We've discussed now the history and theology of Islam. I'd like to talk a little bit about law and how Islam creates its own religious law, but how that interacts with law that is made by other entities. And so, let's start with the topic that has actually become, strangely in some ways, very controversial in the United States, and that's the issue of Shariah law. What is the Shariah? What does that mean? Well, what it does not mean? These days, anything about Islam, first you have to explain what it is not before you explain what it is. It does not mean a frozen set of theocratic rules established in the Quran or by Muhammed 1,400 years ago, where all Muslims are mandated to abide by. It's really fun to even think. It challenges my trust to common sense and human intelligence that people could believe, 1.7 billion people blindly following some frozen rules established 1,400 years ago. That's absolutely not the case. Shariah, it literally means the path, the path takes you to the water. So, in that sense, it's very similar to the Jewish concept of Halacha. It's the path that you choose to walk towards God. It's the path that informs your life and every aspect of your life. Islam, for many believing practicing Muslims, if not all Muslims, is not a religion. It's a way of life. It informs every aspect of your life. Islam has principles and suggestions how you get in and out of the bathroom, what you say after you basically discharge yourself, how you eat, how you conduct your marriage, how do you conduct your business, etc. There is really no sort of secular and religious spaces clearly distinguished from one another in Islamic understanding. So, Shariah means as a web of moral, ethical understanding of how to be an ethical moral people. How can you live your life in such a way that every action you take will bring you a step closer to God Almighty? So, in Islam there is a very unique and not Western experience between church and state. In so many ways, what happened in 325 to Christianity when Constantine converted to Christianity, Christianity became the state religion. In so many ways that happened to Islam 20 years ago. And in so many ways, it never happened to Islam. The officialdom, the state religion relationship always have been independent. The only theocracy we had in the history of Islam is Muhammad until 1979, the Iranian revolution. We have never had in the history of Islam, people or a group of people who hold the religious power and the political power at the same time. What was the power then during the Ottoman Empire? Explain that. It was a political figure. It was much more symbolic figure. He had no authority to dictate doctrines. He was in no way comparable to Pope in Vatican, that he couldn't dictate people what to believe. If you look at the both Sunni and Shia tradition, the eponyms and the founders of the schools of thought who informed the Shariah in the Sunni tradition and the Shia tradition, all the founding fathers were not government civil servants, they were not kings, they were not caliphs. They have never been employed by the government. Some of them have been imprisoned by the government because they were opposing the government. So, very early on, Muslims understood that power corrupts religion. So, they wanted to develop the theological aspect of Islam. There has never been in the history of Islam, the king or an emperor sitting in the councils telling people what will be canonized, what will be kept out of the canon, or what will be the creed of Islam. It was always in the hands of civilians. The religious scholars were always independent from the government. There was no sort of a theocracy, theocratical understanding of merging religion with the political authority whatsoever. Coming back to Shariah though, I challenge everybody, if you think Sharia is a blueprint, full set of rules and regulations, show me one Shariah book, one blueprint book. It doesn't exist. Shariah is the oceans of literature, oceans of negotiations and conversations, oceans of opinions and religious rulings of thousands of men and woman who took that six creed and five pillars. And how do you bring this to your life? How do you manifest itself in the human experience? And in this interpretation, there are so many disagreements. I'll just give you an example. In the fifth century of Islam, Muslim scholars, they came together. It's been 500 years, Muslims are now very strong and there has been so much. They said, we have to put this together, we have to assess and digest the last 500 years of Islam, and they wrote a book, what are the things all Muslims agreed, all consensus. They have absolutely consensus, a collective understanding of one thing. They wrote a book, all these things that they have agreed. That book is about 40 pages, and then they said, What are the issues and areas that Muslims disagreed. There is a difference of opinion. And they wrote volumes after volumes. That book is still. We are writing. It's thousands of pages. So, Shariah is an open ocean of negotiation as many modern challenges come into Muslim life. How do you live according to the will of God as you try to