Religion Impacting Law: How has it changed the world?


Provided by Christian Research Institute

The Quran is an important Islamic holy text which contains prayers and moral guidance.

Nitya Kaza, Staff Writer

Today, Islam is the official religion of 26 countries worldwide. Many of these countries are populated with Muslims, and their laws often integrate Sharia Law. Sharia, which translates to “the clear, well-trodden path to water,” is the code that all Muslims follow. It guides them in both worldly and spiritual matters, helping them lead a moral life and grow closer to God.

It comes from two different sources, the Quran and Hadith, which are both Islamic texts. The Sharia is also largely consisted of interpretations. Different scholars and people interpret it in different ways, and sometimes the different beliefs can conflict with each other, giving rise to controversy.

In modern society, Sharia is controversial because it is compared with modern legal systems and does not reflect Western values.  This is especially the case when looked at from a view of women’s rights. Many countries, such as Iran and Afghanistan, have laws that are influenced by religious beliefs, such as the Sharia. In the cases of Afghanistan, Iran, and India, women are fighting for different rights, but many of the issues in Afghanistan and Iran are caused by the influence of religion. Religion, especially the interpretation and practice of it, should not affect the law. Laws should be focused on keeping peace and order in society rather than reflecting a person or group’s beliefs about religion.

In August 2021, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan and imposed their own harsh interpretation of Sharia Law. They pledged to preserve women’s rights, especially when related to education, but did not keep their promise. They began to take actions that were reminiscent of their rule in the late 1990s. They intimidated journalists, restricted press freedoms, and cut down on women’s rights significantly.

On September 12, 2021, the Taliban announced that women could attend university with gender-segregated classrooms while wearing hijabs, but instead, they shut down secondary schools for girls. The Taliban then suspended women’s education at Universities. Women’s access to public places such as parks was also cut down. Women were prohibited from entering all parks in Kabul, and they were banned from going to gyms. Women were no longer allowed to work in most sectors, too. Traveling was also made a struggle, where women were required to have male escorts to travel long distances.

The Taliban said this was justified, as it was ‘meant to protect women from harm.’ But then, they placed restrictions such as drivers not accepting women without hijabs. They also ordered women to cover themselves, including their faces, fully in public.

All of these restrictions and measures placed by the Taliban are their own interpretation of the Islamic texts. As a matter of fact, the Quran does state that women are morally and spiritually equal to men. It is not the actual Quran or Sharia which cuts down on women; rather, it is the interpretation of those texts. 

Wearing a hijab, which is an Islamic religious act, is an official law in Iran. The morality police, or Gasht-e-Ershad, is a unit of the police force in Iran that primarily enforces laws related to Islamic dressing. Once again, it can be seen that the Islam religion affects the government and law, causing a multitude of problems to arise in Iran. They also closely monitor actions such as drinking alcohol and mixed gatherings of males and females who are not related and are just generally involved in the personal lives of people. They believe that they have to uphold what is right and forbid what is wrong, which of course, leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

On September 16th, 2022, Mahsa Amini was taken into custody for wearing her hijab incorrectly. But while she was there, she slipped into a coma and was taken to a hospital, where she died. Her death led to large-scale protests all over Iran, where women cut their hair and burned their hijabs, directing their anger toward the morality police. In fact, the protests were so bad that the Iranian government considered disbanding the morality police.   

In Iran, women were fighting for the right not to wear hijabs, but contrastingly, in Karnataka, India, Muslim students are protesting for the right to wear hijabs. Starting on February 5th, 2022, the Karnataka government ordered uniforms to be worn in state-run educational establishments, which also meant banning hijabs in classrooms. The order was challenged, and the case was taken to the Karnataka high court.

They decided to uphold the hijab ban, saying that wearing a hijab was not an “essential religious practice.” They believed that banning hijabs did not infringe on freedom of speech and it was a reasonable regulation. Karnataka schools began to enforce hijab banning again. The petitioners filed for an appeal at the supreme court and given months of delay, the supreme court delivered a split decision. India’s constitution mandates that religion does not affect law, therefore allowing these types of decisions to be made with impartiality. 

In the country of Afghanistan, the Taliban are making and enforcing laws based on their religious beliefs, and it affects women and their educational rights and freedom. In Iran, the government created the morality police who are to enforce was is righteous based on religious beliefs, and it caused great unrest, mainly in regard to women being forced to wear hijabs. In India, a contrasting view is shown where students are advocating for the opposite than in Afghanistan and Iran and shed light on how different the situation is in a country where religion is separate from law.