Most Muslims want Sharia law, split on interpretation: study

Published: April 30, 2013
A majority of Muslims are in favour of freedom of religion, even while backing Sharia. PHOTO: FILE

A majority of Muslims are in favour of freedom of religion, even while backing Sharia. PHOTO: FILE

WASHINGTON: A majority of Muslims around the world want Sharia law to be implemented in their countries but are split on how it should be applied, a Pew Research Center study has found.

A comprehensive study titled “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society” conducted between 2008 and 2012 focused on 38,000 people in 39 countries and territories drawn from a global Muslim community of 2.2 billion people.

A solid majority of Muslims, notably in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, were in favor of Sharia — traditional Islamic law — being adopted as the law of the land.

The percentage of those in favor of Sharia being implemented as their country’s law varied from eight percent in Azerbaijan to 99 percent in Afghanistan.

The study revealed many Muslims were in favour of applying Sharia in the private sphere to settle family or property disputes.

However, in most countries surveyed, there was less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith.

A majority of Muslims are also in favour of freedom of religion, even while backing Sharia. In Pakistan, for example, 84 percent of Muslims want Sharia enshrined as official law but 75 percent believe non-Muslims are free to practice their religion.

Around half of Muslims in the survey expressed concerns about religious extremism, particularly in Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia.

In most countries, a majority of Muslims said a wife must obey her husband, although a majority also said a woman should decide whether or not to wear a veil.

Most Muslims said they do not feel tension between their religion and modern life, prefer a democratic regime, enjoy music or Western movies, even if such pastimes are sometimes regarded as undermining morality.

An overwhelming majority viewed prostitution, homosexuality, suicide or alcohol consumption as immoral but there are sharp differences on issues such as polygamy.

Only four percent polled in Bosnia and Herzegovina considered polygamy morally acceptable, against 87 percent in Niger.

A strong majority surveyed said so-called honour killings could never be justified. The only exceptions came in Afghanistan and Iraq, where majorities condoned executions of women deemed to have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.

Violence carried out in the name of Islam was also widely rejected.
In the United States, 81 percent of Muslims said such violence can “never” be justified against a global median of 73 percent.

Substantial minorities in Bangladesh, Egypt, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories said violence was permissible.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Ali tanoli
    May 1, 2013 - 12:14AM

    why not muslims make standerd intrepretation which will be okay to every one …


  • lol
    May 1, 2013 - 12:23AM

    Most muslims? Can anyone even be a muslim by NOT wanting shariah? This is like saying MOST muslims believe in God.


  • jamshed kharian-pak
    May 1, 2013 - 12:30AM

    This is very good news what we Muslims wants that our everyday life is respecting percepts of Islam the 5 pilars of Islam Belief-Eman, Namaz (daily 5 prayers), Rooza (fasting in the month of ramadan), Hajj (pelrinage to makka madina), Zaqat (donations to all needy help poors) help and respect family respect elders respect neighbors respect laws respect others!


  • Hassan Viqat
    May 1, 2013 - 12:33AM

    Islamic countries desperately need new thinkers and political philosophers to develop a New Democratic system which is a combination of Sharia Law and western democratic system. A system which is more suitable for all Muslims countries. Only strict Sharia law is not going to work for most people. Both Sharia law and western democratic systems are too extremes for most human beings .


  • junaid
    May 1, 2013 - 1:01AM

    I think we have officially reached that point where we are starting to choose what we like to practice and disregard what we don’t like.


  • Hmmm
    May 1, 2013 - 1:20AM

    If 81% of American Muslims believe that violence can “never” be justified then one in five believe that it can. Be afraid…


  • amir jafri
    May 1, 2013 - 1:20AM

    All hungry want food; All thirsty want water…ALL (not most) Muslims want Sharia..Only liberaloon, secularoon do NOT want Sharia….they hate Islam and Muslims.Recommend

  • expaki
    May 1, 2013 - 1:31AM

    @lol: Bhai LOL Sahib, you are right, Shariah should be implemented FIRST in Saudi Arabia.
    I do not wish to be subject of any kind of theocracy, especially of Islam. I love humanity.


  • Mj
    May 1, 2013 - 1:56AM


    How often do you hear about Christians clamoring for theocracy? There was a time when much of the west was being ruled over by popes, but they have now come to realize that a dictator claiming to represent divine will is not the best method of governance. Hopefully, majority of muslims too will come to realize it soon.


  • Insaan
    May 1, 2013 - 2:13AM

    Author: In most countries, a majority of Muslims said a wife must obey her husband

    Looks like Pakistanis have not learned any lesson from, Mullahs using Islam to control Pakistanis. Servants are supposed to obey their Masters. Muslims still want their wives to obey them.


  • lol
    May 1, 2013 - 2:24AM

    @expaki, if you love humanity and hate islam move to some atheist country but don’t tell us muslims what to and what not to implement in our country.


  • May 1, 2013 - 4:06AM

    That’s rich that most want Sharia, but most also don’t want the hard parts: maiming people, executing women for possible “shame,” for people leaving the faith, etc. So who exactly is going to change Sharia law to suite their tastes? It just goes to show that they want to take over other countries – change it all to their laws, their culture . . . Judeo-Christian laws and principles are just fine, thanks. We are free to choose our religion, and western countries have been kind enough to let Sharia-minded persons become citizens. Appreciate it and adapt to your new country, or don’t move.


  • Xulfjan
    May 1, 2013 - 4:11AM

    I would be grateful if somebody could tell me which Shariah law we should be following??


