Duhaime's Timetable of World Legal History: The Koran or Qur'an circa 652

The Koran or Qur'an circa 652

Governing the lives of between 15 to 20% of the world's population, the scope and importance of the Koran as a law book cannot be overstated. 

The Koran, also referred to as Qur'an, was published some 20 years after the death of Muhammad, by his third successor or caliph, Uthman, who reigned form 64 to 656. It is also, as believed by Muslims, (Koran, Chapter 85) believed to be held in some unknown location, a "glorious Qur'an ... in a guarded tablet".

By his Muhammad's era, the art of writing had become entrenched amongst the learned of the many Arab tribes, an event that considerably boosted the prospects of his new laws and religion.

The 114 chapters purport to represent a comprehensive rendition of revelations made to Muhammad by God and an angel (Gabriel), on the several occasions that, whilst on spiritual retreats, he believed he received divine revelations.

Because of his background as an arbitrator or judge, much of Muhammad's teachings incorporated much, but not all, of Arabic tribal law as it existed during his lifetime. In that sense, the Koran sets down in writing many tenets of Arabic customs and tribal laws.

Written in the form of a religious book akin to the form of the Christian Bible, the Koran nonetheless and relentlessly sets out a moral code - Islamic law - for adherents of the Islamic faith, of which it forms the pinnacle.

Because of this and also the strict, dramatic and unforgiving nature of the text, the law as it has formed in Islamic countries has followed the edicts of the Koran, often literally and often with cruel result. This is contrasted with the governments of Christian nations who have abandoned similar dramatic or violent parables of law as set out in the Bible, instead extracting and developing a relatively un-invasive rule of law.

The KoranIn any event, Muslim believe that this abandonment of moral law, even as Christians benefit from as within the Bible, is the cause for moral decline throughout the so-called Christian world.

Bu the Koran does have statements of traditional law and in that, did codify existing Arab customs or bring into force new law. The Koran prohibits the taking of interest on a loan (similar to the concept of usury and known to Muslims as riba) and outlawing games of chance (maysir)

Joseph Schacht wrote, in 1964:

"(W)e find in the Koran injunctions to arbitrate with justice, not to offer bribes, to give true evidence, and to give full weights and measures. Contracts are safeguarded by commands to put them in writing, to call witnesses, to give securities when there is no scribe available. "

Because it is a fundamental belief of Muslims that the Koran represents the literal word of God (Allah), no translation can be anything more than an interpretation. With that caveat, here is an extract of the Koran (Chapter 17):

"... be good to parents, whether one or both of them attains old age with thee ... neither chide them, but speak unto them words respectful. Give the kinsman his right, and the needy, and the traveler; and never squander ... squanderers are brothers of Satan. Slay not your children for fear of poverty; We will provide for you and them; surely the slaying of them is a grievous sin. Approach not fornication; surely it is an indecency, and evil as a way. Do not approach the property of the orphan save in the fairest manner, until he is of age. Fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with the straight balance; that is better and fairer ...."

On divorce (Chapter 65), a cooling-off period was prescribed:

"O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them when they have reached their period. Count the period, and fear God your Lord. Do not expel them from their houses, nor let them go forth, except when they commit a flagrant indecency. Then, when they have reached their term, retain them honourably, or part from them honourably.... "As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months; and those who have not menstruated as yet."

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Published: Thursday, November 06, 2008
Last updated: Monday, January 16, 2012
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