Human societies develop and work out different concepts and paradigms to regulate people’s behavior in different situations. Shari’a can be regarded one of such systems. It is often referred to as a set of rules defining behavior of all Muslims in different situations (Vikor 2).
However, it is also necessary to note that this system is very specific as it has no methodology, or unified code, or even unified source (be it some sort of authority (like Pope in Catholicism or a ruling body in a state) or a single written source). Nonetheless, this system has also been changed throughout centuries.
In the first place, it is necessary to note that Shari’a has been a set of accepted norms and principles for centuries. These principles have been quite universal and have been accepted by the community. This is important to remember as the central characteristic feature has determined the role of Shari’a.
Previously, Shari’a was an acknowledged source of principles and rules to follow. Scholars used to develop simplified sets of codes which were based on Shari’a (Vikor 4). Nonetheless, at present scholars are not seen as authorities to be followed. Many Islamists claim that scholars’ authority was undermined as the very nature of Islam was distorted and corrupted.
In the contemporary world, Shari’a is not regarded as a particular set of codes to follow as the contemporary world requires something more solid, i.e. a particular code of written rules and regulations which could fit a variety of situations within different terrains (political, legal, social, criminal, etc.). Shari’a as it is now cannot become such a system. Many claim that it is important to develop such a system which should be based on Shari’a. However, it is still unclear how exactly this new system should be developed.
Even though there is no single idea on the role Shari’a should play in the future of Islam, it is clear that this set of codes has been modernized. Seemingly, Shari’a remained unchanged as the major texts it is based on did not undergo any changes. However, there is one major change.
Now many people tend to see Shari’a as a set of cultural codes. People follow major principles of Shari’a in their everyday life, in their relationships with others.
Shari’a has become a certain kind of code of conduct, especially for those who live outside Islamic states. Shari’a helps these groups manifest their being different and, thus, remain unified (Vikor 11). Admittedly, Shari’a is applicable in this case as a variety of sources depict a variety of situations concerning interpersonal relationships which hardly changed throughout centuries. The set of codes promulgate quite universal principles which are timeless, though there are some archaic concepts.
Thus, it is possible to claim that the major change Shari’a has undergone is its role in the human society. On one hand, it has never been a specific code of rules used by states. However, now it is acknowledged that Shari’a (at least, as it is now) cannot be such a system for a state or several states. Now Islamists understand there is certain need in a written code that can be based on Shari’a. Thus, Shari’a is now regarded as a set of codes which can become basis for a particular legal system. It is also still a set of codes for a variety of groups that follow major principles of Shari’a in their everyday lives.
Vikor, Knut S. “The Shari’a and the Nation State: Who Can Codify the Divine Law?” The Fourth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: The Middle East in Globalizing World Oslo, 13-16 August 1998Conference Title that Includes Conference Date and Location. Bergen/London, 2000. Print.