Tag Archives: Islamic Law

Tas, “Legal Pluralism in Action”

This July, Ashgate Publishing released “Legal Pluralism in Action: Dispute Resolution and the Kurdish Peace Committee” by Latif Tas (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:

Legal Pluralism in ActionThis groundbreaking book contributes to, and refocuses, public debates about the incorporation of plural approaches into the English legal system. The book specifically advances the recent, largely theoretical, discussions of Sharia legal practice by examining a secular method of dispute resolution as practised by the Kurdish Peace Committee in London. Following migration to the West, many Kurds still adhere to traditional values and norms. Building on these, they have adapted their customary legal practices to create unofficial legal courts and other forms of legal hybridisation. These practical solutions to the challenges of a pluralistic life are seen by Kurdish communities in the UK as applicable not only to British and transnational daily life, but also as a training ground for institutions in a possible future Kurdish state. The study provides a substantive evidence base using extensive ethnographic data about the workings of the Kurdish Peace Committee, examining detailed case studies in the context of the customs and practices of the Kurdish community.

Based on an ethnographic and interdisciplinary approach, this book will be of interest to policy makers, socio-legal professionals, students and scholars of legal anthropology, ethnic minority law, transnationalism, diaspora, Kurdish, Turkish and Middle Eastern studies.

“The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law” (Peters & Bearman, eds.)

In July, Ashgate Publishing released “The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law” edited by Rudolph Peters (University of Amsterdam) and Peri Bearman (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

This unparalleled Companion provides a comprehensive and authoritative guide to Islamic law to all with an interest in this increasingly relevant and developing field. The volume presents classical Islamic law through a historiographical introduction to and analysis of Western scholarship, while key debates about hot-button issues in modern-day circumstances are also addressed. In twenty-one chapters, distinguished authors offer an overview of their particular specialty, reflect on past and current thinking, and point to directions for future research.

The Companion is divided into four parts. The first offers an introduction to the history of Islamic law as well as a discussion of how Western scholarship and historiography have evolved over time. The second part delves into the substance of Islamic law. Legal rules for the areas of legal status, family law, socio-economic justice, penal law, constitutional authority, and the law of war are all discussed in this section. Part three examines the adaptation of Islamic law in light of colonialism and the modern nation state as well as the subsequent re-Islamization of national legal systems. The final section presents contemporary debates on the role of Islamic law in areas such as finance, the diaspora, modern governance, and medical ethics, and the volume concludes by questioning the role of Sharia law as a legal authority in the modern context.

By outlining the history of Islamic law through a linear study of research, this collection is unique in its examination of past and present scholarship and the lessons we can draw from this for the future. It introduces scholars and students to the challenges posed in the past, to the magnitude of milestones that were achieved in the reinterpretation and revision of established ideas, and ultimately to a thorough conceptual understanding of Islamic law.

Bakircioglu, “Islam and Warfare”

This November, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Warfare: Context and Compatibility with International Law” by Onder Bakircioglu (School of Law at the University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

The question of how Islamic law regulates the notions of just recourse to and just conduct in war has long been the topic of heated controversy, and is often subject to oversimplification in scholarship and journalism. This book traces the rationale for aggression within the Islamic tradition, and assesses the meaning and evolution of the contentious concept of jihad. The book reveals that there has never been a unified position on what Islamic warfare tangibly entails, due to the complexity of relevant sources and discordant historical dynamics that have shaped the contours of jihad.

Onder Bakircioglu advocates a dynamic reading of Islamic law and military tradition; one which prioritises the demands of contemporary international relations and considers the meaning and application of jihad as contingent on the socio-political forces of each historical epoch.

This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of international law, Islamic law, war and security studies, and the law of armed conflict.

Rabb, “Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law”

In November, Cambridge University Press will release “Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law” by Intisar A. Rabb (Harvard Law School). The publisher’s description follows:

This book considers an important and largely neglected area of Islamic law by exploring how medieval Muslim jurists resolved criminal cases that could not be proven beyond a doubt. Intisar A. Rabb calls into question a controversial popular notion about Islamic law today, which is that Islamic law is a divine legal tradition that has little room for discretion or doubt, particularly in Islamic criminal law. Despite its contemporary popularity, that notion turns out to have been far outside the mainstream of Islamic law for most of its history. Instead of rejecting doubt, medieval Muslim scholars largely embraced it. In fact, they used doubt to enlarge their own power and to construct Islamic criminal law itself. Through a close examination of legal, historical, and theological sources, and a range of illustrative case studies, this book shows that Muslim jurists developed a highly sophisticated and regulated system for dealing with Islam’s unique concept of doubt, which evolved from the seventh to the sixteenth century.

