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What is Sharia law?

Libya declared a legal code based on Sharia law — GP explains.

Libya ntc jalil 2011 10 24Enlarge
Libyan National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil attends a ceremony announcing the liberation for the country in the eastern city of Benghazi on Oct. 23, 2011, three days after ousted despot Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed. (ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images)

With the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya and news of his death last week, the National Transitional Council leaders are looking to the future.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, leader of the NTC, made the announcement Sunday that Libya has been liberated and that Sharia law would be the "basic source" of the legal code in the country. 

“We are an Islamic country,” said Jalil, the NY Times reports. “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.”

So, what exactly is Sharia law?

More: NTC declares Libya liberated

Sharia, or Islamic law, is the “path that must be followed by a Muslim,” and advises all aspects of Muslim life including finances and family life.

Sharia, meaning “path" in Arabic, is a combination of the Koran, legal rulings from Islam’s first centuries and the Sunna, which is a collection of the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings and sayings, according to the Telegraph.

The religious code for living is applied in much the same way as the moral teachings in the Bible for Christians. Though it is adopted by individual Muslims as a “matter of personal conscience,” many Muslim countries also use the law as an influence on their legal code, according to The Guardian.

More: Video: Gaddafi sodomized

But not all Muslims interpret Sharia in the same way.

There are five distinct schools of Islamic thought, all of which depend on the amount of influence each group receives from other Islamic literature, the atmosphere of the community or region and the weight given to each source in interpreting Sharia, among other things. Though individuals often practice a combination of the different schools' beliefs, the impact the school has on a country's legal proceedings and culture can be great.

More: Libya's Jalil calls for Sharia law

According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):

The [Sunni] Hanbali school, known for following the most Orthodox form of Islam, is embraced in Saudi Arabia and by the Taliban. The Hanafi school, known for being the most liberal and the most focused on reason and analogy, is dominant among Sunnis in Central Asia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, China, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Caucasus.

Sharia law has gained the most attention in the U.S. and the West because of its association with a draconian penal code, which includes stoning as a possible punishment for adultery and amputation for theft.

But these examples of Hadd offenses are not enforced in the majority of Middle Eastern countries, The Guardian reported.

"This is a system of criminal law which has become a potent symbol of Islamisizing the law," said Lynn Welchman, director of the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, according to The Guardian.

"But there is the question of whether it's actually applied in the countries which have adopted it. There is supposed to be a very high burden of proof, but that clearly often doesn't happen in practice."

It is yet to be seen how Libya will put Sharia law into practice in the following years. 

What do you think?  Will Libya follow Saudi Arabia's example — a society that has called for harsh punishments in the recent past —or follow the more open legal example in a country like Jordan?
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/111024/what-sharia-law-libya