Religious Law: Meaning & Examples

There are various religions that practised in the modern world. Each of them includes a set of guidelines outlining how we ought to and how should be our conducts. For instance, the Ten Commandments are a significant collection of guidelines that Catholics and adherents of other Christian religions must abide by. These commandments address significant issues like not killing, as well as other serious issues like not lying or acting ungratefully. While the purpose of these laws is to try to create a decent person, the ultimate goal is to appease a greater force; therefore, breaking these commandments may not have very obvious consequences in this life.

Today, as opposed to in the past, there is a clear distinction between secular laws and religious legislation. Religious law comes from the deity, who enacts it through prophets, whereas secular law is created by humans. It also follows the religious laws and regard it as everlasting and non−changing, while secular norms can be amended by their makers.

 What is Religious Law?

Religious law instructs people on both what to believe and how to conduct themselves while secular law deals with how our acts outside of ourselves affect other people. These can frequently intersect. For instance, a lot of religions teach that life is sacred and that killing is wrong. Secular law likewise holds that killing is wrong, but it grounds this view on how murdering will harm others rather than infuriate a higher authority.

In a religious legal system, the judge and priest are typically the same person because disputes are characteristically supervised by a member of that religion. In contrast, the position of judge is distinct in a secular government. In a secular society, disagreements are therefore managed solely by a court without the involvement of religious authorities.

Some Examples of Religious Law Systems

Different religious practices place different levels of significance on sacred law; some are overtly antinomian, while others are nomistic or "legalistic" in outlook. Religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, in particular, emphasise the eternal moral precepts of divine law over the civil, ceremonial, or judicial aspects, which may have been annulled as in theologies of grace over law, whereas other religions, like Islam and the Bahá' Faith, generally reject the idea that this is not necessary or desirable.

Religious Organisations and Recognised Religions

A religious organisation that has the state's formal support is known as a "state religion. In a theocracy, a god or other deity is acknowledged as the supreme civil authority. Conscientious objectors may create religious offences in both theocracies and some religious jurisdictions. The legal systems that are in opposition to this are secular governments or multicultural societies, in which the government does not formally endorse any one religion but instead may impose tolerance of religious variety or repress any religious activity.


The Manu Smriti forms the foundation of most Hindu law (the Smriti of Manu). Besides, there are many other scriptures that equally important as they also contributed in the development of Hindu law, including Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, etc. It was acknowledged by the British while they were governing the country. However, after independence, the legislators and prominent leaders opt to be make India as a secular country.


The moral code and religious law of Islam are known as sharia, often known as Islamic law (qanunn Islm). The commandments outlined in the Quran and the example brought forth by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnahh are the two main sources from which sharia is drawn. By incorporating secondary sources, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) interprets and expands the application of sharia to issues that aren't specifically addressed in the primary sources (the Quran and the sunnah). These secondary sources often include qiyas, analogies from the Quran and sunnah, and the consensus of the sahabah (companions of the prophet) and ulama (religious scholars) expressed in the form of ijma. The customs of the inhabitants of Medina are also included in the Maliki school of law under the heading "amal ahlil madinah."

Sharia addresses numerous issues that are covered by secular law, such as crime, politics, and economics, as well as private issues like eating, dressing, and praying, as well as issues related to inheritance and fasting. Islamic judges, or qadis, apply sharia when it has legal standing. Depending on how sharia is interpreted, the imam has several duties. While the title is most frequently used to refer to the person who leads communal prayers, the imam can also be a scholar, a religious leader, or a political figure.

Muslims disagree on the specifics of the sharia, yet they all agree that it is Allah's rule. Sharia is viewed differently by modernists, traditionalists, and fundamentalists, as well as by followers of various schools of Islamic philosophy and research. There are various ways that sharia is interpreted throughout various societies, nations, and cultures.