Abou El Fadl, “Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age”

In October, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers will release “Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age” by Khaled Abou El Fadl (University of California, Los Angeles School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:

In light of recent concern over Shari’ah, such as proposed laws to prohibit it in the United States and conflict over the role it should play in the new Egyptian constitution, many people are confused about the meaning of Shari‘ah in Islam and its role in the world today. In Reasoning with God, renowned Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl explains not only what Shari‘ah really means, but also the way it can revitalize and reengage contemporary Islam.After a prologue that provides an essential overview of Shari‘ah, Abou El Fadl explores the moral trajectory of Islam in today’s world. Weaving powerful personal stories with broader global examples, he shows the ways that some interpretations of Islam today have undermined its potential in peace and love. Rather than simply outlining challenges, however, the author provides constructive suggestions about how Muslims can reengage the ethical tradition of their faith through Shari‘ah.As the world’s second largest religion, Islam remains an important force on the global stage. Reasoning with God takes readers—both Muslim and non-Muslim—beyond superficial understandings of Shari‘ah to a deeper understanding of its meaning and potential.

Spevack, “The Archetypical Sunni Scholar”

In October, State University of New York Press will release “The Archetypical Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of al-Bajuri” by Aaron Spevack (Colgate University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Archetypical Sunni ScholarThis is a rare study of a late premodern Islamic thinker, Ibrahim al- Bājūrī, a nineteenth-century scholar and rector of Cairo’s al-Azhar University. Aaron Spevack explores al- Bājūrī’s legal, theological, and mystical thought, highlighting its originality and vibrancy in relation to the millennium of scholarship that preceded and informed it, and also detailing its continuing legacy. The book makes a case for the normativity of the Gabrielian Paradigm, the study of law, rational theology, and Sufism, in the person of al- Bājūrī. Soon after his death in 1860, this typical pattern of scholarship would face significant challenges from modernists, reformers, and fundamentalists. Spevack challenges beliefs that rational theology, syllogistic logic, and Sufism were not part of the predominant conception of orthodox scholarship and shows this scholarly archetype has not disappeared as an ideal. In addition, the book contests prevailing beliefs in academic and Muslim circles about intellectual decline from the thirteenth through nineteenth centuries.

Emon, “Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law”

In September, Oxford University Press will release Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law by Anver M. Emon (University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious Pluralism and Islamic LawThe question of tolerance and Islam is not a new one. Polemicists are certain that Islam is not a tolerant religion. As evidence they point to the rules governing the treatment of non-Muslim permanent residents in Muslim lands, namely the dhimmi rules that are at the center of this study. These rules, when read in isolation, are certainly discriminatory in nature. They legitimate discriminatory treatment on grounds of what could be said to be religious faith and religious difference. The dhimmi rules are often invoked as proof-positive of the inherent intolerance of the Islamic faith (and thereby of any believing Muslim) toward the non-Muslim.

This book addresses the problem of the concept of ‘tolerance’ for understanding the significance of the dhimmi rules that governed and regulated non-Muslim permanent residents in Islamic lands. In doing so, it suggests that the Islamic legal treatment of non-Muslims is symptomatic of the more general challenge of governing a diverse polity. Far from being constitutive of an Islamic ethos, the dhimmi rules raise important thematic questions about Rule of Law, governance, and how the pursuit of pluralism through the institutions of law and governance is a messy business.

As argued throughout this book, an inescapable, and all-too-often painful, bottom line in the pursuit of pluralism is that it requires impositions and limitations on freedoms that are considered central and fundamental to an individual’s well-being, but which must be limited for some people in some circumstances for reasons extending well beyond the claims of a given individual. A comparison to recent cases from the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Court of Human Rights reveals that however different and distant premodern Islamic and modern democratic societies may be in terms of time, space, and values, legal systems face similar challenges when governing a populace in which minority and majority groups diverge on the meaning and implication of values deemed fundamental to a particular polity.

“Modern Islamic Thinking and Activism” (Erkan Toguslu & Johan Leman, eds.)

This month, Leuven University Press released Modern Islamic Thinking and Activism: Dynamics in the West and in the Middle East, edited by Erkan Toguslu (KU Leuven University) and Johan Leman (Emeritus Professor at KU Leuven University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Modern Islamic Thinking and ActivismModern Islamic Thinking and Activism presents a series of scholarly papers in relation to Islamic thinking, activism, and politics in both the West and the Middle East. The reader will apprehend that Islam is not the monolithic religion so often depicted in the media or (earlier) in the academic world. The Islamic world is more than a uniform civilization with a set of petrified religious prescriptions and an outdated view on political and social organization. The contributions show the dynamics of ‘Islam at work’ in different geographical and social contexts. By treating the working of Islamic thinking and of Islamic activism on a practical level, Modern Islamic Thinking and Activism includes innovative research and fills a significant gap in existing work.

