Tag Archives: Islamic Law

Afrianty, “Women and Sharia Law in Northern Indonesia”

This March, Routledge Press will release “Women and Sharia Law in Northern Indonesia: Local Women’s NGOs and the Reform of Islamic Law in Aceh” by Dina Afrianty (Australian Catholic University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book examines the life of women in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where Islamic law was introduced in 1999. It outlines how women have had to face the formalisation of conservative understandings of sharia law in regulations and new state institutions over the last decade or so, how they have responded to this, forming non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have shaped local discourse on women’s rights, equality and status in Islam, and how these NGOs have strategised, demanded reform, and enabled Acehnese women to take active roles in influencing the processes of democratisation and Islamisation that are shaping the province. The book shows that although the formal introduction of Islamic law in Aceh has placed restrictions on women’s freedom, paradoxically it has not prevented them from engaging in public life. It argues that the democratisation of Indonesia, which allowed Islamisation to occur, continues to act as an important factor shaping Islamisation’s current trajectory; that the introduction of Islamic law has motivated women’s NGOs and other elements of civil society to become more involved in wider discussions about the future of sharia in Aceh; and that Indonesia’s recent decentralisation policy and growing local Islamism have enabled the emergence of different religious and local adat practices, which do not necessarily correspond to overall national trends.

“Islamic Political Thought” (Bowering, ed.)

This March, Princeton University Press will release “Islamic Political Thought: An Introduction” edited by Gerhard Bowering (Yale University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islamic Political ThoughtIn sixteen concise chapters on key topics, this book provides a rich, authoritative, and up-to-date introduction to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today, presenting essential background and context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. Selected from the acclaimed Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, and focusing on the origins, development, and contemporary importance of Islamic political ideas and related subjects, each chapter offers a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to its topic. Written by leading specialists and incorporating the latest scholarship, the alphabetically arranged chapters cover the topics of authority, the caliphate, fundamentalism, government, jihad, knowledge, minorities, modernity, Muhammad, pluralism and tolerance, the Qur’an, revival and reform, shariʿa (sacred law), traditional political thought, ‘ulama’ (religious scholars), and women. Read separately or together, these chapters provide an indispensable resource for students, journalists, policymakers, and anyone else seeking an informed perspective on the complex intersection of Islam and politics.

President Sisi’s Speech

Abdel_Fattah_el-SisiThe Internet is buzzing with news of a speech last week by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt (left) on the need for a “religious revolution” in Islam. Speaking at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, the most important center of Islamic learning in the Sunni world, Sisi admonished the assembled scholars to revisit Islamic law, or fiqh, in order to calm the fears of the non-Muslim world. According to a translation at Raymond Ibrahim’s site, Sisi said:

I am referring here to the religious clerics.  We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before.  It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible!

That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!

Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.

All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.

I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.

Some are praising Sisi for his bravery. That’s certainly one way to look at it. When Sisi calls for rethinking “the corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years,” he may be advocating something quite dramatic, indeed. For centuries, most Islamic law scholars – though not all – have held that “the gate of ijtihad,” or independent legal reasoning, has closed, that fiqh has reached perfection and cannot be developed further. If Sisi is calling for the gate to open, and if fiqh scholars at a place like Al Azhar heed the call, that would be a truly radical step, one that would send shock waves throughout the Islamic world.

We’ll have to wait and see. Early reports are sometimes misleading; there are subtexts, religious and political, that outsiders can miss. Which texts and ideas does Sisi mean, exactly? Fiqh rules about Christians and other non-Muslims, which often insist on subordination? Some argue that, notwithstanding the speech at Al Azhar, Sisi has done relatively little to improve the situation of Coptic Christians. And calling for the opening of the gate is not necessarily progressive. Although progressive Muslim scholars endorse the opening of the gate in order to adapt fiqh to modernity, Salafist groups wish to open the gate in order to discard centuries of what they see as un-Islamic traditions. Opening the gate may be a signal for fundamentalism, for a return to the pure Islam of the Prophet and his companions. I don’t imply Sisi is a fundamentalist, of course. I’m just saying one needs to be alert to the nuances.

