Tag Archives: Islamic Law

Zahalka, “Shari’a in the Modern Era: Muslim Minorities Jurisprudence”

This month, Cambridge University Press will release “Shari’a in the Modern Era: Muslim Minorities Jurisprudence” by Iyad Zahalka (Chief Judge, Shari’a Court, Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

Written by the Qadi (judge) of the Shari’a Court of Jerusalem and former director of the Shari’a Court system in Israel, this book offers a unique perspective on the religious law of Muslim minorities living in the West. Specifically, it explores the fiqh al-aqalliyyāt doctrine of religious jurisprudence developed by modern Islamic jurists to resolve the challenges of maintaining cultural and religious identity in majority non-Muslim societies. The author examines possible applications across numerous cultural and geographical contexts, answering such questions as: what are the rules for assuming political and public roles, and should one deposit money that incurs interest? Building on a growing scholarship, this book aims to resolve points of view and facets of religious law that have been neglected by previous studies. Accessibly written, Shari’a in the Modern Era is designed to promote cross-cultural understanding among readers of all faiths.


Bowen, “On British Islam”

In March, the Princeton University Press will release “On British Islam: Religion, Law, and Everyday Practice in Shari’a Councils,” by John R. Bowen (Washington University in St. Louis).  The publisher’s description follows:

On British Islam examines the history and everyday workings of Islamic institutions in Britain, with a focus on shari’a councils. These councils185px-princeton_university_press_logo-svg
concern themselves with religious matters, especially divorce. They have a higher profile in Britain than in other Western nations. Why? Taking a historical and ethnographic look at British Islam, John Bowen examines how Muslims have created distinctive religious institutions in Britain and how shari’a councils interpret and apply Islamic law in a secular British context.

Bowen focuses on three specific shari’a councils: the oldest and most developed, in London; a Midlands community led by a Sufi saint and barrister; and a Birmingham-based council in which women play a leading role. Bowen shows that each of these councils represents a prolonged, unique experiment in meeting Muslims’ needs in a Western country. He also discusses how the councils have become a flash point in British public debates even as they adapt to the English legal environment.

On British Islam highlights British Muslims’ efforts to create institutions that make sense in both Islamic and British terms. This balancing act is rarely acknowledged in Britain—or elsewhere—but it is urgent that we understand it if we are to build new ways of living together.

Hussin, “The Politics of Islamic Law”

In March, the University of Chicago Press will release “The Politics of Islamic Law: Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State,” by Iza R. Hussin (University of Cambridge).  The publisher’s description follows:

In The Politics of Islamic Law, Iza Hussin compares India, Malaya, and upso_ucplogoEgypt during the British colonial period in order to trace the making and
transformation of the contemporary category of ‘Islamic law.’ She demonstrates that not only is Islamic law not the shari’ah, its present institutional forms, substantive content, symbolic vocabulary, and relationship to state and society—in short, its politics—are built upon foundations laid during the colonial encounter.

Drawing on extensive archival work in English, Arabic, and Malay—from court records to colonial and local papers to private letters and visual material—Hussin offers a view of politics in the colonial period as an iterative series of negotiations between local and colonial powers in multiple locations. She shows how this resulted in a paradox, centralizing Islamic law at the same time that it limited its reach to family and ritual matters, and produced a transformation in the Muslim state, providing the frame within which Islam is articulated today, setting the agenda for ongoing legislation and policy, and defining the limits of change. Combining a genealogy of law with a political analysis of its institutional dynamics, this book offers an up-close look at the ways in which global transformations are realized at the local level.

“Inside the Islamic Republic”(ed. Monshipouri)

In January, the Oxford University Press releases “Inside the Islamic Republic: Social Change in Post-Khomeini Iran,” edited by Mahmood Monshipouri (San Francisco State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The post-Khomeini era has profoundly changed the socio-political landscape of Iran. Since 1989, the internal dynamics of change in Iran,9780190264840 rooted in a panoply of socioeconomic, cultural, institutional, demographic, and behavioural factors, have led to a noticeable transition in both societal and governmental structures of power, as well as the way in which many Iranians have come to deal with the changing conditions of their society. This is all exacerbated by the global trend of communication and information expansion, as Iran has increasingly become the site of the burgeoning demands for women’s rights, individual freedoms, and festering tensions and conflicts over cultural politics. These realities, among other things, have rendered Iran a country of unprecedented-and at time paradoxical-changes.