Islamist movements in Muslim nations have always sought to reinstate sharia. For the purpose of resolving their individual and communal disputes, some Muslim minorities in Asia (such as those in India) have continued to uphold institutional recognition of sharia. Muslim communities have developed Sharia family law for use in their own conflicts in Western countries where Muslim immigration is more recent, with varying degrees of success, for example in Britain's Muslim Arbitration Tribunal. In nations with sizable Muslim populations, attempts by Muslims to impose sharia on non−Muslims have been met with controversy, violence, and even war (the Second Sudanese Civil War).


According to Jesus of Nazareth's life and teachings, Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion. With almost 2.8 billion adherents, or one−third of the world's population, it is the largest religion. The majority of people in 157 nations and territories are thought to be Christians, who hold the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, whose advent as the messiah was foretold in the Hebrew Bible (known as the Old Testament in Christianity) and recorded in the New Testament.

Its Western and Eastern branches, as well as its doctrines on justification and the nature of salvation, ecclesiology, ordination, and Christology, all continue to be culturally diverse. Most Christian faiths recognise Jesus as the Son of God—the Logos incarnate—who served, suffered, and died on a crucifixion, but rose from the dead to save mankind. He is also known as the gospel, which is a term that means "good news." The four canonical gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—describe the life and teachings of Jesus, with the Old Testament serving as the gospels' revered historical backdrop.


Jain law, also known as Jaina law, is the current interpretation of the ancient Jain Law, which comprises regulations governing Jainists' adoption, marriage, succession, and death.


The collective corpus of rabbinic Jewish religious regulations developed from the Written and Oral Torah, including the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, the Talmud, and its commentaries, is known as halakha (Hebrew; literally, "walking"). The Oral Law was created through extensive and thorough readings of the written Torah after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 during the First Jewish−Roman War.

The halakhah has steadily evolved thanks to a number of legal and quasi−legal processes, such as judicial rulings, legislative enactments, and customary law. The term "Responsa" refers to the body of literature that includes rabbis' thoughtful responses to questions. Jewish legal codes were eventually written based on the Responsa and Talmudic literature as customs changed throughout time. Most Orthodox and some Conservative Jews base their religious practises on the Shulchan Aruch, which is considered to be the most authoritative code.

According to rabbinic tradition, the written Torah contains 613 mitzvot. The Torah, commonly known as the Law of Moses, contains commandments that apply to almost every facet of daily life. These regulations have different restrictions for different groups of people, including males and female members of the ancient priestly orders (the Kohanim and Leviyim), and farmers in the Land of Israel. Only when there is a temple in Jerusalem do some rules take effect.


Today, just a few nations still have purely religious legal systems. Some nations would rather that they hardly ever intersect. In truth, the extent to which church law and state law can interact is strictly regulated by our own legal system. However, other nations—mostly those with a large Muslim population, like Iran—allow for a lot more mixing of the two. Additionally, there are nations that fall somewhere in the middle. Other nations with still substantial ties to religious law systems may have a dual system where the state handles other secular affairs that encompass a wider range of issues, but religious norms govern some aspects of daily life, like family matters like marriage and divorce. These dual−type systems are still in use today, albeit to varying degrees, in nations including Pakistan, India, and Israel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does Indian law entail about religion?

The constitution guarantees everyone's freedom of conscience, their ability to openly profess, practise, and spread their religion, calls for a secular state, mandates that all religions be treated equally, and outlaws’ discrimination based on religion.

Q. What is the moral law of religion?

The morality, ethics, or laws that are prescribed by a particular religious’ tradition or teaching are known as religious law. Religious law is taken into account by or influenced in differing degrees by various cultures and political systems.

Q. What kinds of laws are there in religion?

Generally, religions' ethical and moral teachings are referred to as "religious law." Christian canon law, Islamic sharia, Jewish halakha, and Hindu law are among the major examples.

Q. Is the law primarily derived from religion?

In the majority of countries, religion served as the foundation for law and the legal systems.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022

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