Was English Common Law, French, US and International Law Derived from Sharia Law?
Posted on March 29th, 2012

Hameed Abdul Karim

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  When you think of the word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”lawƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ the images that come to your mind are of a stern looking judge seated on an elevated position in the centre of a court house flanked by a grim looking, if not frightened, members of a jury, lawyers dressed in their flowing robes quarrelling among each other to impress their respective clients, wicked criminals and many more such images. But think the word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ShariaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and what are the pictures that pop up in your mind? Chopping of hands and stoning to death for adultery.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ DonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t blame yourself. This is the manner in which our minds have been conditioned over a long period of time like the way coca-cola has been drummed into our heads via aggressive and seductive advertising.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”LawƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is civilised ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ShariaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is barbaric. This line of misinformation is more accentuated nowadays especially with the advent of the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ArabƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ SpringƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ with Muslim groups wanting to bring in Sharia in Muslim majority countries.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But hang on a minute. Where did ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Western LawƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ get its ideas from? HereƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a hint. The word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”canonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ as in law is derived from the Arabic word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”qanoonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, which means law. And the flowing robes lawyers wear? That too is from early Muslims who mastered the science of law. WhatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s more, it has been suggested the word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”baccalaureateƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is derived from the Arabic phraseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ bi-haqq al-riwayatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ which,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ when loosely translated, means ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”a license to teachƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. These certificates were handed over to scholars as early as 1147 at theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ MadraasaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ (another frightening word in todayƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s public discourse)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ after they completed their studies. But all this is sketchy, so letƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s get to the bigger picture.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In his seminal research John Makdisi, professor of law at Harvard, concludes in his article in the North Carolina Law Review in June 1999 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”the Islamic legal system (Sharia) was far superior to the primitive legal system of England before the birth of the common law. It was natural for the more primitive system to look to the more sophisticated one as it developed three institutions that played a major role in creating the common law. The action of debt, the assize of novel disseisin and trial by jury introduced mechanisms for a more rational, sophisticated legal process thatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ existed only in Islamic law (Sharia) at that time.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Furthermore, the study of the characteristics of the function and structure of Islamic law (Sharia) demonstrates its remarkable kinship with the Common Law in contrast to the civil law. Finally, one cannot forget the opportunity for the transplant of these (legal) mechanisms from Islam through Sicily to Norman England in the twelfth centuryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. ThereƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s quite a lot of food for thought in those words. No wonder then Prince Charles in his speech on ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Islam and the WestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ at the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford on 27 October, 1993 said that the West owes a great debt of gratitude to Islamic learning which included law among other human endeavours like ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word) history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology and music. Averroes (actual name Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd), and Avenzoar (actual name Abd al Malik al Ala Zuhr), like their counterparts Avicenna (actual name Abd-Allah ibn Sina) and Rhazes (actual name Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi) in the East contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefitted for centuries afterwardsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ So the next time you see an American holding a placard saying ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”No to Sharia in AmericaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ ask him or the Sarah Palins to remove sections of the common law like trial by jury because itƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s derived from the Sharia. For those interested, Sharia means ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”the water shedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ (nope, not ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”watering holeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. Sorry).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This brings us to France. Recently President Nicolas Sarkozy requested French scholars to find out whether Islam had contributed in any way to the development of his country. This was in no way intended to be a bridge building exercise between Muslims and Christians but to challenge those who claim that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”towel headsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ had indeed made vast contributions to Europe and had virtually lit the lights to dispel the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Dark AgesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ there. The Renaissance was a result of Muslim contributions and the university in Montpellier was on the lines of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Moreover, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”NapoleonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s French Civil Code seems to be strongly inspired by the ShariaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ according to French scholar Christian Cherfils in his book ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Bonaparte et LƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢IslamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. Judge Weeramantry, a top class authority on the history of law, in his book ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Islamic Influences on International Philosophy and LawƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ says ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”there is scope for much research on the influences of Islamic law on European law in general. Research along these lines has commenced and a substantial work in four volumes compares and contrasts the Islamic and French Civil Codes highlighting some striking similaritiesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. In another section of the book on Islamic international law he says ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦many of the most modern concepts of contemporary public international law, such as the principles of humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war, had been anticipated by Islamic law. Its treatises on this specific subject had anticipated byƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ several centuriesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the first emergence of organised writing in the West on the subject of Public International Law. In fact the eighth-century treatise of Shaybani had been the subject of a four volume commentary by Shamsal-Aimma SarakshiƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ long before the topic became the subject of Western juristic writingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ So now we know why Sarkozy didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t show any further interest in his call to his compatriots to delve into their history vis-a-vis- Islam. The information that he would have got wouldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t have helped him in his pet hobby of Islam-bashing!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ IslamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s contribution to the West is under reported and the reasons for that are obvious. The WestƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s media wouldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t want their gullible readers to know actual facts of history or else their campaign do demonise Islam and replace the faith with Western ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”CivilisationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ would come a cropper. For goodness sake, tell me what kind of civilisation is this that the president of the most powerful country orders the killings of his own countrymen without due process of law and that too after winning the Noble peace prize? No wonder Mohandas Gandhi said ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”it would be a good ideaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ when asked what he thought of Western civilisation.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Coming back to stoning to death for adultery, hereƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a shocker. You wonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t find that in the QurƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢an. You will find it in the fiqh (jurisprudence) as well as Judaic law. But nobody tells us about the strict conditions of testimony and constraints that Muslim jurists demanded to prove a case of adultery. In fact adultery is so difficult to prove that punishment becomes impossible to apply. Four honorable men are required to witness the actual act taking place. For this they will have to have a close and hard look and if they were to do that well then their position of being ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”honourableƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ will mean nothing more than being a member of parliament. In other words they will cease to be honourable men. And for those feminists who wonder why a womanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s testimony is not acceptable in such cases the answer would be women folk in an Islamic environment are prevented from being put into embarrassing situations.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Basically the Sharia is pro-victim similar to the Labour Tribunal where an employee is treated in a sympathetic manner and very much unlike the legal institutions where a panel of lawyers hearing complaints against a colleague tend to side with the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”criminal lawyerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ instead of giving an ear to the grievances of his victim.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This brings us to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”chopping off the hands of thievesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. This law is meant to protect society from habitual thieves. But in fact Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab had suspended this aspect of Sharia law when there was a famine in the land. Come to think of it, If we were to give Sharia a shot and consequently the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”chopping of hands for theftƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ was universally applied, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”bankstersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ in the West who stole whopping amounts of money from the public including those behind the Sakvithi and the Pyramid scams and more than half of the politicians around the world would be without at least one hand. Now isnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t that a pleasant thought for their victims, which means all of us?

