20 People Confess What It’s Really Like To Live Under Sharia Law

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In Saudi Arabia and other nations who incorporate some form of sharia, or Islamic law, people must abide by a certain set of rules based off the Quaran and the Hadith. And I’m not talking about your average run of the mill “don’t drink and drive” type of laws that we have here in the good ole U-S-of-A — I’m talking about the kind of laws that keep women from driving and marrying who they please, the laws that forbid alcohol and all drugs, and your murder/execution if you happen to be gay.

It’s been a contested subject matter for decades and decades, and more people are feeling safe and able to come forward and speak about what it’s really like to live under such harsh rules and regulations. If you thought abortion laws and freedom of speech were hot topics in America, just look to Egypt’s enforcement of Sharia. A woman’s public testimony is only worth HALF that of her male counterpart. Yeah — f*ck that sh*t.

If you’re a married man and you’ve engaged in sodomy with another man, you could be stoned to death in Saudi Arabia. In Algeria, the sharia-derived family code treats women as minors under the legal guardianship of a husband or male relative. And if you ever get caught throwing back some shots for the third time in Iran? Yeah — you could face the death penalty.

According to these 20 people, this is what it’s really like to live under sharia law:


I lived in Riyadh for a few years while working with their military. Executions happen on Friday. If you accidentally walk up to the crowd and look foreign, they will clear a way and push you to the front of the group. I don’t know why they do this. I asked one of my Saudi counterparts, and he said that it was to show how efficient their justice system is. I personally felt like it was more of an intimidation thing, but I can see both sides of the coin. I’m just glad I didn’t hurl in front of all those Saudis.


My wife could not drive anywhere alone. Luckily, the Saudi’s provided my wife with a male escort. He was a chauffeur and translator. Once my wife left, she sent me a bunch of videos of her ecstatically driving once again. It had been over a year.


Alcohol is strictly forbidden. I worked with a Saudi who was caught smuggling a couple bottles of alcohol in from Bahrain. He had to take leave (military vacation time) in order to get whipped. On the bright side, he had perfect posture when he got back because any bending of the back caused the scabs to start bleeding.


The Saudis definitely were not welcoming hosts. I mean, I had a chauffeur, a great place to live, and a fat paycheck, but they make it very clear that they are “above” you. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like a servant status if you are a westerner working there.


Homosexuals 100% get killed there. It’s no joke. It reminded me of V for Vendetta. Just being accused of being a homosexual is a death sentence.


For me (29 male) the thing that bothers me the most is social freedoms. Like we don’t have bars and alcoholic beverages are not legal therefore expensive and hassle to come by. Also not having bars and clubs. Not being able to kiss your girlfriend in public or hug her (you can date her outside for dinner or coffee shop but nothing sexual).


So there are 2 sets of law, criminal and civil law and then religious law. A lot of South/southeast asian countries with large Muslim populations do this. Generally, public criminal penalties and public civil disputes are handled according to one set of laws that apply to everyone, and private matters like inheritance, divorce are handled according to your religious law. So if you’re Muslim, it’s Islamic law. And you’re Muslim if your family is Muslim. Don’t believe it? Doesn’t matter. You’re Muslim. So I was muslim. From what I understand it’s like this in India, Malaysia and Singapore as well.


The main issue is getting raped, particularly by a local. If you are sexually assaulted by an Emirati, just leave the country. Cut your losses, get the medical help and counseling you need in your home country, but don’t bother pursuing it. Because the perpetrators will almost certainly get off scot free and you (as a woman) may get imprisoned for sex before marriage. As a raped man it may even be worse if you got charged with homosexuality, even if you were straight.


If you want to marry a muslim, you have to convert. All the Malays are muslim and they are not allowed to change their religion either.


