Sharia
Posted: 08 February 2008 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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After the Archbishop of Canterbury called yesterday for Muslims in the UK to be allowed to have some disputes decided under Islamic law, the media in Britain seems divided: is “Sharia law” tautologous, and the correct expression just “Sharia”? 

The Times appears alone in sticking to plain “Sharia”, no law (I was freelancing there last night, and a memo was sent round to all subs/copy editors saying the Times rule was not to say “Sharia law”, just “Sharia” on its own), while almost everybody else seems to say “Sharia law”.

The online OED entry on “Sharia” indicates that everybody else is indeed out of step except The Thunderer. It defines “Sharia” as “The Islamic religious law, including the teachings of the Koran and the traditional sayings of Muhammad.” However, it doesn’t give a meaning in Arabic for the word except in a citation from The Guardian in 1979: “At the basis of a way of life which was remarkable for its homogeneity, is the Shariah, meaning simply the way or path.”

Comments, anybody?

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Posted: 08 February 2008 04:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Since we are co-opting an Arabic word into English I would say that a little redundancy is welcome.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree with Faldage.  It is a redundancy, but that is not alway bad.  Writing for an audience that I could assume to be familiar with Islamic practices, I’d leave “law” out; writing for the general public, I can see leaving it in.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Same here.  As for the Arabic word, it’s from a verb shara3 ‘to go, enter, begin,’ with all sorts of derivatives; this one, sharī3 (with long i), originally meant ‘waterhole’ but came to mean ‘revealed law’—the ‘street’ form is shāri3, with long a and short i.  (I’m using 3 for the Arabic letter ayn, representing an epiglottal consonant difficult for foreigners to pronounce.)

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Posted: 10 February 2008 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As Dr.T implies, if the word becomes more familiar it will probably need no further introduction. The problem, perhaps, is that there is no real analogue in English for this type of thing, at least that I can think of. The term Dao or Tao comes close, and it apparently also derives from a word meaning path or something like it. For the most part, however, English seems to prefer putting nounal or adjectival endings on religious institutions. For example, Catholicism, Buddhism, etc. Islam happens to be a prominent exception. Even the word Christianity is a noun based on an adjective (Christian) based on a noun (Christ).

In legal matters, virtually any variety of law is identified with “law.” Common law, civil law, Roman law, church law, statutory law, etc. One type of law, equity, is generally referred to as just that, with no “law” following. The phraseology is usually “in equity"* or “the court of equity” or “principles of equity.” However, this brand of law is distinguished by having arisen outside the traditional courts of law and, further, by not being viewed as “law” at all so much as a set of remedies to cover situations where the law was inadequate.

In other words, it is normal, usual, habitual, and seemingly almost required in English to identify the law as the law, whatever type of law it is.

*(Even the preposition “in” differentiates equity from law, as one typically says “at law” if there is no other modifier.)

[ Edited: 10 February 2008 09:33 PM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 11 February 2008 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Sharia commandments might be better. More Abrahamic injunctions further down the line?

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Posted: 11 February 2008 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Please stop making anti-Islamic digs.  Thanks.

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Posted: 11 February 2008 08:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Primarily, “the law of the land” is at issue in the context of the report: “After the Archbishop of Canterbury called yesterday for Muslims in the UK to be allowed to have some disputes decided under Islamic law...”, and it behooves no democracy, whether English-speaking or otherwise, to allow any religious sect a blanket exception from its laws, whether it involves the forced veiling of a woman’s face, polygamy, death for a woman who is deemed unchaste in some way before marriage, or any other religious practice contradictory to the laws governing all others in that country.  Michael Reid, in his recent book “Forgotten Continent”, on Latin America, cites several telling examples of emerging democracies which are much clearer about the need to protect all of their residents to the same degree than are some religious leaders in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S… If need be, I’d even agree with an editorial rule which required quotation marks, e.g. Sharia “law”, to emphasize the distinction!

p.s. I doubt if this could be the same Archbishop of Canterbury I met briefly in his Cathedral in 1956, notorious for his flowing white locks and deep passion for Communism, but there seems to be an eerie continuity or reincarnation in this current maverick Esprit! 

Furthermore, it is not anti-Islamic to note that the Koran specifically requires Muslim courts to accept the word of any believer over that of any non-believer, and this dictum (or “law") allowed for the total disenfranchisement of the formerly respected Coptic Christan minority in Egypt over 25 years ago. Egypt agreed to become a totally Muslim state instead of a non-secectarian political entity, and thus began the exodus of Egyptian Christians for the first time in hundreds of years, exactly comparable to the Nazi reclassification of German-born Jews as non-German and seizure of first their businesses and then seizure, torture and eradication of their very persons. One may say that the Koran does not preach genocide, but such precepts implicitly foster legal racial and religious discrimination—and we need to be aware of that, just as we must admit that extremist fundamentalist Christians believe themselves fully justified in murdering medical personnel who facilitate women’s exercise of their rights to choose birth control or legal abortion.

[ Edited: 11 February 2008 11:19 PM by ArtLvr ]
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Posted: 12 February 2008 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Furthermore, it is not anti-Islamic to note...

Yes, it is, but more importantly, it’s outside the bounds of discussion on this forum; it has many times been made explicitly clear that discussions of religion and politics are not allowed.  Please stop it.

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Posted: 12 February 2008 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Indeed. (And there was no Archbishop of Canterbury “passionate for communism” in the 50s. You’re obviously mixing him up with the notorious Red Dean.)

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