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.
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 councils
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.
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 Egypt 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.
In October, The Islamic Texts Society released “Copyright in Islamic Law” by Mohamed Ahdash (Muslim College, London). The publisher’s description follows:
Copyright in Islamic Law is the first work in English to systematically address the ideas of intellectual property and copyright from an Islamic perspective. The author builds a framework from within Shari’a law to address the concepts of intellectual property and copyright. In so doing, he adopts the classical usul al-fiqh approach by firstly defining the key terms associated with the field, namely: right (haq), ownership (milkiyya), wealth (mal), and utility (manfa’a). Dr Ahdash then analyses how these terms are used in the Qur’an and in the Hadith before looking at how the secondary sources of qiyas (analogy), maslaha (public interest), ‘urf (custom) and al-qawa’id al-fiqhiyya (legal maxims) can be applied to copyright. The result of this study is a framework wherein the concept of copyright is defined and understood in an Islamic manner. This then gives a consistent approach from which specific rulings can be derived. Copyright in Islamic Law is a ground-breaking study not only within Shari’a law, but also by making a contribution to the on-going debates on copyright in general.
In August, Edinburgh University Press released “Contemporary Issues in Islam” by Asthma Afsaruddin (Indiana University). The publisher’s description follows:
Key ‘hot-button’ contemporary issues in Islam, often at the centre of public scrutiny, are the focus of this book. By placing the discussion of topics such as the Shari’a, jihad, the caliphate, women’s status and interfaith relations within a longer historical framework, Contemporary Issues in Islam reveals their multiple interpretations and contested applications over time.
Most public – and occasionally academic – discourses in the West present the Islamic tradition as unchanging and therefore unable to respond to the modern world. Such an ahistorical approach can foster the belief that Muslim-majority and Western societies are destined to clash. This book reveals instead the diversity and transformations within Islamic thought over time. Focusing on this internal diversity permits us to appreciate the scriptural and intellectual resources available within the Islamic tradition for responding to the challenges of modernity, even as this tradition interrogates and shapes modernity itself.
In August, Ashgate will release “Legal Pluralism in the Holy City: Competing Courts, Forum Shopping, and Institutional Dynamics in Jerusalem” by Ido Shahar (University of Haifa, Israel). The publisher’s description follows:
This book provides an unprecedented portrayal of a lively shari’a court in contemporary West Jerusalem, which belongs to the Israeli legal system but serves Palestinian residents of the eastern part of the city. It draws a rich picture of an intriguing institution, operating in an environment marked by legal pluralism and by exceptional political and cultural tensions. The book suggests an organizational-institutional approach to legal pluralism, which examines not only the relations between bodies of law but also the relations between courts of law serving the same population.
Based on participant observations in the studied court as well as on textual and legal analyses of court cases and rulings, the study combines history and ethnography, diachronic and synchronic perspectives, and examines broad, macro-political processes as well as micro-level interactions.
The book offers fresh perspectives on the phenomenon of legal pluralism, on shari’a law in practice and on Palestinian-Israeli relations in the divided city of Jerusalem. The work is a valuable resource for academics and researchers working in the areas of Legal Pluralism, Islamic Law, and socio-legal history of the Middle East.
In April, Ashgate Publishing will release “Muslim Families, Politics and the Law: A Legal Industry in Multicultural Britain” by Ralph Grillo (University of Sussex, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
Contemporary European societies are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, certainly in terms of the diversity which has stemmed from the immigration of workers and refugees and their settlement. Currently, however, there is widespread, often acrimonious, debate about ‘other’ cultural and religious beliefs and practices and limits to their accommodation.
This book focuses principally on Muslim families and on the way in which gender relations and associated questions of (women’s) agency, consent and autonomy, have become the focus of political and social commentary, with followers of the religion under constant public scrutiny and criticism. Practices concerning marriage and divorce are especially controversial and the book includes a detailed overview of the public debate about the application of Islamic legal and ethical norms (Shari’a) in family law matters, and the associated role of Shari’a councils, in a British context.
In short, Islam generally and the Muslim family in particular have become highly politicized sites of contestation, and the book considers how and why and with what implications for British multiculturalism, past, present and future. The study will be of great interest to international scholars and academics researching the governance of diversity and the accommodation of other faiths including Islam.
