Sharia addresses both personal and communal aspects of life. For the most part, Sharia is concerned with personal religious observances such as prayer and fasting.
Sharia can be divided into two broad areas:
- Guidance in religious worship (ibadat), which is the central focus of Islam.
- Guidance in worldly matters (mu’amalat) such as visiting the sick, taking care of our parents, marriage, inheritance, investments and business affairs, etc.
It can be further divided into three more specific areas, some of which apply to Muslim Americans and some of which do not:
- Religious worship and ritual: Muslim Americans practice their acts of worship (prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.) or rituals in the same manner as people of other faiths.
- Private social interactions (marriage, business, etc.): All religions have rules for marriage and ethical economics. These are private and voluntary, so Muslim Americans follow Islamic standards for these within the limits of American secular law. For example, civil law prohibits having more than one wife, so Muslim Americans must abide by this law (since Sharia recommends monogamy, this isn’t a problem). There are other aspects of marriage laws such as the mahr (gift from the husband to the wife) or the religious marriage contract which Muslims do observe. Since the Constitution allows such practices for all religions, it is also acceptable to practice this aspect of Sharia in America.
- Public law issues (criminal law, war and peace, etc.): These have no application in the U.S. Islamic scholars formulated rules in this area for Muslim-majority societies in other historical situations. But Sharia requires Muslims to obey “the law of the land” of the country they live in. The “law of the land” in the U.S. is the Constitution. Sharia requires Muslim Americans to support and follow the Constitution in all matters related to public law. Most aspects of Sharia are not meant to be government-enforced, because Sharia is largely a matter of conscience.