Opinion and Commentary

What is Shariah Law and What Does it Mean to Australians?

Adelaide Muslim Lawyer Belal Moraby writes about Shariah Law, the misconceptions, and what it really means in Australia.


Adelaide Muslim Lawyer Belal Moraby writes about Shariah Law, the misconceptions, and what it really means in Australia.

The term Shariah means ‘path’ and for Muslims Shariah law is God’s law.

The idea is not unlike the concept of Christian principles which can often be seen as the founding principles for some schools, political parties and associations.  Many people are familiar with the expressions; “Thou shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not steal” and  “Honour thy father and thy mother”, which form part of Moses’ Ten Commandments and are recognised as a moral foundation in Judaism and Christianity.  

When people talk about ‘good Christian values’ they often mean the concepts of respect for all people, to be honest, to be humble, to be fair, to forgive, and to live a moral life.  Irrespective of one’s beliefs these concepts are beneficial and meaningful.

There is also a sense of comfort for people who believe in God, in having a moral framework instilled by canon law to guide people on how to be good citizens.

For Muslims, the concept of the dignity of a human being, love for God, the common good, forgiveness and morality are well entrenched in the Quran.

It is these principles, transformed into rules, which form part of Shariah law.

So why is it that the notion of Shariah law is often shrouded in a sense of fear of the unknown?  It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Common Law, or European Civil Law.  Why is this so?

Shariah law guides Muslims in most of their daily matters.  It deals with many topics which are equally addressed by secular law, such as crime, torts, family issues etc.  It also includes things such as personal hygiene, diet, and how to raise children.  It prescribes specific rules for prayers, giving to charity, respecting parents, among other matters.

In Muslim countries, where the majority of the population adopts Muslim values, it rules and regulates public and to a lesser extent private behavior.

However, here in Australia, Muslims live under a system with predominately secular laws.  Legislation enacted by Parliament and common law principles regulate what Australians can and cannot do and the repercussions associated with not abiding by the law.

Everyone who lives in this country must abide by the law regardless of their religious preference, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Athiest.

Fortunately, here in Australia we have the freedom to practice our beliefs and for the most part private behaviour is not regulated.  This allows Muslims, Christians, Jews and Athiests to choose how they wish to live their life, so long as they do not break any laws.

It is true that different countries and cultures have varying interpretations of the makings of Shariah law.  However, one must distinguish between customary law and Shariah law.  Customary law comprises local traditions and norms.  These are not strictly Islamic.

More often than not this becomes very confusing, which seems to strike a chord in the media.  The views of a few radical Muslims can sometimes be projected to portray what all Muslims are like.

All too often in newspapers, magazines and television programs, we see stories about women who are abused, extremists forcing their religion on to others, children having no rights, Islamic Jihad being declared on the West, forced marriages and the list goes on.

The fact is none of the above complies with Islam.

Sure, it may be what happens in some parts of the world, it may even be customary, but it is not Islam and it is not part of Shariah law.

Yes, Muslims are bound to adhere to the teachings found in the Quran just like Christians are encouraged to follow the principles contained in the Bible or a board of directors in a company are bound to a constitution.

Muslims living in countries which adopt the full extent of Shariah law are subject to its laws.  If one chooses to live in a country with Shariah law then one is compelled to adhere to those laws.

The same is true for people including Muslims living in Australia – they are compelled to adhere to our laws.

No righteous Muslim can or would expect to push their views on a non-Muslim.

Shariah law does not apply to non-Muslims and therefore Australians have nothing to worry about.

It’s really that simple.

Belal Moraby is a Muslim and lawyer at TGB. Belal is fully qualified to take instructions for Islamic Wills.

For further information, assistance with your legal matter or assistance with an Islamic Will, contact us.