Islamic jurisprudence based on the study of the Quran, the sunna and other sources. Several legal schools of Islamic jurisprudence have been developed over the centuries. The most commonly practiced and referenced today include four major Sunni schools – Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali – and the Shia Jafari school.


Sayings or deeds ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad. In the first centuries after Muhammad’s death, Islamic scholars established a ranking system for the reliability of each reported hadith. However, there continues to be disagreement over the validity of various hadith. For Sunnis, hadith contained in the volumes Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are the most widely referenced, although other compilations exist. Shia Muslims favor hadith with a chain of transmission through the family of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad.

Hudud (Hadud, Hudood) Punishments

A class of punishments prescribed by the Quran and the sunna for crimes considered to be against God. Although interpretations by Islamic jurists vary, such crimes commonly include theft, adultery, making unproven accusations of adultery, consuming intoxicants, armed robbery and apostasy. The prescribed punishments range from lashes to banishment to death. Strict evidence is required for conviction, such as four credible eyewitnesses to prove adultery. In addition, the crime must have been committed by a willful and sane adult.


The Muslim holy book and highest Islamic jurisprudential authority.


The moral and legal code of Islam. The word sharia derives from an Arabic word meaning “path” or “way.” In its strictest definition, sharia refers to divine principles and laws as set down explicitly in the Quran and the hadith and sunna. To some Muslims, sharia also may broadly include Islamic jurisprudence and interpretation (fiqh). Sharia offers moral and legal guidance for nearly all aspects of life, including contracts and transactions; politics and crime; civil and family relations; worship; and personal conduct such as diet, attire and hygiene.


One of the two main branches of Islam. The name is a shortened form of the historical term Shia-t-Ali, or “party of Ali,” and refers to one of the factions that emerged from a dispute over leadership succession soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. Over time, the political divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims broadened to include theological distinctions as well as differences in religious practice.


The practices of the Prophet Muhammad, including his habits, statements and characteristics. The sunna is considered the second-highest Islamic jurisprudential authority and serves as a guide for Muslims in their behavior and understanding of Islam. The sunna has been recorded and passed down over the centuries in the form of hadith.


One of the two main branches of Islam. Sunni Muslims make up a majority of the world’s Muslim population. The name comes from Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jammah, or “people of the Sunna and the community.” Sunni Islam is associated with norms of Muslim conduct based on the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, particularly as enshrined in the four major schools of jurisprudence – Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali.

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