Ndzovuis, “Muslims in Kenyan Politics”

In September, Northwestern University Press will publish Muslims in Kenyan Politics: Political Involvement, Marginalization, and Minority Status by Hassan Ndzovuis (Moi University, Kenya).  The publisher’s description follows:

Muslims in KenyaMuslims in Kenyan Politics explores the changing relationship between Muslims and the state in Kenya from precolonial times to the present, culminating in the radicalization of a section of the Muslim population in recent decades. The politicization of Islam in Kenya is deeply connected with the sense of marginalization that shapes Muslims’ understanding of Kenyan politics and government policies.

Kenya’s Muslim population comprises ethnic Arabs, Indians, and black Africans, and its status has varied historically. Under British rule, an imposed racial hierarchy affected Muslims particularly, thwarting the development of a united political voice. Drawing on a broad range of interviews and historical research, Ndzovu presents a nuanced picture of political associations during the postcolonial period and explores the role of Kenyan Muslims as political actors.

The Dhimma Returns in Iraq

al arabiya

Photo: Al Arabiya

Sad news from Iraq this weekend. In response to an ultimatum from ISIS–the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” or, if you prefer, just the “Islamic State–Christians have evacuated the northern city of Mosul. For thousands of years, Mosul has been a center of Christianity, particularly the various Syriac Christian communions: Chaldean-rite Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East, a church that once spread as far as China. As recently as a decade ago, tens of thousands of Christians lived in Mosul. After this weekend, virtually none remain.

The expulsion of Christians from Mosul suggests something very worrying about the possible future of Islamism. And it serves as a reminder of what can happen to religious minorities when secular dictatorships in the Arab world collapse.

Mosul lies within the territory of the “caliphate” that ISIS, a militant Sunni Islamist group, has proclaimed in parts of Iraq and Syria. Its ultimatum to the Christians of Mosul is the same it gave the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, last spring. “We offer them three choices,” ISIS announced last week: “Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.” In recent days, ISIS operatives went through Mosul marking the homes of Christians with the Arabic letter “Nun” for “Nasara,” from “Nazarenes,” a word that refers to Christians. The implications were clear.

Some readers may be unfamiliar with the term dhimma. The dhimma is the notional contract that governs relations between the Muslim umma and Christians (and Jews) in classical Islamic law. Theoretically, it dates back to the “agreement” one of the early caliphs made with the Christian community of Syria. The dhimma allows Christian communities to reside in Muslim society in exchange for payment of a poll tax called the jizya—in Mosul, ISIS was requiring a jizya of about $500—and submission to various social and legal restrictions. The dhimma forbids Christians from attracting attention during worship, for example, from building new churches, and generally from asserting equality with Muslims.

It’s wise to take ISIS at its word. On Saturday, ISIS operatives expelled the 52 Christian families who remained in the city–after first requiring them to leave all their valuables behind. For good measure, ISIS also burned an 1800-year-old church and the Catholic bishop’s residence, along with its library and manuscript collection.

One could say much about this sad uprooting of Christianity from a place where it has survived for millennia, but here are two observations. First, a psychological line has been crossed, and this may have dire consequences in future. For the moment, ISIS is unique among Islamist groups in calling for formal reinstatement of the dhimma. Although Islamists everywhere reject the idea of equality for Muslims and Christians, they typically avoid calling for the dhimma, as they understand that most contemporary Muslims find the concept abhorrent. Nothing succeeds like success, however. ISIS has now shown that it is possible to reestablish the dhimma at the center of the Muslim world. Other Islamist groups will no doubt take notice. Christians who remain in the Middle East have great cause for worry.

Second, although principal responsibility for this outrage lies with ISIS, and with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose misgovernment has created a situation in which ISIS can gain a following, the United States bears responsibility as well. Its invasion of, and hasty withdrawal from, Iraq set in motion a chain of events that has allowed radical groups like ISIS to succeed. In the Middle East, secular dictatorships can be very brutal. But they are often the only thing that stands in the way of the absolute destruction of minority religious communities. Toppling such dictatorships and hoping for their replacement by “moderate” elements is not a good bet. Incredibly, this seems to be a lesson the United States still has to learn.