Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Banning the <i>Sharīʿa</i> in Tennessee, Codifying it in Saudi Arabia

Two recent articles about the sharīʿa are of particular interest.

A new bill would make practicing the sharīʿa a felony in Tennessee, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The bill is interesting in that it explicitly targets the sharīʿa and attempts to precisely define it. According to a Washington Post blog, the bill was introduced last week by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma).

In my next post, I will take a more in depth look at this bill and the issues surrounding it. For now, here are some noteworthy excerpts, courtesy of Elizabeth Tenety of the Washington Post blog:

sharīʿa, as defined and understood by traditional and authoritative sharīʿa scholars and leaders, is a legal-political-military doctrinal system combined with certain religious beliefs; further, sharīʿa is based historically and traditionally on a full corpus of law and jurisprudence termed fiqh and usul al-fiqh, respectively, dealing with all aspects of a sharīʿa-adherent's personal and social life and political society.

sharīʿa as a political doctrine requires all its adherents to actively support the establishment of a political society based upon sharīʿa as foundational or supreme law and the replacement of any political entity not governed by sharīʿa with a sharīʿa political order.

sharīʿa requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America's constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state with a political system based upon sharīʿa.


In Saudi Arabia, legal experts are working on a project to codify the sharīʿa. On Thursday, an article was published by the Media Line / Jerusalem Post, elaborating on the project. Overall, codification aims to render rulings in criminal, civil and domestic matters more consistent.

"Codifying Islamic law has nothing to do with Muslim identity, but doing this [codification] will be more adherent and meritorious to the Islamic law," explained Professor al-Shāmī, a supporter of the initiative, and Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence and Islamic Studies at The Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi.

Most interestingly, al-Shāmī compared the Saudi project to the Mecelle, i.e. the Ottoman civil code of the late 19th century which represented an effort to codify the sharīʿa.

"Islamic law can be codified, and has already been codified during the Ottoman dynasty. Many Muslim countries did the same as seen in Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Although a codified sharīʿa is nearly ready for implementation, the kingdom is still struggling to find qualified judges and deal with resistance from current judges who believe only they can interpret Islamic law," he said.

More on this as well in my next post.

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