Tag Archives: Islamic Law

Al-Hibri, “The Islamic Worldview”

This past October, American Bar Association Book Publishing released “The Islamic Worldview: Islamic Jurisprudence – An American Muslim Perspective, Vol. 1” by Azizah Al-Hibri (University of Richmond).  The publisher’s description follows:

This Islamic WorldviewThe Islamic Worldview is the first volume of Islamic Jurisprudence: An American Muslim Perspective, a groundbreaking series that revisits traditional Islamic jurisprudence in order to develop a modern enlightened understanding of Islam with respect to gender, marriage, family, and democratic governance.

With Quranic textual analysis and commentary, it provides both the Muslim and non-Muslim reader with a basic understanding of the legal foundations of Islam. It introduces the sources of Islamic law and their significance in the hierarchy of Islamic jurisprudence while presenting Dr. al-Hibri’s articulation of the Islamic worldview, developed in light of modern day concerns, such as those relating to gender, race and class. The Islamic Worldview introduces the Qur’an as the supreme source of Islamic law and discusses basic rules and principles that have been noted by jurists over time in understanding and interpreting it, and how these rules can and have been applied toward the evolution of a uniquely Islamic global perspective.

Verskin, “Islamic Law and the Crisis of the Reconquista”

In January, Brill Publishing will release Verskin, “Islamic Law and the Crisis of the Reconquista: The Debate on the Status of Muslim Communities in Christendom.” The publisher’s description follows:

 The Reconquista left unprecedentedly large numbers of Muslims living under Christian rule. Since Islamic religious and legal institutions had been developed by scholars who lived under Muslim rule and who assumed this condition as a given, how Muslims should proceed in the absence of such rule became the subject of extensive intellectual investigation. In Islamic Law and the Crisis of the Reconquista, Alan Verskin examines the way in which the Iberian school of Mālikī law developed in response to the political, theological, and practical difficulties posed by the Reconquista. He shows how religious concepts, even those very central to the Islamic religious experience, could be rethought and reinterpreted in order to respond to the changing needs of Muslims.


“Disagreements of the Jurists” (Stewart, ed.)

This January, New York University Press will release “Disagreements of the Jurists: A Manual of Islamic Legal Theory” edited and translated by Devin Stewart (Emory University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Disagreements of the JuristsAl-Qadi al-Nuʿman was the chief legal theorist and ideologue of the North African Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century. This translation makes available in English for the first time his major work on Islamic legal theory, which presents a legal model in support of the Fatimids’ principle of legitimate rule over the Islamic community. Composed as part of a grand project to establish the theoretical bases of the official Fatimid legal school, Disagreements of the Jurists expounds a distinctly Shiʿi system of hermeneutics, which refutes the methods of legal interpretation adopted by Sunni jurists.
The work begins with a discussion of the historical causes of jurisprudential divergence in the first Islamic centuries, and goes on to address, point by point, the specific interpretive methods of Sunni legal theory, arguing that they are both illegitimate and ineffective. While its immediate mission is to pave the foundation of the legal Ismaʿili tradition, the text also preserves several Islamic legal theoretical works no longer extant—including Ibn Dawud’s manual, al-Wusul ila maʿrifat al-usul—and thus throws light on a critical stage in the historical development of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) that would otherwise be lost to history.

Gómez-Rivas, “Law and the Islamization of Morocco under the Almoravids”

This month, Brill Publishing releases “Law and the Islamization of Morocco under the Almoravids: The Fatwās of Ibn Rushd al-Jadd to the Far Maghrib” by Camilo Gómez-Rivas (University of California, Santa Cruz). The publisher’s description follows:

Law and the Islamization of Morocco under the Almoravids: The Fatwās of Ibn Rushd al-Jadd to the Far Maghrib investigates the development of legal institutions in the Far Maghrib during its unification with al-Andalus under the Almoravids (434-530/1042-1147). A major contribution to our understanding of the twelfth-century Maghrib and the foundational role played by the Almoravids, it posits that political unification occurred alongside urban transformation and argues that legal institutions developed in response to the social needs of the growing urban spaces as well as to the administrative needs of the state. Such social needs included the regulation of market exchange, the settlement of commercial disputes, and the privatization and individualization of property.

