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Monday, March 14, 2005

Applications of Islamic Law or Shariah

Islamic law based on the Koran is applied in broadly different ways across the Islamic world. Sharia (also Shari'a, Shariah or Syariah) is traditional Islamic law. Like most religious cultures, Islam classically drew no distinction between religious and secular life. A sampling:

Religious States or Moslem Regions Within States

  • IRAN

    Legal Codes

    Stoning to death is prescribed for offenses (including adultery and prostitution). The penal code includes these specifications: "The stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could not be defined as stones."

    Regulations updated in 2003 specify that flogging is to be carried out with leather cords 1.5 cm. thick and 1 meter long.

    Enforcement/How it works

    Sentences of death by stoning may include a prison term first, or lashings, or both. A moratorium on stoning was issued in 2002, but sentences continued to be handed out.

    Recent Cases

    2001: Two women were known to have been stoned to death, including one after serving eight years in prison who was convicted of adultery and "corruption on earth." Two others were reportedly sentenced to death by stoning; it is not known if the sentences were carried out. At least 285 people were flogged, many in public.

    2002: At least three were reported sentenced to death by stoning. Amnesty International recorded 9 amputations as punishments, including one cross amputation (for example, a right hand and left foot).

    2003: At least four were reported sentenced to death by stoning, at least 197 were sentenced to be flogged and 11 were sentenced to amputations.

    2004: An Iranian newspaper reported the sentencing of a man to 80 lashes and 10 years imprisonment, to be followed by execution by stoning for running a brothel. Another man was flogged with 80 lashes and died 4 days later after conviction on charges including possession of a medicine containing alcohol, consuming alcohol in the early 1980's, possession of a satellite dish and aiding his sister's "corruption" in having boyfriends.


    Legal Codes

    The 1959 code allowed for limited Shariah law in northern Muslim areas but prohibited sentences of stoning and amputation. After civilian rule resumed in 1999, 12 states adopted new Shariah codes, resuming those punishments.

    How It Works

    The new codes added specific punishments: for theft, amputation of the hand; for drinking alcohol, flogging; for adultery, death by stoning.

    Recent Cases

    2001: Bariya Ibrahima Magazu, a street hawker believed to be 17 or younger, received 100 lashes in January at the Higher Shariah Court in Tsafe in front of dozens of her neighbors. She had been sentenced to 100 lashes for having sexual relations outside marriage and 80 lashes for falsely accusing three men of coercing her into having sex.

    Safiya Yakubu Hussaini Tunga-Tudu, a 35-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to death in Sokoto on charges of adultery. The case provoked international outrage; she was acquitted in 2002.

    2002: Dozens were sentenced to have their hands amputated for theft or armed robbery and to flogging for fornication, consumption of alcohol and other crimes.

    Amina Lawal, 35, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, after bearing a child outside marriage, which was sufficient evidence for her to be convicted under new Shariah penal laws in Katsina state. She appealed, and won in 2003.

    2003: Jibrin Babaji was sentenced to death by stoning by a Shariah court after being convicted of sodomy involving three minors.


    Legal Codes: Flogging is mandatory for sexual offenses and other crimes, and can be used as an alternative or addition to other punishments. Sentences can range from dozens to thousands of lashes.

    Amputation of the hand or foot is imposed for theft and burglary; highway robbery is punished by cross amputation.

    How It Works

    Amputations are imposed after what Amnesty International calls "grossly unfair trials." Floggings may be given by police immediately after catching offenders; they are often public.

    Recent Cases

    1981-1999: Amnesty International reports at least 90 cases of amputations. Mohammad 'Ali al-Sayyid, an Egyptian national working in Saudi Arabia, was serving a sentence of 4,000 lashes in addition to seven years' imprisonment, for burglary. Every two weeks he was taken, with his legs shackled, to the market-place where a policeman administered 50 lashes. Each flogging session was said to have left him with bruised or bleeding buttocks and unable to sleep or sit for three or four days.

    2000: There were 34 reported cases of amputations, including seven cross amputations (right hand and left foot). Two teachers, arrested following demonstrations, were reported to have been sentenced to 1,500 lashes each to be carried out in front of their families, students and other teachers.

    2001: Hundreds of teenagers were flogged where alleged offenses had taken place, some in a shopping mall. A military officer was given 20 lashes for using a mobile phone while on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight. Three men were sentenced to 1,500 lashes each, in addition to 15 years' imprisonment on drug charges. Four others tried with them were sentenced to death and executed.

    2002: Scores of teenage boys were reported flogged during the year. A woman was sentenced to 65 lashes and six months' imprisonment for committing adultery with her sister's husband, even though she reportedly claimed that he had raped her. The man was sentenced to 4,700 lashes and six years' imprisonment. At least seven people, all foreign nationals, had their right hands amputated.

  • Moderate States


    Legal Codes: This culturally diverse archipelago, 88 percent Muslim, guarantees freedom of religion and recognizes five religions. It also allows some localities to carry out Shariah.

    How It Works

    The first Shariah court was established in Aceh province, applicable only to Muslims. Women there were lectured on inappropriate dress and briefly detained. In other places, civil servants have been required to wear Islamic clothing on Fridays and attend noon prayers. Other areas forbade alcohol, but the ban applied only to Muslims and was not strictly enforced. Some political parties have advocated Shariah nationwide; they remain in the minority.


    Legal Codes

    A constitutional monarchy ruled by King Abdullah II bin Hussein, it incorporates Shariah law into many aspects of private life.

    How It Works

    Shariah applies to Muslim marriage and divorce; Christians have separate courts for these but are subject to Islamic law for inheritances. Non-Shariah judiciaries consider the testimony of of men and women equal, but Islamic courts mostly hold that the testimony of two women is equal to one man.

    According to the State Department, violence against women is common. "Honor crimes" - assaults against women intended to kill, made by relatives to avenge perceived immodest behavior or sexual misconduct - may be treated leniently under the criminal code.

  • Secular State


    Legal Codes: The constitution protects freedom of religion. The government oversees the country's 75,000 mosques and other religious facilities.

    How It Works: The military, judiciary and other branches of govern.ment discriminate against those they consider proponents of Islamic funda-men.talism and Shariah. Observant Muslims in the military are reported to be expelled as threats to secularism; civil servants suspected of Islamist activities are not promoted or are fired. Bans on Islamic head scarves at universities and among civil servants are enforced.

Sources: Amnesty International, U.S. State Department
Applications of Islamic Law [NY Times, March 12, 2005]

Fact Sheet: Women's Rights Under Sharia in Northern Nigeria [NOW.org, Aug. 22, 2002]
Sharia law [Guardian, Aug. 20, 2002]
Two lovers to die by stoning in Nigeria [iol.co.za, Aug. 29, 2002]

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