Basics of SHARIA

Dr. Hassan Hathout

We praise Allah. We bear witness that there is no God but Him, and we bear witness that Mohammed is His messenger and the Prophet. We ask Allah to shed His Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, upon his family, his companions, and his followers to the day of judgment.

Today’s Khutba inshallah, will be back to basics. I propose to speak to you about the Shari’a. The Shari’a is the total sum of injunctions, that address those who qualify for being obligated to regard the religious duties. It details the way of life that the Creator intends for the created, who believe in him, to abide by and to follow.

The number one source of the Sharia of course is the Qur'an, the very words of Allah, Praised and Exalted be He, which He promised to preserve. Since its revelation it has been preserved word to word and letter to letter.

It has not been altered or tampered with. Whatever is in the Qur'an, is to us sacred. Whatever we hear from the Qur'an, our response is we hear and we obey.

To implement the Qur'an, the Sunna was necessary. That is the teaching of Prophet Mohammed, Peace and Blessing be upon him, in his capacity as Prophet. The Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him, draws our attention that whatever he says as a Prophet, becomes a part of the Sharia and apart of our religion.

This is in distinction to what he said or did as a mere ordinary human being. Whatever he told us that this is part of our religion, we have to take. We obey it and we abide by it. Because Allah, Himself in the Qur'an invokes us to obey the Prophet. The Qur'an says,

May yuti'ir rasula faqad ata' Allah(a),


"Whoever obeys the Prophet, has obeyed Allah."

Allah also says in the Qur'an,

wa ma atakumur rasulu fakhuthuhu wama nahaakum a'nhu fantahu waataqu Allah, inna Allaha shadidul iqab


"Do whatever the Prophet commands you to do, and abstain from that which he forbade us."

This is different from what the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him, said just as a human being. The Prophet was keen to teach us to make that distinction.

The Hadith of the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him, was narrated and collected after his death. It was not as preservable as the Qur'an is. But the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him, explained to us the Qur'an, showed us the Qur'an in the form of the behavior of a human being. When the wife of the Prophet was asked about his character, she said "His character was the Qur'an."

So it was him that made us read the Qur'an, not only on paper, but in the behavior of the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him.

There are things which the Qur'an did not detail. The Qur'an ordered us to observe our prayers, but it was the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him, who taught us how to pray, how many ‘rakas’ in each prayer, what to do and how to perform the prayer. This is the Sunna which compliments the Qur'an. These are the two basic sources of the Shariah.

In order to get to know what the Prophet said and taught, one of the most exact sciences, and one of the most precise branches of the science of History, was created. That is the ‘Science of the Hadith’, to determine what Hadith are authentic, what are less than that, what Hadith are possible and what are to be rejected. The science of the Hadith is practically one of the most exact branches of the science of History that humanity has ever known.

In order to implement the Qur'an and Hadith we also need the Muslim Mind, that doesn’t just take things on a superficial level. I would like to quote the example of Hadrat Umar ibn al-Khattab (Radiallahu anhu).

He was one of the most knowledgeable people about the Qur'an, knowing the language, the circumstances in which the verses were revealed, and knowing the wisdom that every verse of the Qur'an addressed.

So when he became Caliph stopped spending the Zakat money in public relation purposes. According to the Qur'an, one of the purposes of Zakat was to give money to half-hearted people in order to win their allegiance or their support to Islam, or to prevent them from harming Islam and Muslims. When Umar ibn al-Khattab became the Caliph, he stopped those payments. When he was asked, he said, "I am not disobeying the Qur'an, because what is in the Qur'an is sacred, but the wisdom of doing that was valid in the days when Islam needed to pay money for public relations, and in order to befriend people. But today, al Hamdu Lillah Islam has become strong. Islam does not need the support of those people anymore, so therefore, I am not going to pay them any money from the Zakat."

The Qur'an and the Hadith are the constants of the Sharia, they are the unchangeable part of the Sharia. Provided there is the good, intelligent, knowledgeable deep understanding.

We know the punishment for theft in the Qur'an. When a man took his two servants to Umar, accusing them of theft, and they admitted it but said, "We did that because the man does not give us enough to eat." Umar said, "The punishment does not apply to them, go and if you bring them back, and I find that they still do not have enough to eat, it is your own hand I’ll cut."

Other sources of the Sharia are about things not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an or the Hadith of the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him. Because the Sharia is progressive and is suitable for all times and places. So the third source of the Sharia is the ‘Ijtihad’, the reasonable deduction, within the limits of the Qur'an and the Sunna of the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him.