  • Billoo Bhaya
    May 1, 2013 - 4:47AM

    Muslims are conflicted people. They don’t like what their countries offer, and they can’t import what western democracies have. Its an age old conflict that in the last 600 years did, and in future. will internally destroy Islamic nations. Their crime that they did educate the masses. Situation could have been saved if in the last 60 years we had leaders with vision to take us to higher plane, to higher economic achievement and to higher levels of literacy. Regrettably, even the Arab states whose resources gave them a chance to invest in education and technology failed to do so as half of their population – women remain excluded and shall remain condemned by their Muslim men.


  • Sihtric Anilla
    May 1, 2013 - 5:05AM



  • Mirza
    May 1, 2013 - 8:21AM

    Great so let us start with Talibanization of Pakistan. Taliban have no hope in Afghanistan and they are not going to go back either. We deserve what we created. Let us get a taste of Sharia also so there would be no excuse left after that.


  • Vivek
    May 1, 2013 - 8:31AM

    Pakistan should implement Shariah in all it’s glory, meaning an industrial strength version of it. Otherwise what is the meaning of the name Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The masses want that, and the elites should not delay that.


  • Saad
    May 1, 2013 - 8:48AM

    @ lol: Do most christians take communion? No. In Protestantism it is absent. So just similarly, most muslims subscribe to different interpretations. You cannot turn them into just one big block thinking the same way. Get over it.

    @Billoo: why would you say that oil-rich Arab countries havent invested in education? In the UAE and most other gulf countries now, you even find local campuses of top ranking global universities like NYU or the Sorbonne. And you can find local women doctors, engineers, geologists also now! Please improve your knowledge of the world currently before making stupid comments.


  • Secularoon
    May 1, 2013 - 11:36AM

    @amir jafri: I and people like me want a good, well worked out law which treats all citizens justly and equally in the present day Pakistan. I would have no problem with “Sharia” law or any other law which fulfils the criteria of a thought out fair law. The Sharia law people speak of are a collection of laws some disputed pre Islam laws included, untried and undeveloped in many areas. There are also different versions of it. First work it out properly, then let all numerous sects unreservedly accept it and only then put it to Parliament. In that case there will be no difference in “Secular”, i.e., neutral to religious sects and Sharia laws.


  • Vivek
    May 1, 2013 - 1:48PM

    @Hassan Viqat

    You want a combination of western democratic systems and the glorious sharia ? So you are saying that shariah is not capable of serving the needs of humanity ? That is blasphemy my friend.


  • Frantic
    May 1, 2013 - 3:19PM

    We want a secular state


  • R2D2
    May 1, 2013 - 4:21PM

    I love seeing the rabid secularists like Express Tribune use words like “scary” and “disheartening” after reading a bit of news like this. Your disappointment is my greatest joy!


  • R2D2
    May 1, 2013 - 4:26PM

    Wow…people still use that tired and lame cliche as if you’ve actually got something….which sharia?!…honestly…get an education before you try to be such a smart*


  • Secluroon justice seeker
    May 1, 2013 - 6:14PM

    @R2D2: There are indeed various interpretations, yours is of course the only right one, to be imposed on the rest of us. I am not even talking about cyber laws, copyright or genetic engineering.

    Countries using strict forms of Sharia Law include:

    Death for Blasphemy:

    Saudi Arabia

    Imprisonment for Blasphemy:

    United Arab Emirates

  • Nobody
    May 2, 2013 - 1:17AM

    That attitude is what I’m referring to. You don’t even know that person and you’re calling him/her an atheist and telling him/her to go elsewhere. There’s no concept of understanding ALL religions and wanting ALL religions to coexist. This superiority complex will ultimately lead to the downfall of many Muslim nations.
    And I’m not sure if my other comment will be posted (or even this one) so I’ll repeat myself. Yes, you can absolutely be a Muslim and not want sharia law. On paper it all sounds fine, in execution it’ll fail. The masses are not properly educated and culture still takes precedence over religion. I don’t need the law of the land telling me what to believe. Beg pardon but my faith is not so weak. Is yours?


  • Raj - USA
    May 2, 2013 - 6:05AM

    As I said in one of my comments earlier, Muslim countries do not trust muslims from other countries as many preach and believe in “religion over nationality”. Muslim countries view immigration of muslims from other countries as a threat their own. It has always been the West that provided them sanctuary and allowd their immigration, but many preach “Ummah” and want to convert the West to another muslim country. Saudi Arabia and rich oil kingdoms in the Gulf could easily take few hundred thousands of Myanmar Muslims. All these countries have 50% – 80% expatriate population and few more Myanmar muslims will be for their own good. Pakistan left its own muslims who sided with it in Bangladesh and Bangladesh is refusing to take these Myanmar muslims who consider Bangladesh as their 2nd home for the same reasons of distrust and fear.


  • Raja Islam
    May 7, 2013 - 11:57PM

    Not really. Not a fair comparison. I for one do not believe in implementation of so called Shariah laws.


  • Siddharth Pandey
    May 8, 2013 - 6:49PM

    Somebody please tell people at Pew, India has the worlds 2nd/3rd largest Muslim population, massive population of Shias and a vibrant undercurrent of Sufism. Not a single Indian Muslim is part of the survey. Cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow or Bhopal must be having more Muslims than some of the countries stated in the survey!!


  • yvonne bowe
    May 28, 2013 - 3:42AM

    If most muslims want Sharia law then most muslims should stay in Muslim countries is how most non muslims respond to muslim polls (mostly). Most muslims are poor and think Sharia law will deliver social equality (hehe) while on the other hand most rich and middle class muslims imagine that sharia will protect them from the poor (another hehe). How about most muslims should grow up, or at least the muslims that populate this poll should?


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