Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
In literal terms, Shari‘a translated from the Arabic means “the path to water.” In common usage, it is used to denote Islamic jurisprudence or law. However, as recent scholars like Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl have pointed out, there are some central conflations surrounding the definition of the term and its symbolic versus jurisprudential connotations. This entry examines the meaning of Shari'a, its historical development, and current issues in Islamic jurisprudence. In representative terms, Shari‘a is the symbol for the collective effort of Muslims to understand what God wants from human beings. It is this symbolic aspect of Shari‘a that is operative in the idea of the Muslim community, or ummah , and is envisioned as the glue that draws the faith community together despite its ethnic and national diversity. In jurisprudential terms, Shari‘a points to the use of a particular science of jurisprudence (fiqh) to arrive at the fiqh ...