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Divine Law

The three friends gathered as agreed and Michael requested to open the discussion, saying:

Michael: I read an interesting book today. It was written by a specialist in Oriental Studies. He mentioned various issues about Islamic law and I would like to discuss them with both of you.

Rajiv: A very important topic.

Yousef: If possible, please mention these issues one by one, so that we can discuss them carefully.

Michael: Good. I'll begin then by mentioning what mostly snatched my attention, and I don’t mind if Rajiv asks any questions on this matter without adhering to what is mentioned in the book.

Yousef: Go ahead.

Michael: The book said that Islamic law was borrowed from Roman law and that they share similar details.

Yousef: Let me mention that such a claim is out-of-date and most Orientalists today do not support such a view. I, myself, met a great Russian Orientalist, who is a specialist in law and Islamic law as well. His name is Leonid Sukiyanen, and his actual words were: "There are no Western scholars nowadays who still adhere to the idea that Islamic law was borrowed from Roman law. This idea was common in the nineteenth century. The idea used to be believed by some Western scholars, but now the Western legal thought acknowledges, without any restrictions or conditions, that the Islamic legislation is an independent legal system that wasn't influenced by Roman law."

This is the first point. The second is that the source of Islamic legislation is quite different from that of other legislations, and I have stated repeatedly to you that Islam is an integrated system. When considering legislation, it is linked to the rights of God over His creation, thus He charges them with certain obligations that achieve the aim they were created for, and His right over them is for them not to deviate from being obedient to Him as they are servants in His kingdom. The source of legislation inherent in Islam is therefore the revelation represented in the Qur'an and the prophetic Sunnah, and we all know that the messenger of Islam was illiterate, and that it is natural that there isn't any chance for those who are in such circumstances to read – let alone borrow - from other sources, especially if they were foreign to him.

This is what the Orientalist David de Santillana said, "Vainly do we try to find one origin from which the east and west (i.e. Islamic and Roman) civilizations sprout, which is a matter that is agreed upon. Islamic law that has set up limits and established principles cannot be referred or attributed to our legislations and laws, because it is a religious law that is primarily in direct contrast to our ideas..."

Concerning what might arise of similarities with other legislative systems, it is the result of the similarity of human problems and the similarity in finding solutions for them. This may cause an agreement, if their basis is the assessment of interests and evils in similar environments, or these similarities may arise from natural human instinct, such as that referred to in the saying of the Prophet, mercy and blessing of the highest degree be upon him: "Evidence is an obligation on the claimant, and an oath is due on him who denies the validity of the claim."

Michael: But the possibility still remains that the Islamic law might have borrowed from the Jewish and Canon law, as they are two heavenly religions recognized by Islam.

Yousef: I'll answer you with the words of one of the most prominent Western specialist thinkers, Joseph Schacht, a German Orientalist, who said: "Islamic law is considered as an example which is different from all other religions, as it has laws which are specific to it In fact, the other two sanctified legislations, which are considered models of religious law and which are the closest to Islamic law both historically and geographically - the Jewish and Canon law - significantly differ from that of their Islamic counterpart. Islamic law is more diverse than them, because it was the result of consideration and scrutiny according to the religious viewpoint in subjects of the law, which were far from taking a single set form…"

In fact, Schacht professes the possibility which is opposite to that which you posed. He says: "...At the opposite end of the Mediterranean Sea, we find that the Islamic legislation has profoundly affected all branches of law...The Islamic law also influenced the laws of the people of other religions, the Jews and the Christians, who were encompassed by the tolerance of Islam and lived in the Islamic state...There is no doubt that the two large sections of the eastern Christian Church, the Jacobeans and the Nestorians, did not hesitate to borrow freely from the rules of the Islamic law, and this borrowing was in all those subjects that one could imagine would come under the consideration of a Muslim judge..."

Rajiv: So, why don't you tell us about the differences between Islamic legislation and other legislations?

Yousef: It would be difficult to mention these differences, especially since you didn’t specify a particular legislation for me to compare, however it is possible to mention the general characteristics of Islamic legislation, and then you can simply compare between these features and others yourself.

Rajiv: That's fine with me.

Yousef: The most important features of Islamic legislation comprise the following:


Being from divine source - as I've already mentioned to you. It draws its topics out of two key sources, namely the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him. With regards to the human role, it is obligated to follow this law and legislate from it, projecting it on all matters of life. Its provisions aim to connect people to their Creator, and this is due to the fact that it comes from God.


