Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Real question is what form of Sharia for Syria

Proposing a form of Sharia law for the new Syria was exactly the right thing for the opposition there to do.

A 13-year-old boy from Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria was shot dead in his father's car after a hit-and-run road accident in March. The incident would have led to a series of revenge killings between two major tribes in the region, except that this was forestalled by a newly-formed Sharia court there.

As that case demonstrates, the absence of functioning state institutions means that Sharia courts are increasingly necessary as a tool to solve disputes in rebel-held areas of Syria.

That is why this week's announcement by the Syrian opposition, that it will establish a moderate form of Sharia, is extremely important and timely. The increased incidence of rigid rulings in rebel-held areas is largely a result of the lack of such a model. Many moderate voices have been waiting for the conflict to end, leaving the more enthusiastic hard-line fighters to establish their own vision of Sharia.

On Tuesday, as The National reported yesterday, a legal code was made public by anti-regime Muslim scholars, judges and politicians, as part of an effort to prevent ad hoc implementation of Islamic law, to govern rebel-held areas and to prepare for post-Al-Assad governance. The legal code was presented at an Istanbul meeting on transitional justice.

At the Istanbul meeting Moaz Al Khatib, the head of the opposition's National Coalition, told of a Sharia court that had executed a woman after finding her guilty of adultery. Mr Al Khatib's point was that the ruling had violated true Islamic law since hudud, the Islamic penal code, cannot be applied during wars or in the absence of a state or ruler.

The lack of a proper codified law that takes into consideration the nature of Syria's diverse society risks entrenching rigid versions of Sharia law, often brought in by outsiders. Although the Deir Ezzor Sharia ruling mentioned above did prevent further killings, there was still a problem with how the verdict was issued - one "judge" said he and his colleagues had consulted "scholars from outside the country".

Arab countries, across the board, have long had Sharia laws in their legal code. The question is what interpretation of Sharia should be adopted. It must be conceded that, as Bashar Al Assad told Al Ikhbariya television on Wednesday, 18,000 mosques and dozens of Sharia teaching institutes have been built in Syria over the decades he, and his father before him, ruled Syria.

But his time is drawing to an end. This week's announcement is welcome because the Syrian opposition must show that it has an alternative not only to the Baathist regime but also to the politics - and rigid legalism - of the hardliners.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 Children walk past an Indian voter awareness mural in Mumbai ahead of the sixth phase of India’s national elections. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Inside India: Election, Promoting the Vote

A view of news and daily life on the Indian subcontinent for the week of April 10, 2014.

 INVERNESS, SCOTLAND - APRIL 16:  A general view of Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit on April 16, 2014 in Scotland. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on September 18, 2014.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Map of seperatist movements around the world

The conflict in Ukraine is a classic example of competing aspirations and identities – here’s a look at seperatist movements around the world.

 Hassan Abdullah, who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud, an Emirati fisherman, poses for a portrait at the Al Rughayalat Port. Abu Mahmoud was born and raised in Fujairah city and has been working as a fisherman since 1968. “I’m a shark man”, he says, “I was born in the sea.” Silvia Razgova / The National

In pictures: Fishing communities in the Northern Emirates

Fishermen in Fujairah and Umm Al Qaiwain worry that new regulations to protect fish stocks are harming their trade. We look at both communities through the lens of our photographers.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National