Punishments by Fanatics Bear No Relation to Complexity of Laws

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 4, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Punishments by Fanatics Bear No Relation to Complexity of Laws


FOR most people in Wales, sharia law is likely to have connotations of brutal physical punishment meted out by religious fanatics.

But the reality, as so often, is much more complex.

Sharia is an Arabic term meaning "way" or "path to the water source". It is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated, covering politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene and social issues.

There is no formal set of sharia laws. Instead it is based on the Koran, the hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions), Ijma (consensus), Qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and centuries of debate, interpretation and precedent.

Interestingly, given the current controversy over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments and now those of the Lord Chief Justice, it has been suggested that aspects of English and Welsh law derive originally from Islamic law.

Certain common law principles introduced after the Norman conquest of England are said to have been adapted from Islamic legal concepts which influenced the Normans after they conquered the Emirate of Sicily. Later influences emerged from the close connection between the Norman kingdoms of Roger II in Sicily and Henry II in England, and from Crusaders returning from the Holy Land.

The "Waaf" in Islamic law, which developed between the seventh and ninth centuries, bears a resemblance to trusts in English trust law. For example, every Waaf was required to have a founder, trustee, judge and beneficiaries.

Trust law developed in England at the time of the Crusades, and it is thought they may have been influenced by the Waaf institutions they came across in the Middle East.

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