The role of Islam in government is a big question in today's presidential election in Egypt.The leading candidates are debating it, and so are people struggling for freedom across the Arab world. Can their largely democratic and human rights-oriented demands be met with Islamic sharia?
The word sharia has at least three meanings with a variety of interpretations. It can refer to the principles of religion – rather than a dictate; the laws expressed by God in the sacred texts of Islam; and the understandings that Muslim legal scholars arrive at through a particular methodology of reasoning (fatwas). Even within these definitions, there are competing interpretations.
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