Shariah Index Project


What is the right balance between the institutions of religious and political authority in the modern state? Should religion and governance be legally separated, or is there a way to integrate the two? What is meant by religious law, and can it be implemented without endangering basic human rights? The Shariah Index Project seeks to answer these questions in the context of present-day Muslim society.

Although a large number of political movements support Islamic governance, and several states claim Islam as the basis of their legitimacy, no widely-held definition of a modern Islamic state exists, either in principle or in practice. This absence led the Cordoba Initiative to convene a broad-based panel of Muslim scholars, tasked with generating a consensus on the essential principles of Islamic governance.

The ensuing agreement is the springboard for the Shariah Index Project, which brings together a high-level network of international government officials, university professors, and Islamic legal scholars whose ideas on the basis of good governance within an Islamic context are setting the standard for the modern Islamic state.

The Shariah Index Project (SIP) defines and indexes the modern Islamic state using quantifiable and measurable benchmarks, enumerating Islamic principles of good governance – particularly regarding the preservation of life, intellect, property, dignity, religion, and family. SIP seeks to reframe the discourse on a wide range of issues, including:

  • The relationship between religion and the state
  • The relationship between Shariah and constitutionalism
  • The relationship between Islam and other faith communities
  • Islam and international human rights instruments
  • Judicial reform mechanisms and the rule of law


Across the political landscape in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, various grassroots movements and political campaigns are currently rethinking the ways of integrating Shariah into the modern nation state. At the same time, extremist Muslim groups have seized upon the ideas of Islamic governance and the Islamic state, insisting that the highest priority for the Islamic state should be the enforcement of a strict Islamic criminal code, known in Arabic as hudud punishments. This recent and ahistorical interpretation of the “Islamic state” disregards fundamental rights long recognized by both Islam and international law as guaranteed to all citizens. This conception of Islamic governance, especially threatening to women and religious minorities, is Islamic in name only, holding neither a clear commitment to the spirit of Islam nor an understanding of the essential values the laws uphold.

For too long, sloganeering has mischaracterized the nature of Islamic governance. In SIP, the Cordoba Initiative has developed a structure and a tool for defining and measuring Islamic governance in accordance with both the timeless values of Islamic law and the exigencies of the present day.

The Shariah Index Project proposes a quantifiable and measurable model for the modern Islamic state, rooted in characteristics derived from the Shariah. By establishing consensus-based, easily observable principles of Islamic good governance, SIP will play a central role in the negotiations between religious and secular political parties in the Muslim world, contributing to the international dialogue on a state‚Äôs responsibility to its citizens, regardless of religion or ideology. After over five years of work, SIP’s global team of Islamic legal scholars has achieved a remarkable consensus that defines metrics to rate the Islamic state. The eminent politicians and religious leaders who are involved with this program have created a groundbreaking methodology and benchmarking system that will both index and measure a state’s compliance with the principles of Islamic good governance. These innovative tools will allow SIP to recapture the debate on Islamic states, adding substance to contemporary theories of the integration of Islam with governance.


  • To demystify the notion, meaning, and requirements of an Islamic state
  • To clarify the principles of Shariah in the context of modern society
  • To provide the general public, opinion leaders, and state officials in both the Muslim world and the West with tools for achieving these principles in practice


The SIP index will be used as the basis for an innovative rating system – the first of its kind in the world – that will measure Shariah compliance in contemporary contexts. This index will:

  • Respect the continuity of the Islamic tradition
  • Respond to contemporary contexts by addressing modern realities
  • Present the consensus of diverse legal perspectives in the Muslim community


The project has given rise to the forthcoming Shariah Index Project book, which includes an extended scholastic deliberation on the nature of Islamic governance and the process of Islamic state indexing. In addition, the Cordoba Initiative will introduce the State of the Muslim World Annual Index. The Index will offer Muslim governments and citizens a measurement that shows how well their nations comply with Islamic legal benchmarks found to be fundamental to Islamic governance.

The Cordoba Initiative will publicly release the SIP book and first annual index in 2012.

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