I worked in Dubai for 7 months. It’s a very racist society. Locals come first, then come the expats from US, UK and EU and on the bottom tier Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis etc. Most of them had the attitude of a slave. Which was very sad to see. I had a friend from Pakistan who had 20 years experience working as a dev and he was the Manager for one of the dev teams where I worked. He made less money than an intern Emirati dude in my team. There were some rules you knew from the other expats as far as the law went and you had to be careful in public with showing any “signs of affection” towards your SO. The educational system was pretty bad and expensive from what other friends told me.


I had to wear a headscarf at the age of nine, lived a segregated life style and in fear of half of the population. I was deprived of my own childhood, and the moment I started wearing a headscarf was the moment I stopped going outside to play because other kids and local imams and religious police would give me shit when they saw a girl in a headscarf at the playground or in the street rollerblading. That’s also when my depression started.


I had to have my male guardian’s permission to get an education, get a job and even get paid for my job. For my BA I wanted to major in graphic design, which wasn’t available in Saudi Arabia. I told my parents that I wanted to go study abroad where my brother was. My papers were ready for submission, but my father went ahead and got me admitted into a public university while I was prepared to study abroad. Neither my permission nor presence were needed. I was at least luckier than two of my friends whose parents didn’t allow to go to uni and forced them to marry men twice their age.


In Saudi Arabia there are huge populations of workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and others. They are all male. Most of them are working in SA and sending money home to their families. They live in terrible work camps and ride around in buses with dead eyes.


If you want any kind of government position, you have to either be a devout Muslim or be really good at pretending. That’s not because there’s a law stating so, but just because you’ll get fired otherwise. That is a theme in Iranian laws. Theoretically, they are rather modern, and someone with little knowledge of the country would think that they were very reasonable laws, but they are implemented in a way that still restricts the freedom of the people. Because of this, the government can turn around and say that their country is very free, while firing everyone who doesn’t make sizable donation to their corrupt mosques.


I’m a Malaysian malay woman and really, it is not fun. I studied in the US for four years and I was enlightened by just the very fact that when I was in the US, I can do whatever I want as long as it is bound by the law. However since I got back I’ve been having a really hard time of fitting in just because I’m a non practicing Muslim now and it’s just very super fucking tiring to explain to people why I no longer wear hijab or why I wear nail polish during Ramadhan if I’m fasting because supposedly water cant reach to your nails so you’re impure so your prayers and your fast will not be accepted by god.


Murder: if I were to murder someone, I can pay blood money to the family as recompense instead of going to jail. Alternatively, they could forgive me, or worst case, kill me (eye for an eye). Not something I have personal experience with.


Legal testimony: in personal law matters, my giving of evidence is equal to half of a man’s. So if you are required to have 2 believing man witness to something, that’s 4 women.


Inheritance: this is where I get screwed. The Hanafi view on daughters is that they get half of what a son gets from a father’s estate. And if there is no son, daughters can only get 50% or less of the total. There are a lot of considerations here- inheritance law is a beast. The rights of adopted children are also not considered for inheritance. Wills can only be used to give away about 30% of your estate.


A mehram: typically this is a male family member who is there to safeguard a woman. Can be father, brother, son, grandfather, husband, and first uncle’s (parent’s brother). These are men you cannot marry. You needed a mehram to travel in the olden days, to accompany you when you went out into public. I drive myself and will take a guy cousin or someone along if I have to visit a government office (cultural thing- sends a signal that I have male protection so don’t mess around with me). Women live very successful lives without any male stewardship, but it’s nice to have some firepower sometimes.


Sex before marriage was strictly forbidden. Duh. I (as the man) was absolutely in charge. This was particularly frustrating on occasion because we were discussing her having someplace that is purely hers (traditionally this has been the kitchen but I enjoy cooking so we were going to have a second bedroom that was specifically hers). Getting past her thinking I could simply decide what was in her space took a lot of talking.

Written by Laura McNairy

Laura is a freelance writer for TFLN. She likes to write about what she knows best — dating, sex, and being awkward, but usually in the opposite order. She is the Assistant Editor and videographer for Peach Fuzz, a sex-positive nudie magazine in ATX.