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Introductory Notes

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ISLAMIC LAW SYNOPTIC NOTES1 Introduction to Islamic Law Introduction Islamic Law is more prominently known as Sharia Law. It is a system of law that is considered to be based on the will of God, Allah. The literal interpretation of the word sharia is 'the. Way to a watering place.' It is considered to be the path that is to be followed. Islamic jurisprudence is the science of determining the exact terms of the Shariah and is known as fiqh. Literally the meaning of fiqh is understanding. When one talks about 'Usul Al fiqh' reference is being made to the sources of law and the law itself. Two broad categorisations of duties

1. Those duties that an individual owes to their Creator

2. Those duties that an individual owes to fellow persons

Pre Islamic Arabia principal features Tribal system - loyalty to the tribe was of paramount importance and survival outside the tribe was very difficult. Each tribe had its own system of laws based on custom. Tribe was main unit of society. Each tribe was led by a tribal chief. Mecca - was one of the major trading cities. Commercial dealings took place with different parts of the then world, namely Southern Arabia, Byzantine Syria and Sassania. Other cities of importance were Taif and Medina. 1 Please note that these notes are a mere summary of some of the important points to think about. They are not to be used in isolation, and are certainly not a substitute for the requirement of extensive reading from the variety of sources in this highly interesting area. Students must engage in reading from the core text and beyond.

Mecca was strategically poised in the centre of trade route. Medina - Arab tribes, principally Aws and Khazraj. There were also Jewish communities there. Medina was also located on an oft traversed trade route. Arab society - was generally nomadic. No settled form of government or administration of law. There were 2 classes of people:desert nomadstown dwellers

Judicial System - was no organised judicial system, largely attributed to the lack of an organised,systematic political authority. There were 'Hakaam' who were arbitrators chosen for personal qualities, reputation at arbitrators. Some argued because of their apparent supernatural powers. Marriage - unlimited polygamy allowed only for men in what was an essentially patriarchal society. Muta - temporary marriage was common. Marriage involved paying a dower to the guardian or father of the bride and was known as a sale. Many forms of dissolution of marriage existed. Daughters were buried alive. Inheritance and succession - females not allowed inheritance rights. Arab could dispose of property at will. He could cut off nearest relations. Religion - animism and Totemism prevalent. Judaism, Christianity, Sabianism were evident in parts of Arabia. Main religion was that of idolism. Two major political powers at the time Throw major political powers at the time were:

1. The Roman Empire

2. The Persian Empire (the Sassanid Empire) Arabia sat in between these two great powers of the time.

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