing water after intercourse

• The body must be covered modestly

• Prayers must be said five times a day

• Believers must fast during Ramadan

By Clare Dwyer Hogg and Jonathan Wynne-Jones, The Telegraph


Sharia is an Arabic word meaning “the right path”. The Sharia comes from the Qu’ran, the sacred book of Islam, which Muslims consider the actual word of God. The Sharia also stems from the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and interpretations of those teachings by certain Muslim legal scholars.

Muslims believe that Allah (God) revealed his true will to Muhammad, who then passed on Allah’s commands to humans in the Koran.

Since the Sharia originated from Allah, Muslims consider it sacred. Between the seventh century when Muhammad died and the 10th century, many Islamic legal scholars attempted to interpret the Sharia and to adapt it to the expanding Muslim Empire.

The classic Sharia of the 10th century represented an important part of Islam’s golden age. From that time, the Sharia has continued to be reinterpreted and adapted to changing circumstances and new issues. In the modern era, the influences of Western colonialism generated efforts to codify it.

Following Muhammad’s death in A.D. 632, companions of the Prophet ruled Arabia for about 30 years. These political-religious rulers, called Caliphs, continued to develop Islamic law with their own pronouncements and decisions. The first Caliphs also conquered territories outside Arabia including Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Persia, and Egypt.

As a result, elements of Jewish, Greek, Roman, Persian, and Christian church law also influenced the development of the Sharia.

Islamic law grew along with the expanding Muslim Empire. The Umayyad dynasty Caliphs, who took control of the empire in 661, extended Islam into India, Northwest Africa, and Spain. The Umayyads appointed Islamic judges, kadis, to decide cases involving Muslims. (Non-Muslims kept their own legal system.) Knowledgeable about the Qu’ran and the teachings of Muhammad, kadis decided cases in all areas of the law.

Following a period of revolts and civil war, the Umayyads were overthrown in 750 and replaced by the Abbasid dynasty. During the 500-year rule of the Abbasids, the Sharia reached its full development.

Under their absolute rule, the Abbasids transferred substantial areas of criminal law from the kadis to the government. The kadis continued to handle cases involving religious, family, property, and commercial law.

The Abbasids encouraged legal scholars to debate the Sharia vigorously. One group held that only the divinely inspired Koran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad should make up the Sharia. A rival group, however, argued that the Sharia should also include the reasoned opinions of qualified legal scholars. Different legal systems began to develop in different provinces.

From this very brief history of the Islamic empire and the development of the Sharia, some scholars argue that the Sharia evolved over time and transformed to meet the needs to society during their respective times. In other words, the Sharia was not static but dynamic.

Other scholars argue that the Sharia was already present during the time of the Prophet and was already fully developed by the time the Prophet died. In other words, this was what was laid down by the Prophet and merely continued after the Prophet died (meaning, the Sharia did not evolve or transform over time). This argument is to support the theory that the Sharia came from God and was not ‘invented’ by man over hundreds of years following the death of the Prophet.

In an attempt to reconcile the rival groups, a brilliant legal scholar named Shafiee systematised and developed what were called the “roots of the law”. Shafiee argued that in solving a legal question, the kadi or government judge should first consult the Qu’ran. If the answer were not clear there, the judge should refer to the authentic sayings and decisions of Muhammad. If the answer continued to elude the judge, he should then look to the consensus of Muslim legal scholars on the matter. Still failing to find a solution, the judge could form his own answer by analogy from “the precedent nearest in resemblance and most appropriate” to the case at hand.

This clearly shows that even the scholars themselves could not agree on whether the Sharia is God’s law or man’s creation based on interpretation of the Qu’ran and the teachings (examples) of the Prophet.