Still, Sisi’s remarks do suggest he means a rethinking of Islamic law to adapt to contemporary pluralism. This is definitely worth watching.

“Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law” (Lau & Cotran, eds.)

In February, Brill Publishing will release “Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Volume 17” edited by Martin Lau (University of London) and Hon. Eugene Cotran. The publisher’s description follows:

Practitioners and academics dealing with the Middle East can turn to the Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law for an instant source of information on the developments over an entire year in the region. The Yearbook covers Islamic and non-Islamic legal subjects, including the laws themselves, of some twenty Arab and other Islamic countries.

Sattam, “Sharia and the Concept of Benefit”

This February, I.B. Tauris Publishing will release “Sharia and the Concept of Benefit: The Use and Function of Maslaha in Islamic Jurisprudence” by Abdul Aziz bin Sattam (Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The idea of maslaha has a rich history in classical legal thought and literature. Conventionally translated into English as ‘general benefit’ or ‘general interest’, it has been the subject, over many centuries, of intense argument in Muslim legal manuals about how the concept should be constructed and how it might be interpreted. Some celebrated scholars have even elevated its status to an independent legal source; while other prominent jurists have spoken of the special strictures which need to be applied to maslaha when considering it within the overall framework of Islamic law. In this thorough and original treatment of the concept, Abdul Aziz bin Sattam offers the first sustained examination of one of the most important tenets of Sharia. Seeking to illuminate not only the intricacies of its application, but also the wider history which has shaped it, the author examines its foundations, theoretical underpinnings and the key debates in both classical and contemporary texts. His book will be a vital resource for all those with an interest in Islamic law, whether of the medieval or modern periods.

“Islam and the European Empires” (Motadel, ed.)

Last month, Oxford University Press released “Islam and the European Empires” edited by David Motadel (University of Cambridge).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islam and the European EmpiresAt the height of the imperial age, European powers ruled over most parts of the Islamic world. The British, French, Russian, and Dutch empires each governed more Muslims than any independent Muslim state. European officials believed Islam to be of great political significance, and were quite cautious when it came to matters of the religious life of their Muslim subjects. In the colonies, they regularly employed Islamic religious leaders and institutions to bolster imperial rule. At the same time, the European presence in Muslim lands was confronted by religious resistance movements and Islamic insurgency. Across the globe, from the West African savanna to the shores of Southeast Asia, Muslim rebels called for holy war against non-Muslim intruders.

Islam and the European Empires presents the first comparative account of the engagement of all major European empires with Islam. Bringing together fifteen of the world’s leading scholars in the field, the volume explores a wide array of themes, ranging from the accommodation of Islam under imperial rule to Islamic anti-colonial resistance. A truly global history of empire, the volume makes a major contribution not only to our knowledge of the intersection of Islam and imperialism, but also more generally to our understanding of religion and power in the modern world.

Halim, “Legal Authority in Premodern Islam”

This month, Routledge Press releases “Legal Authority in Premodern Islam: Yahya B Sharaf Al-Nawawi in the Shafi’i School of Law” by Fachrizal A. Halim (Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State Islamic University, Indonesia). The publisher’s description follows:

Offering a detailed analysis of the structure of authority in Islamic law, this book focuses on the figure of Yahya b. Sharaf al-Nawawi, who is regarded as the chief contributor to the legal tradition known as the Shafi’i madhhab in traditional Muslim sources, named after Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi’i (d. 204/820), the supposed founder of the school of law.

Al-Nawawi’s legal authority is situated in a context where Muslims demanded to stabilize legal disposition that is consistent with the authority of the madhhab, since in premodern Islamic society, the ruling powers did not produce or promulgate law, as was the case in other, monarchic civilizations. Al-Nawawi’s place in the long-term formation of the madhhabis significant for many reasons but for one in particular: his effort in reconciling the two major interpretive communities among the Shafi’ites, i.e., the tariqas of the Iraqians and Khurasanians. This book revisits the history of the Shafi’i school in the pre-Nawawic era and explores its later development in the post-Nawawic period.

Presenting a comprehensive picture of the structure of authority in Islamic law, specifically within the Shafi’ite legal tradition, this book is an essential resource for students and scholars of Islamic Studies, History and 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.