Combining stability and flexibility. Its stability lies in its roots, its generalities and decisive facts (about which there is no difference of opinion), which can neither be altered nor amended, a matter which protects the legislation from being vague and indecisive or from blindly following other laws. Its flexibility lies in its peripheral matters (as opposed to the basics), details and inferences (about which there is a difference of opinion), which cast on it the ability to generate legislations as events happen and make it responsive to the developments of each time.


Inclusiveness (in relation to time, place, human beings and provisions). In relation to time, the Islamic legislation is suitable to be implemented in all ages and times, in relation to place, it is suitable to be applied without being bound by any geographical limits, and in relation to humans, it speaks to all people. Pertaining to its provisions, i.e. the actual laws, they include all affairs of life and addresses the human being in all stages of his life, in all his affairs, and coexists with him in all of life’s stages: as an embryo, as a child, as a young man, as an old man and honoring him when he is dead. The Islamic law also governs all human relationships with God, with himself and with others.


Realism in Islamic legislation is reflected in the fact that it considered the real-life situations of the people when the laws were laid down and also when dealing with them. It also takes into account all human aspects: physical, spiritual, mental, individual and collective, and does not neglect the energy of individuals and groups in the course of its application.


Moderation and temperance is represented in the Islamic legislation by its rules being set between all extremes. It takes the center path between these extremes, which gives it strength and permanence. Islamic legislation, for instance, has provided controlled individual ownership of property that falls in the center between its total abolition as in communism and its liberation from all restrictions as in capitalism. Islamic legislation also urges us to have a type of courage which is between cowardice and recklessness. And orders us to spend without being stingy or being extravagant...And so on.


Combining the punishment of this world and that of the hereafter. Islamic legislation agrees with the other laws and legal systems about inflicting punishment against the violator of its provisions in this world, while the hands of the man-made law don’t stretch to punish that violator in the hereafter. But Islamic law threatens the violator with punishment in the hereafter, and so it combines both punishments.


Taking into account the interests of all, and also not clashing with science over scientific facts.

Michael: Yousef, you always try to improve the image of your religion with tact and skill.

Yousef: My friend, the issue isn't a question of religious fanaticism, or else what’s your opinion about what that great German poet Goethe said: "Legislation in the West is incomplete if compared with the Islamic teachings, and we, the people of Europe, with all our concepts, have not yet attained that which Muhammad had attained, and will not be able to surpass him," or did Goethe say that because he also was a Muslim?

Rajiv: The last point in the features of the Islamic legislation you've mentioned needs to be clarified!

Yousef: I shall give you an example of the agreement between Islamic law and science. It is known that Islamic law insists that animals that are slaughtered for food should be slaughtered in a certain way, and it also places limits on the kind of animals that are permitted to be lawfully consumed. Though there are other conditions needed when slaughtering, I shall only discuss the method of slaughtering here.

The Islamic method requires that live animals be slaughtered by severing their jugular vein, but not by cutting off the neck of the slaughtered animal completely, resulting in decapitation. This enables the muscles to continue moving after the slaughter has taken place and allows the animal freedom of movement, and the wisdom in this is that it aids in getting rid of as much blood as possible from the animal. In the non-Islamic methods of slaughtering, the animal is killed without invoking the name of God on it, and in ways that are not suitable, such as choking by gas, electrocution, or shooting. Such methods prevent the animal from moving its muscles which causes congestion of the body with the blood, and so the blood stays in the body of the animal, thus becoming a fertile land for different types of germs to reproduce. When this blood breaks down in the human body (after ingestion), it results in toxic compounds. In addition to this, these methods are painful and make the animal suffer.

However let me add here an interesting remark about the requirement for invoking the name of God when slaughtering. Though it might seem, from the initial or materialistic view which only cares about killing the animal to cook it for food, that there is no need to invoke the name of God, in Islam, everything is linked to Monotheism, and the legislation is related to the entire system of religion, according to the answers of the major questions about (God - the universe - humans - destiny). In this case man, being one of God's creatures, has no right to attack another of His creatures and take its life without the permission of the Creator of its soul, even when it is related to the establishment of man's life. Thus, invoking the name of God on the slaughtered animal is an indication of the declaration of the sovereignty of God Almighty, and that this act of a Muslim is not without the permission of his Creator, who has permitted him to do this, and that the Muslim is totally subordinate to Him.

Michael: I admit to you that getting acquainted with Islamic legislation and understanding its essence and secrets need deep study and consideration.