The following is a chapter of Islam 101:
Unlike many religions, Islam includes a mandatory and highly specific legal and political plan for society called Sharia, which translates approximately as "way" or "path."
The precepts of Sharia are derived from the commandments of the Quran and the Sunnah (the teachings and precedents of Muhammad as found in the reliable hadiths and the Sira). Together, the Quran and the Sunnah establish the dictates of Sharia, which is the blueprint for the good Islamic society.
Because Sharia originates with the Quran and the Sunnah, it is not optional. Sharia is the legal code ordained by Allah for all mankind. To violate Sharia or not to accept its authority is to commit rebellion against Allah, which Allah's faithful are required to combat.
There is no separation between the religious and the political in Islam; rather Islam and Sharia constitute a comprehensive means of ordering society at every level. While it is in theory possible for an Islamic society to have different outward forms — an elective system of government, a hereditary monarchy, etc. — whatever the outward structure of the government, Sharia is the prescribed content. It is this fact that puts Sharia into conflict with forms of government based on anything other than the Quran and the Sunnah.
The precepts of Sharia may be divided into two parts:
1. Acts of worship (al-ibadat), which includes:
Ritual Purification (Wudu)
Fasts (Sawm and Ramadan)
Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)
2. Human interaction (al-muamalat), which includes:
Laws of inheritance
Marriage, divorce, and child care
Food and drink (including ritual slaughtering and hunting)
War and peace
Judicial matters (including witnesses and forms of evidence)
As one may see, there are few aspects of life that Sharia does not specifically govern. Everything from washing one's hands to child-rearing to taxation to military policy fall under its dictates.
Because Sharia is derivate of the Quran and the Sunnah, it affords some room for interpretation.
But upon examination of the Islamic sources, it is apparent that any meaningful application of Sharia is going to look very different from anything resembling a free or open society in the Western sense. The stoning of adulterers, execution of apostates and blasphemers, repression of other religions, and a mandatory hostility toward non-Islamic nations punctuated by regular warfare will be the norm.
It seems fair then to classify Islam and its Sharia code as a form of totalitarianism.
Read more about Sharia: A Short Overview of Sharia.
Read a book (as a PDF) by Bill Warner entitled, Sharia Law For the Non-Muslim.
See a Glossary Of Islamic Terms for definitions.
Islam 101 was written by Gregory M. Davis, author of Religion of Peace?: Islam's War Against the World, and the producer/director of Islam: What the West Needs to Know.