Sharia is derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah (prophetic tradition) by qualified scholars who use an interpretative process that includes qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and ijma (scholarly consensus) and also relies on precedent. This process of interpreting Sharia is called fiqh in Arabic, which means “deep understanding.” Fiqh is determined by qualified religious scholars who use their knowledge, understanding, and individual judgement to interpret religious law, often arriving at different conclusions with their interpretations. Fiqh is an interpretation of Sharia and, like halakha or Jewish law, is an ongoing effort and process. Because much of Sharia is interpretative, it has a degree of flexibility that allows it to function in different societies and cultures. Thus, Islamic law or fiqh has historically functioned in diverse areas in the world, generally with a demonstrated record of tolerance and pluralism towards other cultures and religions.
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