April 2nd, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Law expert explains Sharia and Islam

CNN's Soledad O'Brien sits down with Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who describes the basics of Sharia law and the difference between Islam and Sharia law. O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt on “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET April 2 on CNN.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Islam • Sharia

soundoff (345 Responses)
  1. press

    this is why religion is stupid and the root of all conflicts in the world

    April 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  2. Artemus

    This Atheist that wrote this book, let him get his arm, leg or Penis cut off and the first words that come out of his mouth is this "OH GOD"

    April 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  3. Mauka

    It's not that it's "anything negative"; it's all positively true. Don't deny it. They want to rule the world along with the 12th.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  4. F

    It is amazing people with very little knowledge of Islam starts writing books come on media and start talking about Sharia. But, I guess if it makes money then why not. After 911 everything negative about Islam sells.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  5. Muneef

    [5:48] Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD's revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny – all of you – then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.

    April 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Ameena

      Excellent choice of verse! (Alhamdulillah-Praise God)

      April 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Muneef

      Thank you Ameena.

      Here is another one to add;

      [17:84] Say, "Everyone works in accordance with his belief, and your Lord knows best which ones are guided in the right path."

      April 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  6. Lilvs

    My dear Moslem friends, you can have all the Sharia law you want in a predominant Islamic country. Let us not be fooled into this as I know the intent is to rule over the infidels, all of us who are not of the Moslem faith. I am Jewish and lived in the Middle East many years and I can assure you that today if you are a non Moslem you will not be allowed to practice your faith freely. Many Christians and the few Jews remaining in that part of the world are persecuted, live in fear and sometimes killed. Copts, who are Christians and lived in Egypt for centuries are discriminated against at every level. Let us not be naive on this subject

    April 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  7. rawrer

    People think Islam haters are born from 9/11, this is wrong and I did my own research and studies on Islam and Sharia law and it is far from being peaceful, this man probably has never read that all Muslims must follow Sharia law. The Quran states that all muslims must, must!, follow Sharia law and they are allowed to deceive westerners if it benefits the future of all muslims. Learn the real deep facts people, when he says in the video that Sharia involves treating people justly, by Sharia law some justices are death, or being severely hurt, such has getting a hand chopped off for stealing, being killed for trying to leave Islam. They claim Islam is peaceful, the actual truth is that the peace they are talking about is when the world has been converted to Islam. (Sorry for any English errors, It is not my first language.)

    April 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Ally

      Over 6,000 verses in the Qur'an and all you can come up with is a verse that doesn't even exist! Congrats on your accomplishment! Please quote the Surah (Chapter) and Ayat (verse) where it says Muslims can deceive westerners if it benefits us. I seriously want to see this, especially since you stated you have done your OWN research–I'm pretty sure you'll know exactly where to get the info from... Fox5News

      Oh, and while your doing that, since the sharia laws are so cruel, please explain this verse from the Bible:

      “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Mt 5:29-30)–Wow! Kinda troubling, isn't it? But I'm pretty sure there is a good explanation for that verse, likewise there are for Quranic and Shariah laws.

      I'll be checking back in with you ;o)

      April 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  8. Abu Yusuf

    The purpose of Shariah is bring peace and tranquility in our lives. Nothing beats the laws of our Creator. Our Creator does not do injustice to people. He knows about the nature of ALL human beings. God does not do injustice by favoring the so called self-proclaimed "nice people" over the accused "bad people" when it comes to issues like lowering the lustful gaze at women. If you are going down the highway, the speed limit sign is for ALL, and not just for "good drivers". The other issue that munafiqeen and kuffar have is over the penal codes. Looking at the crimes being comitted today, I can only wish that all those strict penal codes be applied today on national television. If your own mother got r a p e d and murdered in front of your eyes, you would want a public execution of that person. Wouldn't you? So, all of these laws are there to protect human life, dignity, honor, wealth and safeguard the society from all the evils.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  9. Tom J