Dispatches from Kabul: A New Script


Kabul Traffic

Last Friday, as we were driving through downtown Kabul, our car was stopped briefly as the traffic ahead slowed at the checkpoint. Looking out from my backseat window, I was struck by the lack of rhythm, the absence of a familiar flow of city movement. In most places, lights change color, people cross the street, taxis honk, engines rev, and buses stop and go methodically. Instead, dirty, overfilled city cabs sat haphazardly in traffic, their lackadaisical drivers staring into the dusty commotion. Children with dirty clothes and charcoal around their eyes darted in and out of traffic, casting doleful expressions at foreigners in hopes of collecting an Afghani or two. Grizzled soothsayers moved slowly from car to car, wafting incense into open windows and mumbling incantations. In the absence of sidewalks, young men in shalwar kameez walked briskly through traffic, whole groups moving against the disorderly jumble, their prayer beads brushing against the sides of cars as they passed by. Policemen with tired, sun-worn faces ambled around aimlessly, occasionally blowing a whistle or commanding a car to move. Their uniforms looked like costumes from an outdated prop closet, faded and sagging, adorned with meaningless insignia. In fact, everything around me in that moment was reminiscent of a movie set after the cut. It was as if, off-script, no one knew exactly where to be or what to do. There are many metaphors for the state of affairs in Afghanistan, but this one struck me as particularly vivid.

Two years ago, when I was working for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Casteau, the streets of Brussels were filled with life. We would spend weekends walking through the city, enjoying quaint cafes, chocolate shops, and the old Dutch masterpieces at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts. On winter evenings, we would marvel at the Gothic and Baroque architecture and the beauty of La Grand Place glistening with Christmas lights. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 and the subsequent lockdown in Brussels, I’ve been thinking of the European capital, and about how ironic it is that life here in Kabul, chaotic city of blast walls, checkpoints, and indiscriminate violence, has been less affected by terrorism in the past month than my previous home in the heart of Europe.



La Grand-Place, Brussels

While at NATO, I was writing about humanitarian intervention as applied to the ongoing civil war in Syria. In conversation with military strategists and political advisors from the Alliance, my arguments for intervention, even for the limited purpose of constructing humanitarian corridors, were met with vague statements about the impenetrability of Assad’s air defense and the NATO members’ “lack of political will.” I found such reluctance remarkable; at the time, the United Nations was estimating that more than 100,000 had been killed and millions more displaced.

I still believe there was a moral responsibility to protect the Syrian people, but I am more willing to acknowledge and consider the drawbacks of intervention now, particularly in light of the current situation in Afghanistan. Resolute Support, the follow-on mission to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), still operates from the Green Zone in Kabul, but after fourteen years and billions of dollars, the Taliban now controls 29 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts, and 36 more are contested. The New Unity Government (NUG) is riddled with corruption, and the Afghan National Police seem unable to effectively control the provinces, as seen most recently in Kunduz. Ethnic violence in recent days has threatened to undermine the fragile cohesion that exists between the country’s disparate ethnic groups, and the Islamic State is gaining a foothold in several provinces.

At the invitation of President Ghani, and in the interest of maintaining stability, the United States has committed troops to Afghanistan for another year. Still, the question on everyone’s mind is how the government will manage to control the country once the donor money has dried up and the foreign troops are gone. The terrorist attacks in Paris have only highlighted the problem of Islamic extremism in the country, perpetuated by a resurgent Taliban and reinvigorated by an aggressive Islamic State. Despite robust efforts at reform in the economic, political, and legal sectors, no one seems to know exactly where to be or what to do.

* * *

My plate is always heaped with rice; sometimes it’s fluffy plain white, but more often it is flecked with sliced carrots and raisins – Kabuli palaw. Lunch at the office has become an enjoyable midday ritual. The cook comes in to assure me that the unidentifiable meat on my plate is not goat and that I should eat all the vegetables. Then I sit with one of our young paralegals, Nabila, learning new Persian words, usually relating to food: Gau is cow, Anar is pomegranate, palaw is rice. We discuss important topics like where to get a ball gown hemmed and how to keep a headscarf from slipping, but the conversation inevitably turns to politics and what is happening in Afghanistan.

The recent stoning of a woman in Ghor Province for the crime of zina (extramarital sex) angered Nabila. “This practice is not allowed in Islam. Many of the people in the provinces don’t know what Islam teaches,” she said. I countered, “But the Quran establishes zina as a punishable crime.” As expected, she explained what I had learned previously from other liberal Muslims: the Quranic verse that defines zina is accompanied by an extremely high standard of proof for establishing that the crime actually occurred. All but one of the madhhabs or distinct schools of Islamic law agree on this point. President Ghani called the stoning, “extra-judicial, un-Islamic, and criminal,” and condemned the incident in the strongest terms. The Taliban has been blamed for the stoning, although tribal elders may have been responsible; a variety of groups in the provinces employ strict Taliban-like interpretations of the Quran.