For example, alcohol was specifically forbidden to drink in the Qur'an. But the Qur'an and the Prophet never mentioned anything about Cocaine, or Heroin. But then Ijtihad tells us that since the reason for forbidding alcohol is its’ effect on the human mind, and since cocaine has the same effect on the human mind, then according to the Sharia, it also becomes Haram, forbidden, although it was never mentioned specifically by name in the Qur'an or the Hadith.

It was in this way that the scholars of our nation had the thinking, from very early times to derive the conclusions and rulings about things which were not mentioned by name in the Qur'an and the Hadith, but all the time focusing on the word and the spirit of the Qur'an and the Hadith.

That is why we have the ‘madhahib’, ‘Abu Hanifa’, ‘Shafie’, ‘ibn Hanbal’, ‘Malik’, ‘al Jafari’, and within every imadhab there are various schools of thought, all the time addressing situations in new places, new times, facing new issues. We are content that the Sharia can cope with all issues in all times, in all places, until the day of judgement.

Since there was a new science in Islam, the science of Fiqh, and the science of ‘Oosool ul Fiqh’, which was the science of derivation of rulings within the framework of the Qur'an and the Hadith. Al Hamdu Lillah Sharia will therefore be inexhaustible.

There was a time when Muslims lagged behind the times, and all they had to do was to go back to the writings of earlier scholars. When these things were written, they were the current rulings, but with the passage of time and the appearance of new issues, and new situations they were not enough, and the door of Ijtihad had to be opened for the new rulings and al Hamdu Lillah Muslims are now deriving rules for such things as test tube babies, and new technologies of the Space Age.

You will find therefore that you might read several books by different authors, addressing the same issue, and perhaps coming up with different conclusions, which in Islam is alright, as long as they do not conflict with the Qur'an and the Sunna of the Prophet, Peace and Blessing be upon him. On the foundations of religion, Muslims are united, and in the secondary branches there can be differences, provided none of them would conflict with the Qur'an and the Hadith.

So we need not panic when we read or hear different opinions, there should be different opinions, and as a whole we have a treasure of knowledge over the ages of the science of Fiqh in Islam, which represented hard work, and deep thinking and Ijtihad of notable scholars, all within the boundaries of the Qur'an and the Hadith.

What is the Goal, the total objective of the Sharia? It can be put in two words.

("Mercy to the World") Allah, Praised and Exalted be He, addresses his Prophet in the Qur'an saying,

Wa ma arsalnaka illa rahmatal lil'alamin


"We have send you for none else but Mercy to the World."

Therefore this is the total umbrella objective of the Sharia. Under this, Sharia, catering to the needs of people and their welfare, has divided the needs of the nation into three categories.

First, the vitals, the very essential needs of the nation, second, ordinary necessities, and third complimentary goals, that makes life better and more enjoyable. All these are within the brackets of the Sharia.

So if we mention something like building bridges, or hospitals, or making traffic regulations, this is all within the Shariah. This is all to make the life of Muslims, happy, regulated and disciplined.

When we go to the Vitals of the Sharia, then we find their are five goals, that by reputation have been called the goals of the Sharia. They are:

Protection and preservation of


    1. The Mind
    2. Religion
    3. Ownership
    4. Offspring

A subdivision of ‘Life’ includes; the sanctity of human life, the prohibition of killing, when to kill and when not to kill. It also includes; health and prevention of disease, seeking treatment when we are sick, good nutrition and physical fitness, cleanliness, the environment, cultivation and planting to keep the environment fertile.

Mind is that without which we can not comprehend and therefore there is no obligation. A subdivision of ‘Mind’ includes protecting the mind from anxiety, and repression, insuring the freedom of thinking, insuring the freedom of the pursuit of knowledge and making it a religious dictate. It also includes protecting the mind from anything that numbs or kills it, such as drugs or alcohol.

Third, the Sharia protects the Freedom of Religion even if one is not Muslim. To enter Islam should be a voluntary action, not an imposed action. There is no compulsion in religion. You say the truth from your Lord, whoever wishes will take the faith, and whoever wishes to reject it will do so.


Wa qulil haqqu mir rabbikum, faman sha'a falyu'min, waman sha'a falyakfur,


We are not judging the people, because the ultimate Judge (Allah) is the one who judges them.

We don’t have the right in Islam to compel people to become Muslims. The subdivision of the category of Religion also includes the protection from attack by the enemies of the religion, or when the lands of Muslims are assaulted, and ensuring that everyone can freely worship, and this includes the building of Mosques, the observance of Ramadhan and so on.