Last month, I.B.Tauris released “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a” by Marianne Boe (University of Bergen). The publisher’s description follows:
Passed into law over a decade before the Revolution, the Family Protection Law quickly drew the ire of the conservative clergy and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. In fact, it was one of the first laws to be rescinded following the revolution. The law was hardly a surprising target, however, since women’s status in Iran was then – and continues now to be – a central concern of Iranian political leaders, media commentators, and international observers alike. Taking up the issue of women’s status in a modern context, Marianne Boe offers a nuanced view of how women’s rights activists assert their rights within an Islamic context by weaving together religious and historical texts and narratives. Through her substantial fieldwork and novel analysis, Boe undermines both the traditional view of ‘Islamic Feminism’ as monolithic and clears a path to a new understanding of the role of women’s rights activists in shaping and synthesizing debates on the shari’a, women’s rights and family law. As such, this book is essential for anyone studying family law and the role of women in contemporary Iran.
Posted in Scholarship Roundup, Stephanie Cipolla
Tagged Books, Family Law, Islam, Islamic Law, Religion and Culture, Religion and Family, Religion and Society, Religion in the Middle East, Religious Law, Shari'a Law, Women and Islam, Women's Rights
Michael J. Broyde (Emory U.) has posted Jewish Law Courts in America: Lessons Offered to Sharia Courts by the Beth Din of America Precedent. The abstract follows.
After a lengthy trial-and-error history, Jewish law in America has found a home in a well-defined and expansive system of Jewish law courts around the country referred to as batei din. The Beth Din of America (BDA), one of the nation’s most prominent rabbinic courts, was founded in 1960 to accommodate the portion of the Jewish community in America committed to living in accordance with both secular and religious law. For some time, batei din struggled to find their footing within the American legal system. Secular courts were initially uncomfortable upholding and enforcing decisions issued in accordance with what was essentially foreign law. Today, however, the BDA provides a sprawling network of Jewish law courts that function as arbitration panels (and more), offering litigants access to a religious forum marked by the characteristic expedience and affordability of the arbitration process. More significantly, the BDA has gained widespread acceptance among America’s secular courts, which, to date, have never overturned a BDA-issued decision. As the Muslim community in America embarks upon a quest to develop and refine its own religious court system, it should regard the BDA precedent as a useful navigation tool.
Although the BDA is now a fifty-year-old organization, its true metamorphosis as an arbitration panel began only in 1996 when it gained autonomy from the Rabbinical Council of America. Continue reading
John Witte Jr. (Emory University School of Law) and Joel A. Nichols (University of St. Thomas School of Law) have posted Who Governs the Family? Marriage as a New Test Case of Overlapping Jurisdictions. The abstract follows.
In many areas of law and society, religion and law exercise “overlapping jurisdictions.” Often such overlapping claims concern institutions that have both religious and political dimensions, such as education and schooling; charity and social welfare; and marriage and family life. It is the third of these mixed institutions – marriage and the family – that is the focus of this Essay. The headline battles today are over what forms of marriage should be recognized by the state: straight versus same sex marriage, contract versus covenant marriage, monogamous versus polygamous marriage, and more. But an emerging battle concerns not the forms of marriage, but the forums in which marriage and family cases are adjudicated. Specifically, the new battle is looming over the place of faith-based family laws and religious tribunals.
Such jurisdictional conflicts have recently resulted in a growing set of “anti-Shari’a law” statutes, first in Oklahoma and now in Kansas, South Dakota, and elsewhere. Such statutes are based on rather slender, if not specious, rationales – and on a purported study that has not been sufficiently assessed. We argue, contrary to this study, that the very few cases cited by proponents of anti-Shari’a statutes say far more about the use of ordinary principles of comity regarding the law of foreign nations, respect for the voluntary choices of individuals, and a sense of growing multiculturalism in general than they do about any sort of fanciful imposition of Shari’a law on unwitting parties. We oppose such anti-Shari’a laws for their targeted discrimination, their duplication of other laws and decisional norms, their potential conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act, and more.
But hard questions persist that cannot be easily swept away with a mere assertion that religious groups should enjoy autonomy over the marriage and family affairs of their voluntary faithful. Those are the questions that we have been probing and encouraging others to probe in this and prior writings: What are the appropriate lines between the civil state and religions with respect to marriage? Civil marriage and divorce are perhaps a least common denominator for all citizens, but can there be variations if accompanied by base level protections for women and children? And how can the state best protect vulnerable members and also advance its liberal ends? Such hard questions need not lead to a jurisdictional stand-off between law and religion, however, nor to a universal and over-reaching claim by the state. Instead, negotiation, compromise, and mutual respect may lead to more nuanced and achievable results – especially if we are careful not to be so distracted by conversations about the propriety of Shari’a that we miss the actual complications of the growing marital and legal pluralism in the United States.