Sharia is a now a familiar term to Muslims and non-Muslims. It can often be heard in news stories about politics, crime, feminism, terrorism and civilisation.
All aspects of a Muslim's life are governed by Sharia. Sharia law comes from a combination of sources including the Qur'an (the Muslim holy book), the Hadith (sayings and conduct of the prophet Muhammad) and fatwas - the rulings of Islamic scholars.
Many people, including Muslims, misunderstand Sharia. It's often associated with the amputation of limbs, death by stoning, lashes and other medieval punishments. Because of this, it is sometimes thought of as draconian. Some people in the West view Sharia as archaic and unfair social ideas that are imposed upon people who live in Sharia-controlled countires.
Many Muslims, however, hold a different view. In the Islamic tradition Sharia is seen as something that nurtures humanity. They see the Sharia not in the light of something primitive but as something divinely revealed. In a society where social problems are endemic, Sharia frees humanity to realise its individual potential.
Sharia in the UK
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his comments on implementing Sharia in the UK in a Radio 4 interview.
A discussion of Sharia
Dr Usama Hasan is the imam of the Tawhid Mosque and an advisor to the London Sharia Council. Faisal Aqtab is a barrister and head of the Hijaz College Islamic University. Dr Haleh Afshar is Professor in Politics at York University.
They discuss the Muslim vision of Islamic law, the source and interpretation of Sharia, punishments and the status of women.