Afghanistan: Who are the Taliban and what does the return of Sharia law mean?

Returning to power after being sidelined for two decades, the Taliban promised to enforce Sharia, the Islamic law favored by fundamentalists.

The Taliban are known for their very strict and uncompromising interpretation of Islam. Their comeback in force raises fears of the reinstatement of an ultra-rigorous version of Sharia law.

A few weeks after taking power in Kabul and the rest of the country, the Taliban have finally unveiled the main ministers who will form their government headed by Mohammad Hassan Akhund.

No details of their political program were released, however, other than a promise to reinstate a draconian version of Sharia law.

Sharia (literally the way, the path that leads to God) is a kind of code of conduct setting out a set of rights, duties, rules, prohibitions or sanctions. If it is based on the “Sunnah” (the book which takes up the words of the prophet Mohammed), it is not formally codified in a text, hence very varied interpretations depending on the country.

Family law, dress, dietary rules, financial transactions, inheritance, criminal offenses and court matters are some of the aspects of a Muslim’s life governed by Sharia law.

What life under the Taliban regime?

To imagine what life might be like under the yoke of the Taliban, one can only look to the past.

When they were in power, between 1996 and 2001, they banned games, music, photography and television. Women were required to wear the burqa. They were not allowed to work or study and could not go out on the streets without being accompanied by a man.

Twenty years later, it is still the fate and status of women that worry observers as well as the execution of severe sentences and freedom of the press.

Murderers, like those found guilty of adultery, were executed in public. Theft, alcohol consumption and homosexuality were also prohibited and punished.

From the study of religion to power

Gabriel Ouimet

QMI Agency

The Taliban are students of religion, explains Sami Aoun, professor at the University of Sherbrooke and director of the scientific committee of the UNESCO Chair in the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism.

“Initially, it’s a fundamentalist movement, so they want to go back to the sources of their religion. They have the most literal interpretation of Islam possible. We can consider them as hyper conservative, ”he explained.

The group was born in the early 1990s after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It was then made up of several small resistance cells, called moudjahidins, who opposed the Russians during the invasion of the country.

Despite their close ties to Al Qaeda, the group is not strictly speaking a terrorist group. “It’s a nationalist group. They want to control their territory, but do not have the ambition to attack outside their stronghold, ”said Sami Aoun.

In 1989, when the Soviets withdrew, a civil war broke out in Afghanistan due to rifts between the various Mujahedin clans. The Taliban then emerge. They promise to restore peace and security, in addition to applying their own very strict version of Sharia law.

They quickly spread their influence and, in 1996, they seized power and declared Afghanistan an Islamic Emirate until their overthrow in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Afghanistan: members of the Taliban government

Among the 33 members who will form the new government of Afghanistan, we find:

  • Mohammad Hassan Akhund, head of government. He is described as close to the founder of the Taliban, Mohammed Omar;
  • Abdul Ghani Baradar, Deputy Prime Minister. He is the co-founder of the Taliban;
  • Mohammad Yaqoub, Minister of Defense. He is one of Mohammed Omar’s sons and the youngest member of the government;
  • Sirajuddin Haqqani, Minister of the Interior. He is known to be close to Al Qaeda;

Sharia: how are decisions made?


From the Koran and the Sunnah, Muslim jurists are responsible for drawing precise rules from the Sharia. They issue advice which is considered an official legal decision called a “fatwa”.

In Sudan or Saudi Arabia, the interpretation of Sharia is very restrictive and allows punishments such as stoning, flogging and amputation. In other countries, such as Egypt for example, it only imposes general religious principles. Let us also mention Iran, Pakistan, Brunei, Indonesia, Nigeria and Qatar where the application of Sharia law is very variable.


Arab Observer

Related Articles

Back to top button