    As far as I am concerned the great Prophet Mohamed was a normal guy and people around him wanted people to believe in something spectacular and they lied a lot. There is really nothing supernatural or God like having anything to do with Islam whatsoever. The deity relationships are severely flawed and leave a trail of defect for someone who falls for the Koran. Once this trail of defect is emulated the kinds of horrible so called religious violence can happen where Muslims attack Muslims because of preferential differences in worship. When you look around the world and you see people going bananas because the GOD they believe in desperately needs help from being offended you have to realize that there is something seriously wrong with what they believe. Of course the Koran is bogus and the horrible violence is an outgrowth of just how defective it is.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  10. Alberto

    Thank you, Soledad O'Brien and Professor Noah Feldman. What if everyone knew this difference pre-9-11 catastrophe? Our education system has failed us, by not teaching us a little bit about every faith and non-faith in our world. Beyond that, some of our politicians have garnered political power by exploiting this ignorance against us, the very people who trust/elect them. What a shame.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  11. Wake Up Please

    We fear what we don't understand. I have done my best to understand Islam and muslims. For all I can see there is no concept of grace for followers of Islam. From where does salvation come if you are muslim? It comes from doing things "submitting". In many cases acts of terrorism are the manifestations of the teachings of Islam and its modern day clerics. If you do not do things on your own as a muslim, you are forced to adhere or suffer the consequences. So many things that muslims believe run counter to what the West holds dear. They teach their children that they will take over the world by force. Wake up people!

    April 11, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Ally

      @Wake Up Please:

      So you want to know from where Muslims get their salvation. Well, unlike Christians who worships a CREATION ("Jesus Christ"–which is not even his real name), Muslims actually worship the CREATOR. Their salvation comes directly from the One who deserves all Praise and Glory–GOD Himself. Even a child can tell you it doesn't make sense to go through their bro/sis if he/she did something wrong and needs forgiveness. They need to go to the highest person in the house–their parents. Likewise, Muslims don't need to go through a creation of God in order to be saved–they go directly to the source. And even if you still insist that Jesus died for your sin–think about this: Ultimately, it's God who gets the final say, right? So why does He need Jesus in the first place? Is God incapable of forgiving on His own? Does He seriously need a middle man to do His job? It just doesn't make sense, so wake up please :o)

      April 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Tiger53

      christians worship the holy trinity...the father...the son...and the holy spirit. They are all the same heavanly being. As a christian I pray not only to jesus but to GOD...the CREATOR. It sounds like you are a little missinformed as well. Also unlike muslims...we dont stone our women to death if they commit adultry. Just sayin.

      April 24, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  12. QuranCompared

    Please see: http://www.QuranCompared.com

    April 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  13. tiff

    While Muslims may say that Islam and Sharia gave them rights when the rest of the world was in debate.. You have obviously NEVER been a free person. Women are not permitted to do ANYTHING alone.. always must have a chaperone.. cannot go swimming with out wearing full clothing.. so not to entice the man.. how about the men learn self dicipline so the women can actually LIVE!
    You are not permitted to leave the country unless your husband allows? Even if your husband is abusive, you cannot divorce unless the husband grants it?

    I am sorry, but ANY religiuos law has no place in the USA.. the reason for the backlash was that some dumb judge almost let an abusive husband off the hook because the man claimed religious rights under Sharia Law!! Sorry, but your religion does not exempt you from following our laws! THAT is the issue.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • T

      Hello, I am tired of hearing this saying about Muslim women is oppressed..women in Islam is second class...Muslim women freedom is limited....Muslim woman cannot divorce their husband...Muslim women cannot do this...cannot do that... bla bla bla...I am a Muslim woman, and I don't in anyway feel oppressed before I get married, or after I got married. It is unheard of in my country for Muslim woman like me to change our last name to our husband's last name after we get married. When I married my western Muslim converted husband, I just find out some people here considered its "an offend" to refused to take his husband last name. What a joke! Sorry, I choose keep my last name...Why do I have to give up my last name after I marry someone? As far as Muslim women CANNOT divorce their husbands...You are SOOO wrong. Please google out divorce in Islam...divorce in Judaism and divorce in Christianity and compare them all together. As far as I am concern...If you are Catholic, You're doom in hell, and for most part... "holy crap"Some people will be in big trouble!–> "and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery"(Matthew 5:32) if you are Jew, its ok...and if you're Muslim thank God..Your God clearly said it will be fine!