Then the right of ownership: You have the right to own but the ultimate Owner is the Creator, Allah, Praised and Exalted be He, but we have the right to own, as trustees upon what we own. The subdivision of the category of Ownership includes how to make money in a clean way, and what are the prohibited ways of making money, which includes cheating, fraud, usury, and theft.

The sharia protects your possessions within the limits So if you are protecting your possessions against someone who attacks you and you die , you are a martyr. Capital in Islam has a function, whatever we have ultimately belongs to Allah, and we are His agents or trustees and we must manage and use our possessions according to His Will and His Plan.

The subdivision of ‘Offspring’ includes the concept of honor, marriage, whom to marry, whom not to marry, the right to have two parents and to know them, the clarity and purity of the genealogy, all this is the protection of Offspring.

Each of these, the main divisions, and their branches is guarded in two ways. First, by a code of moral behavior. But morality is not enough. So there is also a legal framework. We live by our morals, but we have the laws and both are human necessities.

Some religions live on morals only. The ethic of this morality is when someone smites you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek. It is noble in a moral sense. But can people live by this? If I smite you and you take me to the judge, then the judge will rule that I be punished. So there are both the moral and legal wings in Islam.

Hence Islam caters for moralities and for societies. Yet when my Christian friend asks me, "How do you feel about the separation of Church and State?"

I tell him, "Excellent, it is the best think America and Europe have done."

Then he asks, "Why are Muslims keen on the Shariah, and want to live under Islamic Law?"

I tell him, "The difference is that in Christianity there is no State, and in Islam there is no Church." If you apply Christianity as Jesus taught it, then you will give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. In Christianity there is nothing about catering for a state and a law. Jesus didn’t say that. When the church took over, the church was wrong and the people had to separate the church from the state.

But when Muslims are living in their land and they are a majority and they want to be ruled by Islamic Law, it is their democratic right. It would be a folly if people would protest that people want to be ruled by Islamic Law. It is their right.

In Islam, if you remove the parts about governing the Islamic State, then you will have remaining a mos-haf which is thirty or forty pages. This is because Islam is a comprehensive way of life.

So, please let us in America separate the church and the state and let it be sufficient that the Freedom of Religion is safeguarded.

But please don’t blame Muslims if they want to be ruled by Islam. It is the prerogative as a majority in their land, and it is part of their religion and nobody is in a position to tell them, "Do not be ruled by your religion."

All that I have told you today, my dear Muslim Brethren, would be false, dead and empty without the foundation. This is because the foundation is here in the heart. Whatever laws you apply to people that are alien to them, the result will never be a success. There is no alternative to faith in the heart and to the human conscience, which is God’s voice in our inner self. That is why you begin at the beginning, you begin by solid faith in Allah, Praised and Exalted be He.

If you do not begin at the beginning, then you might qualify for the verse in the Qur'an which says,

Qalatil a'rabu amanna. Qul la amtuminu walakin qulu aslamna wa lamma yadkhul ilemanu fi qulubikum


"The Bedouin said we have attained the faith, say no you have not attained the faith, just say we have submitted, but the faith has yet to enter your hearts."

Therefore heed God as if you see Him, for even if you don’t see Him, He sees you. Voluntarily surrender your life to God. When you do that, this would manifest and express itself in your dealings with your fellow Muslims and all the World.

When I see Imams, Teachers, Scholars, all Muslims, and all fighting one another, backbiting one another, and going to the Christian Court to settle their differences, then I say that this is a huge building, but without foundations and it would collapse.

I hope Muslims, with the help of Allah, Praised and Exalted be He, will begin at the beginning, which is inside your heart. Then what we do outside is a reflection of what is inside. We ask Allah to fill our hearts with Him, and His Love, and the love of our fellow Muslims, and fellow Human beings. And we ask Him to make his Qur'an the light of our eyes, and to improve us from inside out, because if we start at the end we’ll never reach the beginning.

Sometimes the question is asked, "Almost every Khutba says to spend and pay and pay. Until when shall I continue to pay?" The answer my Brethren is very simple, as long as God gives you, you have to give God. When He stops giving you, then you have the right to stop. But as long as He gives you, it is only logical to say "Thank you." by giving back. When you pay those people and their needs, and help them, you are giving God. You don’t know the people there. You have never seen them. But when you give you are actually giving to Allah, Praised and Exalted be He. Your giving is an investment for your own good. Allah doesn’t need your money, you need Allah and what He gives you.

May Allah, Praised and Exalted be He, guide us to His Way, and may He, Praised and Exalted be He, make us eligible for His pleasure, and may He, Praised and Exalted be He, make us worthy of carrying the message of His religion, and worthy of being the followers of His Prophet, Mohammed, Peace and Blessing be upon him.