understand throughout the teachings of the Koran, and the example of the Prophet Muhammad? If I can put again few numbers, it's always helpful for 21st century positivist thinking, today, what we consider that this bulk of oceans of literature of Shariah, is about 70% of that is basically regulating your devotional life, your personal life between you and God. There is no ordained clergy in Islam. There is no church in Islam. You don't have to go to a mosque to pray. It's very individualistic. You can connect to God wherever you are. And so, 70% of the Shariah conversation and literature we have today is how to pray, how to fast, what kind of water to use for your ritual bath, and etc. And about maybe 20% of the Shariah is basically your family law as is today; your inheritance, your relationship with your spouses, how to conduct marriage, how to initiate divorce etc. It's the family law. And about maybe 7-8% of it relates to government. And if you ask me, the crucial question is: what part of Shariah is mutable? What part of Shariah is changeable? What part of Sharia is basically endorsed by God and cannot be touched? And what part of this, except certain ritualistic, like Muslims will pray five times a day, it will not be four, it will not be six; we'll all fast in the month of Ramadan; we will all pray on Friday, not Wednesday. I don't think these are immutable. I think these are established, canonized, the ritualistic practice of Islam that it will not change. But, other than that personal devotion, things related to family law, things related to governmental issues, political issues, government structure, as you will see in the last 1,400 years, as it has changed as there is a vast diverse opinion on all matters. It is changeable, it is mutable, it is possible to change those penalties. And today these people who cut off hands. I was going to ask you about that. Things like people say, well, these blasphemy laws in Pakistan where if you say anything critical of Islam at all, you can be thrown in jail. You can have very harsh punishments. Things like honor killings. People will say that this is part of the Shariah. It's part of Islamic practice that's mandated by the Koran. That's not true. It would be dishonest to say those practices have nothing to the Shariah. It will not be true. They have something to do with Syria, but it has nothing to do with the spirit of Shariah whatsoever. What you see in those deeply broken societies, economically, socially, culturally failed societies who just got out of the colonial powers, completely lost their accumulated knowledge and wisdom in Shariah and in the religious studies, going back and trying to make sense of the practices 300 years ago, 400 years ago, 500 and 600 years ago. So, if you look any Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the laws that govern those countries are mixed of Islamic law, British law, French law, local tribal law. It's not one thing, it's the combination. Like especially the blasphemy law in Pakistan was established during the British colonial time, and has a lot to do with the British way of dealing with the minorities. And if you look at it, it's not purely Islamic as well. There's a whole scale of confusion, and perversion, and distortion of misunderstanding of Shariah. Basically, the mechanisms than in good days when the Shariah was working, when it was responding to people's needs. Then there are some new challenges we were able to change those laws. Basically, you see in terms of blasphemy, or stoning to death, or chopping the hands, the things which worked as a deterrent 600 years ago. There are some crazy dictators using religion for all sorts of different reasons, taking that 600 years of practice which has never been practiced in between, and trying to bring it and imply it. It will be like a Jewish dictator or a tyrant bringing the temple laws into 21st century, and forcefully trying to impose them and implying them. So, are you saying then, that some of these practices, a Shariah reasoning process might have produced them? Right. And in some ways valid Shariah process, however, those who made those interpretations really, in your view, at least, made serious errors in their reasoning. Exactly. And therefore, they have no place in Shariah because Shariah, Maqasid Al-Shari'ah, the purposes of Shariah, has to do five or six things depending on, it has to protect intellect. It has to protect freedom of speech. It has to protect people ability to live a life. It has to protect people's ability to practice their religion. Anything you produce in Shariah, it has to be in line with those centrally established Quranic principles. It's the opposite, it is destroying the country, it's destroying people, it's destroying freedom of speech, people's ability to practice on religion. So, because all propaganda, all basically, distorted ideology cannot be artful at lie. They are based on half truth. They are based on partial truth. These issues and practice have partial connection to Shariah, but in their understanding and implementation today, they are in complete contradiction, if not violation of the spirit of Shariah.