      April 11, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • RiverMonk


      And I'm tired of people like you blowing smoke. Take your brand of islam and move to Saudi Arabia with it. Try practicing it there and see what happens. Start with driving a car or going shopping by yourself without your male guardian along. Oh, and forget about voting. Might even be tough to get a job outside the home. Try selling your brand to someone like Wafa Sultan or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two women better informed than you to speak about the treatment of women in islam.

      April 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Tia

      @ tiff,
      I think that you are a little misinformed about muslim women's lives. I'm going to comment on two of your points:
      One: Muslim women go swimming and they wear bikinies too. They just don't do it while there are men around. In many of the muslim countries there are swimming pools and even beaches for women only where women can go and have fun without having to worry about men looking at them. That's one.
      Two: You said "you cannot divorce unless the husband grants it" That is totally untrue! Muslim women can ask for divorce and they can get it very easily! A divorce case takes less time in a muslim court than it does in a western court. A woman doesn't even need to give a reason for asking for the divorce!! I lived in a very conservative muslim community, and we used to party all the time (no drinking of course!) dance, show off our latest fashisions (as in shorts, very tight short skirts and dresses) We just did that as girls only.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  14. Guzman

    I understand Sharia law, and Muslim faith pretty good. The two problems with Sharia law are that it is contrary to western democratic laws, which many have fought and died for, and that it is often applied to unwilling victims (how many stories have we all read where daughters are murdered because they chose a lifestyle different than the parents).

    The problem with the Muslim faith is not with the religion, but with the interpretation of the faith by the followers. If the faith were innocent enough, then why were so many Muslim leaders thrilled when 9/11 happened. I'm just not buying the normal Muslim response that when innocent people die because of religious actions.. that it can just be explained away by saying it was 'other' Muslims, or 'radical' Muslims, or not 'true' Muslims, etc. etc.

    I've heard the rationalization that Western religions have all done the same with the Crusades, and so on... which is true, but we are not living in that age anymore. It's not just their turn and it's OK.

    We are told to be tolerant of other beliefs, which I believe in, but I'm not OK with their tolerance for their religion's violent behavior. And I'm not OK with their application of their law on innocent children and others. Somehow, they think it's OK that followers of Western beliefs need live in fear in their countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc), but we are 'racist' because we don't see it their way.

    We fought for our lifestyle and we'd kinda like to keep it, thank you. The different factions of the Muslim faith have been fighting for centuries, with no end in site... if you can't get along with yourselves, then how can you expect us to welcome you here?

    When western beliefs are accepted there, and they treat everyone equally (women, children) and they stop enforcing their belief on the unwilling... then I guess at that time I'd have a more open ear.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • tiff

      You hit it right on the head! I agree that inthis day and age it is not ok to simply say it is "their turn" to act like maniacs.. Yes, other churches went through this. but it was many many generations ago. And no normal westerner would accept that behavior from a follower.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  15. The Saint

    I have just converted to Islam on Friday "alham dull ah" which means thank god, i really accepted Islam initially because the sharia law, it allows me to marry 4 women, legally!!! I Love it.. Islam also gives me the right to traet them equally, WOW.. sharia law also gives me the right to marry only one, which is the same as christianity, this is why I have taken up this new religion, much more freeeeedom.. not worried about getting caught by the law anymore...hahahahaaa..

    April 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  16. Mimers

    # Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death this explains the muslim belief and sharia law so well, why not show the pictures of it also.

    April 10, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • wjshelton

      Mimers, you are clueless ...

      April 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  17. Samuel Prime

    Even if the various forms of sharia law differ in detail, in regards to women they are in agreement that women are second class to men. For example, they all hold that a woman's testimony is half that of a man - which is plainly stated in their Quran; and in the Hadith it is stated that women are intellectually inferior. In addition the various sharia laws also agree on death penalties for apostasy, not to mention severe punishment, if not death, for adultery. There are many similar 'sensitive' issues like these that are conveniently swept under the rug, but they do not fool the seeker. A great deal of sharia law is based not only on the Quran but on the Hadith which has some pretty nasty stuff. That is why Americans are quite nervous about sharia law, and we should.