Nabila has explained that the Sharia – the word of God in the Quran and the lived example of the Prophet Mohammad in the sunna – isn’t knowable except through distinct methods of human interpretation. “Muslims who want to justify violence can find plenty of passages to cite and terrible ways to interpret them,” she said. “We shouldn’t focus on that.” She and others like her are confounded by the too common perception that all Muslims are extremists, and that they must choose between extremism on one hand and secularism on the other. “Why can’t people learn more about Islam? We learn about your prophet,” she said. “Harchi bakhair basha. Whatever is in your goodness. It’s a phrase I learned and it’s a type of prayer. I think Jesus said it.”

* * *

It’s difficult to say whether the situation in Afghanistan would be worse today had the United States and western allies not invaded in 2001. I now have a greater appreciation for the complexity of military intervention and the drawbacks of state building operations, but I have also been reminded that non-intervention has unintended consequences too. Despite the generally gloomy outlook, and the fact that hundreds of thousands are trying to abandon the war zone of Afghanistan for Europe, some things have markedly improved in the country since the Taliban fell from power, which likely would not have happened without a western presence.


Women in Kabul

These days in Kabul, I see boisterous groups of girls in white headscarves walking to school. In fact, close to nine million children are now in school compared with fewer than a million before 2001, and half of those children are girls. At a business conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, I sat at a table of young Afghan women who studied at university and now work in businesses across the city. The days when women were only allowed to be seen in public with a mahrem, a close male relative, are long gone. Some women still wear the light blue chadri on a daily basis, mostly for their own comfort, but they are now regarded less as the ultimate symbol of oppression under the Taliban regime, and more as a novelty of a bygone era. Expats can now buy chadri wine bottle covers – “made from real Afghan chadri” – and “burka bears,” stuffed animals covered head to paw in nylon, in varying shades of blue.

And there are other signs that Afghanistan is slowly continuing to change for the better. On November 11, thousands of men and women gathered on the streets of Kabul to participate in the largest peaceful protest in Afghanistan’s recent history. They were demanding justice and protection after seven innocent Hazara hostages were beheaded by the Taliban and/or the Islamic State. People marched with signs that read “Down with the Taliban” and “Down with ISIS,” but the protests were aimed mostly at the Afghan government; President Ghani was seen as ultimately responsible for failing to provide protection. In the past it has been easy for Afghans to side with whichever strongman our militant group seemed most capable of providing security and stability, but now, it seems, Afghans want more.


Kabul Protests

We see how corrupt and mismanaged the national government is on a daily basis in our roles as international lawyers in Kabul. Last week, one of our clients came to us with a stack of papers bearing the emblem of the Taliban. It was an old administrative regulation issued under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the now defunct Taliban regime – and signed by Mullah Omar himself. One of the government agencies demanded that our client comply with the regulation. We were startled to see the old black and white emblem in place of the new coat of arms of the Islamic Republic; it was as if the Taliban had resurrected under the guise of the NUG and no one working in the government had noticed. Still, reference to the regulation had been an administrative slip; it was not meant to herald the reemergence of an extremist regime.

Despite the severe deficiencies of the current order, Afghans are making sense of the chaos by learning a new script, provided in part by western countries under the Bonn Agreement. Like the traffic in downtown Kabul, progress is stop and go and there is not yet a discernible flow, but if there is to be meaningful change in Afghanistan, it will be led by the new generation of Afghans who believe in constitutional government and free enterprise. Future leaders will draw their legitimacy from commitment to security, the dignity of communities, and the rule of law.

Photos: 1. Kabul traffic, Getty Images; 2. Brussels La Grand-Place, Jessica Wright; 3. Women in Kabul, Jessica Wright; 4. Protests in Kabul over ethnic unrest, The New York Times.

Olsson, “Minority Jurisprudence in Islam: Muslim Communities in the West”

In February, I.B. Tauris will release “Minority Jurisprudence in Islam: Muslim Communities in the West” by Susanne Olsson (Södertörn University).  The publisher’s description follows:

According to many Islamic jurists, the world is divided between dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and dar al-harb (the abode of war). This dual division of the world has led to a great amount of juridical discussion concerning what makes a territory part of dar al-Islam, what the status of Muslims living outside of this is, and whether they are obliged to obey Islamic jurisprudence. Susanne Olsson examines the differing understandings of dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, as well as related concepts, such as jihad and takfir. She thereby is able to explore how these concepts have been utilised, transformed and negotiated throughout history. As the subject of Muslims living in Europe is such a topical and sometimes controversial one, this book will appeal to researchers of modern Islam as integral to the Western experience.

