The term “Sharia” (Arabic شريعة Šarīʿa; “way” or “path”) is the sacred law of Islam. Sharia law literally means religious code of life. It is used to refer both to the Islamic system of law and the totality of the Islamic way of life.
Sharia guides all aspects of Muslim life including politics, daily routines, foods, clothing, amusements, sports, family and religious obligations, and financial dealings. Traditional Muslims (all mullahs, Mawlanas, Muftis, and Islamic scholars) who understand the Quran and the Hadith believe that sharia (Islamic law) expresses the highest and best goals for all societies on Earth. It is the “law of Allah”.
Until recently, Sharia law had not been recognised as valid law in the UK. Whilst predominately it holds very little legitimacy within the UK, recent developments, particularly in relation to the Arbitration Act, has given some recognition to its principles. With the opportunity to use Sharia law within arbitration, many Muslims as well as non-Muslims are now turning to arbitration as a way of settling disputes.
Our Sharia department will handle contracts specially tailored for Islamic marriages, wills, insurance and mortgages and will also deal with mediation and arbitration in accordance with Islamic principles. Our aim is to find solutions that will satisfy both Sharia and English law. With the combined knowledge and experience of our Islamic Legal Services team, there’s the potential to set precedents and develop a better understanding of the relationship between UK and Sharia law, supporting all those who have often felt trapped between the two.
Our Sharia department deals with the following cases:
• Forced Marriages
• Domestic Violence
• Family Disputes
• Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007
• Commercial and Debt Disputes
• Inheritance Disputes
• Mosque Disputes
A recent Government study has projected a figure of 3,000 forced marriages a year, and we are told the reality is a lot worse. It is important to make a distinction between arranged marriage and forced or coerced marriage. It has been made clear that arranged marriages have some grounding in Islamic Law, but forced or coerced marriages have no foundations in Islamic Law and shall be nullified under the doctrine of Sharia. Our Islamic Legal Services team believe that this problem can be best addressed by the Muslim community itself. However the Forced Marriage Act 2007 has been a step in the right direction as protection orders can be issued.
In cases of domestic violence, it is vital to draw a distinction between Islamic laws and national cultures. There are many instances where the offender justifies domestic violence by stating that it is permitted under Islamic law. The intention of our Sharia law team is to clarify major misconceptions.
Whether or not you are legally married, the stipulations in the Nikah (Islamic marriage contract) such as the Mahr (sum of money or other property that the husband agrees to pay the wife) can be enforced through the English legal system, by way of contract law. In relation to marriage, problems usually arise where a person is Islamically married but not legally married. Our dedicated Sharia law department can help in dissolving a Nikah according to Islamic principles and we will also recommend our clients to Islamic marriage guidance counsellors and pre-marriage classes.
As property ownership has increased, so too has the problem of inheritance. If there is a will, this takes precedence in both English and Islamic law, but challenges can still be made to a will. All too often there is no will and here the matter can become complicated. We provide suggestions on the shares of the various parties concerned according to Islamic law.
Sharia law can be used as a means of arbitration to resolve commercial disputes. An arbitration agreement may be drawn up based on Islamic principles, the aim being is to prevent going to court. Both parties must agree in advance for the arbitration agreement to be binding. An arbitrator is someone who is not connected to either party and must act as an impartial judge with expertise in the relevant field. Disputes may involve disagreements over the quality of goods supplied, interpretation of a trade clause or point of law, or a mixture of these issues.
The Arbitration Act lays out the powers of the arbitrators that include limiting the costs to be recoverable by either party and making orders which are equivalent to High Court injunctions if the parties were in agreement. Arbitrators are also authorised to participate in an inquisitorial role, investigating the facts of the case, as many of them would have expertise in the relevant fields.
Arbitration proceedings are informal and can be held in private, with the time and place determined by the parties. The arbitrator’s judgment, known as the Award, can be delivered instantaneously, and is binding on the parties as a High Court judgement would be. The award is generally considered as final, but appeal may be made to the High Court, with the approval of all the parties, or with the permission of the Court by way of judicial review. The High Court may ratify, vary or reverse the award, or send it back to the arbitrator for reconsideration.