    April 10, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Stsa

      You are mistaken that sharia law makes women inferior to men. Sharia law actually made women equal to men as human beings. It gave women right to own property, inheritance and to get education. These rights were given to women by Islam at the time when in some cultures it was being debated whether women even have souls!
      Sharia law also gives extra protection to women in some cases: married women can keep their property to themselves. They do not have to share it in the household expenses. All the expenses have to be paid by the husband. Also women do not have financial responsibility over any one; whereas, men have to financially support wife, children, father and mother.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Samuel Prime

      Stsa, when the Quran says that a woman's witness is half that of a man (Sura 2.282), then she is inferior. When it and the Hadith teach that a man can divorce a woman with thrice uttering 'I divorce thee', then she is inferior. When the Hadith teaches that a woman have a mental deficiency (see passage below), then is teaching that women are inferior.

      "Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826)

      Abu al-Sahba' said to Ibn 'Abbas: Enlighten us with your information whether the three divorces (pronounced at one and the same time) were not treated as one during the lifetime of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr. He said: It was in fact so, but when during the caliphate of 'Umar (Allah be pleased with him) people began to pronounce divorce frequently, he allowed them to do so (to treat pronouncements of three divorces in a single breath as one). (Muslim Book 009, Number 3493.)

      April 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Marian Paroo

      I'm not even sure that women are allowed to testify at all in rabbinical courts!

      April 11, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • Roopey

      I Corinthians 11:3-15~ Man is the head of the woman; only man is in the image and glory of God. If you want to talk about all the bad scriptures in the Muslim religion then please compare it to the Holy Bible. Because both books have scriptures that are appaling in this day of age. Bigotry toward just the one you are not a part of and don't understand is only hypocritical.

      April 11, 2011 at 11:11 am |

      If im not mistaken, women have always been inferior to man.. even in the Christian religion. Did you forget that America did not allow any rights for women before the Civil War???

      April 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Ally

      Mr. Prime,

      The reason a women's testimony is half of a man's is because God knows how He created us. In general, men are physically and emotionally stronger than women. If a women witnesses a horrible crime, her emotional state of shock could effect her psychologically. Therefore, that weakened psychological state may cause her to say things she didn't see / forget to say something which could be crucial to the case or perhaps someone can even force her to give false testimony.

      Hope that clears things up. Peace.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Shaun

      @Ally – actually in general its been shown that women are more emotionally stable in general than men.

      But it all doesnt matter. Why? One of the reasons is because a lot of societies decree that men are weak if they show emotion and that women are supposedly over-emotional. A self fulfilling prophecy pushed down growing childrens throats, so they adhere to it. Humans are supposed to show emotions, and being made to repress or the opposite creates an unstable individual who has been thought to not respond correctly to their environment and its affects on their personality. An artificial system of response always causes instability in a system, be that system a person or an economy [in terms of artificial price inflation, etc]. But this isnt the whole story.

      However then we have people who are stable at that point in their lives for various reasons. We have people who are just emotional cause they are emotional as a trait. People who are stoic for the same reasons. Its just who they are.

      However, gender doesnt decree who is more emotionally weak. Women are in general more emotionally attuned, but many men are. Same for every other personality trait out there. There's so much variance that broad statements are simply inaccurate and worthless in value except when concerning specific individuals in detail, who you personally know. In which case they arent broad statements.

      In the end, a statement like yours [Ally] are worthless. Because the gender of the person doesnt matter, Its based on who they are, what sort of person they are and what they grew up to be, they can be so apathetic to the horrible event that they dont remember from lack of caring or they may be so scarred that they cant say or remember it right. Or they can have just seen it, been affected by it since it was horrible but still be an accurate witness. Hundreds of years of recorded court cases support this, borth innaccurate witnesses and accurate witnesses.

      April 11, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • 'Abdullah

      Oh, and as far as the women issue goes, if women are held to be inferior and their testimony "half that of a man" can someone please tell me why the Noble Prophet Muhammad worked for Khadijah who was an independent, wealthy business woman? Can someone please explain why some of the most popular Hadith are narrated by 'Aisha Prophet Muhammad's wife? Why? This is all back when women like Joan of Arc were being burned at the stake by the Christians women weren't allowed to have personal property when in Islam they always have had that right. Here in America not too long ago women couldn't vote. The wisdom to that? 85% of the women who voted for Clinton voted for him because they thought "He was cute."