Kondo, “Islamic Law and Society in Iran”

In January, Routledge will release “Islamic Law and Society in Iran: A Social History of Tehran” by Nobuaki Kondo (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the legal aspects of urban society in nineteenth-century Iran. It provides the social context in which political process occurred and examines how authorities applied law in society, how people utilized the law, and how the law regulated society. The legal system was primarily derived from Islamic la

In his thorough analysis, the author focuses on two themes: the shari‘a court and vaqf (endowments). The shari‘a court was the location, where law was applied, and the author shows that the majority of courts in the country did not engage in disputes, lawsuits, and litigation, but were instead involved primarily in popular transactions such as sales, loans, leases, gifts, and other commercial contracts. This is one of the main reasons that led to the development of close ties between religious clerics as legal professionals, on the one hand, and, on the other, merchants, traders, and shopkeepers in Iranian society during this time period. The second topic, the law of vaqf, is considered to be the strongest among the contracts of Islamic law and an essential part in the development of an Islamic city. Vaqf deeds constituted one of the most common and important types of transactions dealt with by any shari’a court in Iran. Using the alterations that occurred in the legal terms of very important vaqf deeds as an example, the author argues that this traditional legal system was itself not static but had the potential for change and modification.

The relationship between Islamic law and society is still an important issue in Iran under the Islamic Republic. Despite all the debates that began from the middle of the nineteenth century and which promoted legal reform, little was changed substantively in the area of the day-to-day practice of law in Iranian courts until the present day. This book provides an understanding of this legal system and its role in society, and offers a basis for assessing the motives and results of modern reforms as well as the modernist discourse.

Shavit, “Shari’a and Muslim Minorities”

This month, Oxford University Press will release “Shari’a and Muslim Minorities: The Wasati and Salafi Approaches to Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat al-Muslima” by Uriya Shavit (Tel Aviv University). The publisher’s description follows:

Based on a comparative analysis of several hundred religio-juristic treatises and fatwas (religious decisions), Shari’a and Muslim Minorities: The Wasati and Salafi Approaches to Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat al-Muslima offers the most systematic and comprehensive study to date of fiqh al aqalliyyat al-Muslima – the field in Islamic jurisprudence that treats issues that are unique to Muslims living in majority non-Muslim societies. The book argues that two main contesting approaches to fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-Muslima, the wasati and the salafi, have developed, in part dialectically. While both envision a future Islamizing of the West as a main justification for Muslim residence in the West, the wasati approach is pragmatic, facilitating, and integration-minded, whereas the salafi calls for strict application of religious norms and for introversion.

The volume examines diverse and highly-debated juristic issues, including the permissibility of naturalizing in non-Muslim states, participating in their electoral systems and serving in their militaries and police forces; the permissibility of taking mortgages and student loans; the permissibility of congratulating Christians on Christmas or receiving Christmas bonuses; and the permissibility of working in professions that involve breaching of religio-legal prohibitions (e.g. serving pork). Discussions highlight the diversity within contemporary Islamic jurisprudence and introduce new nuances to highly-charged concepts such as proselytizing, integration, and multiculturalism.

Ahmed, “Religious Freedom under the Personal Law System”

In December, Oxford University Press will release “Religious Freedom Under the Personal Law System” by Farrah Ahmed (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne). The publisher’s description follows:

The personal law system is hugely controversial and the subject of fierce debates. This book addresses a vital issue that has received inadequate attention in these debates: the impact of the personal law system on religious freedom. Drawing on scholarship on the legal reform of the personal law system, as well as philosophical literature on multiculturalism, autonomy, and religious freedom, this book persuasively argues that the personal law system harms religious freedom. Several reform proposals are considered, including modifications of the personal law system, a move towards a millet system, internal reform of individual personal laws, the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code, and a move towards religious alternative dispute resolution.

This book will be of significant interest to students and scholars of law, politics, and gender studies, as well as lawyers and policymakers across jurisdictions interested in multiculturalism, particularly contemporary debates on the legal accommodation of religious and cultural norms.


Alserhan, “The Principles of Islamic Marketing”

This month, Ashgate releases “The Principles of Islamic Marketing,” second edition by Baker Ahmad Alserhan (Qatar University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Principles of Islamic Marketing fills a gap in international business literature covering the aspects and values of Islamic business thought. It provides a framework and practical perspectives for understanding and implementing the Islamic marketing code of conduct. It is not a religious book.

The Islamic Economic System is a business model adopted by nearly one quarter of the world’s population. Baker Alserhan identifies the features of the Islamic structure of International Marketing practices and ethics. Adherence to such ethical practices elevates the standards of behaviour of traders and consumers alike and creates a value-loaded framework for meaningful cooperation between international marketers and their Muslim markets. His book provides a complete guide for an organization when managing its entire marketing function or when customising part of its offering to suit Muslim customers. It addresses the challenges facing marketers involved in business activities with and within Islamic communities, the knowledge needs of academic institutions, and the interest of multinationals keen on tapping the huge Islamic markets.

Along the way, Baker Alserhan provides insights into key elements such as, distribution channels, retailing practices, branding, positioning, and pricing; all within the Muslim legal and cultural norms. This second edition brings the book up to date and features a number of new case studies and two additional chapters on Maqasid Al Shariah and the Islamic economy, and a strategic perspective on Islamic marketing and branding.