2 Responses to “Was English Common Law, French, US and International Law Derived from Sharia Law?”

  1. Dham Says:

    “This brings us to ‘chopping off the hands of thieves’. This law is meant to protect society from habitual thieves. ”

    Just because so many mosques there in SirLanka and so many goinibilla now suddenly has appeared from no where ( copying fasinably form Saudi) don’t think Sir Lanak is another Saudi to impose inhuman, barbaric, uncivilized laws.

    This a Sinhala Buddhist country.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    “Come to think of it, If we were to give Sharia a shot and consequently the ‘chopping of hands for theft’ was universally applied, ‘banksters’ in the West who stole whopping amounts of money from the public including those behind the Sakvithi and the Pyramid scams and more than half of the politicians around the world would be without at least one hand. Now isn’t that a pleasant thought for their victims, which means all of us?”

    Pleasant? NO! Can’t you see its unpleasant?


    English Common Law, Roman Dutch Law, French, US and International Law Derived from Jewish Law.

    Not from some BARBARIC Sharia Low.

    We should never fall to the level of Sharia Low. It is good for uncivilised barbarians. Certainly not for humans.

    I hope Lankaweb will not publish this type of disgusting rubbish from Taliban fundamentalists.

    SL is a Sinhala Buddhist country which should be governed primarily by Sinhala Buddhist Dasaraja Dharma along with laws of Jewish derivation that are accepted around the world.

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