Burak, “The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Hanafi School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire”

In December, Cambridge University Press will release “The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Hanafi School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire” by Guy Burak (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Second Formation of Islamic Law is the first book to deal with the rise of an official school of law in the post-Mongol period. The author explores how the Ottoman dynasty shaped the structure and doctrine of a particular branch within the Hanafi school of law. In addition, the book examines the opposition of various jurists, mostly from the empire’s Arab provinces, to this development. By looking at the emergence of the concept of an official school of law, the book seeks to call into question the grand narratives of Islamic legal history that tend to see the nineteenth century as the major rupture. Instead, an argument is formed that some of the supposedly nineteenth-century developments, such as the codification of Islamic law, are rooted in much earlier centuries. In so doing, the book offers a new periodization of Islamic legal history in the eastern Islamic lands.

“The Sociology of Shari’a: Case Studies from around the World” (Possamai & Richardson et al., eds.)

In December, Springer Publishing will release “The Sociology of Shari’a: Case Studies from around the World” edited by Adam Possamai (University of Western Sydney), James T. Richardson (University of Nevada), and Bryan S. Turner (City University of New York). The publisher’s description follows:

This edited volume offers a collection of papers that presents a comparative analysis of the development of Shari’a in countries with Muslim minorities, such as America, Australia, China, Germany,  Italy, Singapore, South Africa and the Philippines, as well as countries with Muslim majorities, such as Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Tunisia.

The Sociology of Shari’a provides a global analysis of these important legal transformations and  examines the topic from a sociological perspective.

In addition, the third part of the book includes case studies that explore some ground-breaking applications of theoretical perspectives such as those from Chambliss and Eisenstein.

On Christians and the Open Letter to the Islamic State

Recently, a group of more than 120 Islamic law scholars, many of them from very prominent institutions in the Sunni world like Cairo’s Al Azhar University, signed an Open Letter to the leader of the Islamic State (aka IS, or ISIL, or ISIS), Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi). The letter sharply criticizes IS, arguing that most of its actions violate Islamic law. Among other things, the letter rejects IS’s declaration of a caliphate; its conception of jihad; its persecution of non-Muslims, including Christians and Yazidis; its atrocities against women and children; its killing of journalists and aid workers; and its destruction of the shrines of the prophets.

The Open Letter is a welcome development and its authors and signatories deserve credit. Western observers often criticize Muslim leaders for their failure to speak out against Islamist groups like IS, since the silence of Muslim leaders can be taken as assent. The Open Letter makes clear that IS does not represent the totality of Islam and that its Salafist interpretations are not the last word in fiqh. It’s valuable to have a critique of IS from within the Islamic law tradition itself.

And yet, if one reads the Open Letter closely, one sees that its conclusions are not all that Western observers might hope. At the First Things site, Ayman Ibrahim explores some of the letter’s ambiguities. For example, the scholars criticize IS’s attempt to reestablish the caliphate, not because the idea itself is outmoded, but because IS is too small to assert worldwide Muslim rule. “There is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah,” the letter concedes. But a small group like IS cannot declare a caliphate all on its own. “In truth, the caliphate must emerge from a consensus of Muslim countries, organizations of Islamic scholars and Muslims across the globe.”

Well, what if IS ultimately does ultimately obtain support for its caliphate? Given the group’s meteoric success so far, perhaps IS feels optimistic and would like to give it a try. Would consensus make IS’s caliphate legitimate? And does the letter really mean to suggest that Muslims across the globe have a religious obligation to seek the restoration of some sort of caliphate? That’s certainly how it sounds. How about Muslims in the West?

