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Reliance of the Traveller — A Sharia Law Manual

Islamic Law, or Sharia (also Shari’a or Shariah ) literally means “well-worn camel path to the watering place.” and has been termed the “Sacred Path” of Islam. It provides Muslims with religious and political guidelines for their journey on earth.  It is derived from commands in the Koran (19%) and the example of Muhammad (85%).

Shariah law tells followers how to perform their prayers, how to pay their alms, how to observe the fast. It also describes how Muslims should dress, what food Muslims can eat and even what greetings can be exchanged.

Sharia is expected to be abided by as a system of laws and rules for living. It also sets forth an ethical ideal of which one is supposed to conform to individually and within a community.

Sharia are classifications of acts: standards of conducts and moral evaluations of this actions (such obligatory, recommended or forbidden).

An underlying assumption of Sharia is that only God can distinguish between good and evil and man’s reasoning is subject to errors and thus should be eliminated whenever possible.


The most complete concise sourcebook for Sharia Law is ‘Umdat al-Salik, or Reliance of the Traveller, compiled by Ahmad ibn Niqib al-Misri (d. 1368).

This “classic manual of Islamic Sacred Law” was translated into English by Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 1991. The 1,200 page volume has been certified by Al-Azhar University (Egypt) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (USA).

Many of the provisions have been brought more up-to-date with commentary by ‘Umar Barakat (d. 1890). While the volume represents the Shafi’i School of jurisprudence, it is identical with 75 percent of the other three Sunni Schools of Islamic law.  References in the text are to this manual or the Quran.

The Reliance of the Traveller, or Umdat al-Salik, was composed in the 14th Century by Shihabuddin Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Misri (1302–1367). It is a classical manual of Shafi’i fiqh, meaning it is an authoritative summation of the Islamic jurisprudence– also known as Shari’a– associated with the Sunni Shafi’i school. al Misri based the Umdat al-Salik on the previous Shafi’i works of Nawawi and Abu Ishaq as-Shirazi.

Even given its age, it is by no means an irrelevant or outdated document, for Muslim followers of Shari’a, once a consensus of scholars rules on a matter, it is no longer subject for debate.

This text is the first Islamic legal work in a European language to receive certification from the most important seat of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, Cairo’s al-Azhar University. It has also been endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood who supply the leadership for al-qaeda and many of the other jihadist groups.

The Umdat al-Salik is broken into sections dealing with every area of life Shari’a is concerned with– from epistemological questions on “sacred knowledge” to practical legal rulings on marriage, divorce, trade, inheritance, fasting, zakat, etc.

To illustrate how the legal concepts of the Islamic “Lawgiver” differ significantly from those based on reason, here are some familiar commands from Mosaic Law that have underpinned Western society:


  • Love your Neighbor (or “the Golden Rule”):  “Those who follow [Muhammad] are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (Quran 48:29)   Islam always distinguishes between Muslims and non-Muslims.

  • Do not Murder:  Sharia exceptions: Murdering an apostate (deserter of Islam) (Para. o4.17) and a parent murdering his/her children or his/her children’s children (Para.  o1.2(4))   The latter exception applies to honor murders.

  • Do not commit Adultery:  Sharia exceptions: Sex with multiple wives (m6.10), sex with slaves and captives (Quran 33:50), and sex with temporary wives (Quran 4:24).

  • Do not steal:  Sharia exceptions: Forcible seizure, snatching and running, and theft by betraying a trust (embezzlement). (Para. o14.6)   Corruption is rampant in Islamic states due to these exceptions.

  • Do not bear false witness:  Sharia exceptions: It is OK to break the intent of the oath, as long as you don’t break the letter of the oath. (Para. o19.1) and “When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible.” Examples including protecting Islam or a Muslim. (Para. r8.2)

The most serious Sharia Law capital crime is “blasphemy “– insulting Islam or Muhammad.   A Muslim is considered an apostate – subject to being killed by anyone – for being sarcastic about the Quran, any part of Islam, any ruling of Sharia Law, or any of Allah’s messengers. (Para. o8.7)

Therefore what Allah has decreed through the scriptures and how Muhammad lived his life has ultimate say for Muslims. Female inequality, wife beating, the cause of Islam to become the supreme religion of the world, Jihad, zakat payments are all part of the decrees of Allah found in the Koran and so are also found in the Sharia Law Manual.

It is a set of legal codes based on scriptures from the Koran and interpretations of these scriptures by classical Islamic schools of thought. Governing public, private, social, religious and political life of Muslims, the laws are based on the principal that Koranic commands are divine and absolute and can not be questioned. To break one of the rules or even doubt their legitimacy is a sin.

Even given its age, the Umdat al-Salik is by no means an irrelevant or outdated document. Certificates of authenticity attest to the translation from the governments of Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia– and the text is the first Islamic legal work in a European language to receive certification from the most important seat of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, Cairo’s al-Azhar University.

In addition, the opening pages of the Umdat al-Salik contains a similar endorsement from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in the United States (also from KBS):

“There is no doubt that this translation is a valuable and important work, whether as a textbook for teaching Islamic jurisprudence to English speakers, or as a legal reference for use by scholars, educated laymen, and students in this language.”  Dr. Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani, International Institute of Islamic Thought”— (Herndon, VA; December 1990)

Sharia Law For The Non-Muslim is worth reading - it uses their texts but puts it into sections of relevance for non-muslims. Click here to view: Sharia_Law_for_Non_Muslim.pdf

There are complete PDF’s of Reliance on the Internet but they are in the process of being removed due to claims of copyright violations. Chapters of interest to check out are “M” “O” and “R”.

This article was originally published by Concit on February 5, 2015, and can be viewed on their website by clicking here.

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