GRE Reading Comprehension
Islamic law is a particularly instructive example of "sacred law." Islamic law is a phenomenon so different from all other forms of law—notwithstanding, of course, a considerable and inevitable number of coincidences with one or the other of them as far as subject matter and positive enactment are concerned-that its study is indispensable in order to appreciate adequately the full range of possible legal phenomena. Even the two other representatives of sacred law that are historically and geographically nearest to it, Jewish law and Roman Catholic canon law, are perceptibly different.
Both Jewish law and canon law are more uniform than Islamic law. Though historically there is a discernible break between Jewish law of the sovereign state of ancient Israel and of the Diaspora (the dispersion of Jewish people after the conquest of Israel), the spirit of the legal matter in later parts of the Old Testament is very close to that of the Talmud, one of the primary codifications of Jewish law in the Diaspora. Islam, on the other hand, represented a radical breakaway from the Arab paganism that preceded it; Islamic law is the result of an examination, from a religious angle, of legal subject matter that was far from uniform, comprising as it did the various components of the laws of pre-Islamic Arabia and numerous legal elements taken over from the non-Arab peoples of the conquered territories. All this was unified by being subjected to the same kind of religious scrutiny, the impact of which varied greatly, being almost nonexistent in some fields, and in others originating novel institutions. This central duality of legal subject matter and religious norm is additional to the variety of legal, ethical, and ritual rules that is typical of sacred law.
In its relation to the secular state, Islamic law differed from both Jewish and canon law. Jewish law was buttressed by the cohesion of the community, reinforced by pressure from outside; its rules are the direct expression of this feeling of cohesion, tending toward the accommodation of dissent. Canon and Islamic law, on the contrary, were dominated by the dualism of religion and state, where the state was not, in contrast with Judaism, an alien power but the political expression of the same religion. But the conflict between state and religion took different forms; in Christianity it appeared as the struggle for political power on the part of a tightly organized ecclesiastical hierarchy, and canon law was one of its political weapons. Islamic law, on the other hand, was never supported by an organized institution; consequently, there never developed an overt trial of strength. There merely existed discordance between application of the sacred law and many of the regulations framed by Islamic states; this antagonism varied according to place and time.
The passage provides information to answer which of the following questions EXCEPT?
- A Does Islamic law depend on sources other than Arab legal principles?
- B What secular practices of Islamic states conflicted with Islamic law?
- C Is Jewish law more uniform than canon law?
Correct Answer: BC