      April 12, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  18. Marian Paroo

    I know that the Jewish equivalent of Sharia is called Halacha.

    What is the Christian equivalent called?

    Is it Canon Law?

    April 10, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • JRB

      There is no equivalent in Christianity. Unlike the Old Testament part of the Bible, you'll find that the New Testament (the part of the Bible that defines Christianity) is almost entirely focused on mans relatioship to God through Jesus Christ, and mans relationship to each other on a personal, human level. It does not offer civil laws. Instead, it offers views on spiritual and social law.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • yazen

      to marian and jrb. from a muslim view, that is a fundamental difference between Islam and the other 2 religions. Whereas, Judaism arguably focused so much on 'shariah' or law at the expense of spirituality, Christianity as evolved ignored the laws in the Old Testament and focused on spirituality. This ultimately played a major role in why so many Jews became 'secular' and not too God-conscious, while many Christians have deep spiritual love but are completely misguided because they do not have a legal structure to guide them. This is one of the reasons why all of the 'Christian West' went through so much turmoil over the centuries in trying to figure out how to govern a society and ultimately selected separation of church and state. Islam ultimately seeks to balance spirituality with rules and regulations, and this is the 'middle path.'

      April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Ed


      April 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  19. glenn

    i live in canada where there has been talk of bringing in sharia law to rule for some muslims living there (ontario and quebec),this was shot down by governance in those provences.when i travel i obey the rules of the land and so should people coming to north america.sharia law is anti-women and has no place in this society. bottom line...i have rules in my house if you don't like them you don't have to come over

    April 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Amanda

      What the Harvard law Professor said passed passed right above you Glenn. Sharia is a set of law Muslim are required to follow (and in that they differ). So when Muslims wanted Sharia Law, they're not being against the laws of the land. They're just trying to practice their faith which they're already following in some ways. And, you can't say that Sharia Law is not anti-women because like the prof said "Sharia law differs for different Muslims groups". Now, do not assume that I support any form of Sharia law just just because I am saying what I just did. It's just illogical to say that Sharia Law is anti-women when the prof. already said that Sharia law differs form Muslims of different communities.

      April 10, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • trey

      It should also be pointed out that many Muslims in Ontario objected to Sharia in family courts because those that were pushing it were Salifists (extremists). The role of Sharia in North America will always be limited to Muslims and varying from group to group and even family to family since the Muslim community in Canada and the US is so diverse. The right is just using this as a tool of fear to get their followers fired up and donating.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  20. Teddy

    I am not going to waste my time on these comments, but I will comment on the content of this man's words.

    From my point of view as an American Muslim Veteran, this man has hit the nail on the head when talking about Shariah. He actually understands it and is educated in it. round of applause for One person doing their homework.

    April 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Kevin

      I couldn't agree with you more. I've started to do a lot of my own research.. visited the Mosque in my community and read a lot of material elsewhere. Islam is portrayed so negatively and people don't realize that a lot of these Middle Eastern countries have strict rules, not the religion... it is very possible that Islam and democracy exist together peacefully. People need to relax... I'm also a veteran and grew up in a Muslim community. And for everyone who says the Qur'an says this and says that.. be careful what you read on the internet. There is a ton of false information out there. And the book is often misinterpreted because it has never been changed (the Arabic version at least).

      April 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Muneef

      Only just now I have listened to what the above Noah was saying;

      All was fine until the final words that said that some few said to be Muslims and on behalf of Islam they had that 911 towers act killing all those innocents...??

      Now that got me wondering that if those were really Muslims by practice and not by inheritance ? then who had given they the authority to represent such act in the name of all Muslims?? If that was true the consent on behalf of all Muslims an authority has to be given either from the Shiaa center "Iran" or the Sunni center "KSA" or by the Islamic league at least!!
      Otherwise it would not be considered as jehad but rather as terrorist act that gives justice to no one at both ends,but rather gave more reason for injustice to Islam...so you may say who did such an act was not a servant of Islam but was rather the worst enemy for Islam taking it as a cover for their criminal act towards humanity before any beliefs...!?!?

      April 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.