Or take the treatment of Christians, a matter Ibrahim does not discuss. As most people know by now, IS has murdered or expelled Iraqi and Syrian Christians who refuse to agree to the terms of the dhimma, the classical Islamic law “agreement” in which Christians accept subordinate status and pay a poll tax called the jizya. The Open Letter sharply criticizes IS for these actions. “These Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it,” the letter protests, but “friends, neighbors and co-citizens. “

This defense of Christians from leading Muslim scholars is very helpful. But then the letter makes clear the Islamic law basis for the scholars’ critique: “From the legal perspective of Shari’ah,” it says, the Christians of Iraq and Syria “all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them.” As non-combatants, these Christians are subject to a smaller jizya than IS has assessed . This smaller jizya is a substitute for the zakat Muslims pay and is to be distributed among the whole population, including Christians on occasion, as a form of charity.

In other words, the scholars’ objection is not that IS has subjected Iraqi and Syrian Christians to the dhimma and imposed on them the jizya. Rather, the objection is that these Christians are already subject to the dhimma and that IS has no authority to impose new terms, and that IS is collecting the wrong form of jizya. To put it mildly, this reasoning is not likely to reassure Christians and encourage them to return to their homes — assuming those homes still exist.

Some readers will think I am caviling. But I really don’t think so. In law, reasons matter. As I say, the Open Letter is a welcome contribution to the debate over IS and the signers, some of whom have no doubt taken personal risk, deserve credit. But the reasoning of the letter — well, let’s just say it raises some serious questions.

Gubo, “Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World”

This December, Lexington Books will release “Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World: How Religious Fundamentalism is Challenging Fundamental Human Rights” by Darara Gubo.  The publisher’s description follows:

The 21st century has been significantly shaped by the growing importance of religion in international politics resulting in rising polarization among nation states. This new dynamic has presented new challenges to international human rights principles. This book deals with some of these new challenges, particularly the growing demand by Muslim states for protection of Islamic religion from blasphemy and defamation. Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), through resolutions at the United Nations, made efforts to introduce laws that globally protect Islamic religion from blasphemy and defamation. The bid by OIC member states faced opposition from Western countries. The conflicting claims of the two sides are discussed in this book. The book clearly shows the impact of blasphemy and defamation of religion laws on certain aspects of fundamental human rights principles.

Al-Jabri, “Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought”

This November, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release “Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought” by Mohammed Abed Al-Jabri (Mohammed V University, Morocco).  The publisher’s description follows:

9781780766508Mohammad Abed al-Jabri is one of the most influential political philosophers in the contemporary Middle East. A critical rationalist in the tradition of Avincenna and Averroes, he emphasizes the distinctive political and cultural heritage of the Arab world whilst rejecting the philosophical discourses that have been used to obscure its democratic deficit. This volume introduces an English-language audience for the first time to writings that have had a major impact on Arab political thought. Wide-ranging in scope yet focused in detail, these essays interrogate concepts such as democracy, law, and human rights, looking at how they have been applied in the history of the Arab world, and show that they are determined by political and social context, not by Islamic doctrine. Jabri argues that in order to develop democratic societies in which human rights are respected, the Arab world cannot simply rely on old texts and traditions. Nor can it import democratic models from the West. Instead, he says, a new tradition will have to be forged by today’s Arabs themselves, on their own terms.

Rohe, “Islamic Law in Past and Present”

This November, Brill Publishing will release “Islamic Law in Past and Present” by Mathias Rohe (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islamic Law in Past and PresentIslamic Law in Past and Present, written by the lawyer and Islamicist Mathias Rohe, is the first comprehensive study for decades on Islamic law, legal theory, reform mechanisms and the application of Islamic law in Islamic countries and the Muslim diaspora. It provides information based on an abundance of Oriental and Western sources regarding family and inheritance law, contract and economic law, penal law, constitutional, administrative and international law. The present situation and ‘law in action’ are highlighted particularly. This includes examples collected during field studies on the application of Islamic law in India, Canada and Germany.