Introduction to Islamic Law

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Fall 2012 Course
Meets: M, T 1:20pm - 2:50pm in WCC Room 3011
3 classroom credits

This course will survey Islamic law in historical and comparative modern contexts. Traditional Islamic law (shari?a) refers to a diverse set of doctrines that developed within institutional structures quite different from those of the modern nation-state. The replacement of traditional modes and adoption of foreign models in the modern Middle East and larger Muslim world accompanied the introduction of new governmental and constitutional structures. Many Muslim-majority countries accorded constitutional status to Islamic law as a source of law. These developments raise fundamental questions about issues of legality, legal authority, and institutional development in the legal systems of the Muslim world, past and present. The course will initially focus on comparative legal theory and Islamic legal history, to provide (a) a basic introduction to the sources and methods of classical Islamic legal interpretation, (b) a backdrop for assessing the appeal to and re-assertion of Islamic law in the modern period in select countries and with comparative study in mind. It will then survey the most pressing areas in which traditional norms remain relevant today—criminal law, family law, and Islamic finance—and survey the developments and new constitutional controversies in the public law spheres in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in transition after the 2011 Arab Spring. The course aims to provide students with an introduction to the sources, nature and function of law in historical context, together with changes and echoes from that period to the modern. It also aims to encourage comparative legal analysis to assess generalizations about law typically formulated with respect to Western legal traditions. There are no prerequisites.

Subject Areas: International, Comparative & Foreign Law .