What does sharia decree?
Sharia offers a code for living governing all elements of life, from prayers to fasting to donations to the poor. It decrees that men and women should dress modestly, which in some countries is interpreted as women taking the veil and the sexes being segregated.
"Sharia governs the lives of people in ways which are not governed by the law," says Lynn Welchman, director of the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law. "Over 50 countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and you can expect there will be some form of compliance with sharia - either in people's personal lives or enforced through the courts by the state. A lot of states in the Middle East are taking more elements of sharia into their state laws."
What are Hadd offences?
Within sharia law, there is a specific set of offences known as the Hadd offences. These are crimes punished by specific penalties, such as stoning, lashes or the severing of a hand. The penalties for Hadd offences are not universally adopted as law in Islamic countries.
Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, claim to live under pure sharia law and enforce the penalties for Hadd offences. In others, such as Pakistan, the penalties have not been enforced. The majority of Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, have not adopted Hadd offences as part of their state laws.
Hadd offences carry specific penalties, set by the Koran and by the prophet Mohammed. These include unlawful sexual intercourse (outside marriage); false accusation of unlawful intercourse; the drinking of alcohol; theft; and highway robbery. Sexual offences carry a penalty of stoning to death or flogging while theft is punished with cutting off a hand.