The Social and Cultural Lives of Islamic Law

The Social and Cultural Lives of Islamic Law

Visiting Professor Shahab Ahmed
Fall 2012 seminar
W 7:00pm - 9:00pm in WCC Room 3015
2 classroom credits

This course seeks to understand Islamic law as a part of the larger cultural life of Muslim society. We will take as an exemplary case-study the most powerful Muslim society in history: namely, Ottoman society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Two prominent heresy trials (one of a professor of philosophical theology, the other of a madrasah-graduate turned business tycoon) will be studied as the means to open up the question of the relationship of Islamic law to social and cultural norms at large. The course will examine the Ottoman-Muslim understanding of the relationship of the law to intellectual discourses such as philosophy and Sufism that subordinated the law to their respective cosmologies, as well its relationship to social practices such as wine-drinking and figural painting that were practiced with regularized impunity despite the fact that they violated legal norms, as well to canonical forms of self-expression and communication such as poetry and moral tales assertive of ethical values that tempered or marginalized the law. In this way, we will treat subjects such as freedom of expression, public and private, ethics and morality, education, social hierarchy, literary self-statement, political theory, executive and judiciary, so as to understand how Muslims conceived of the law and its authority and function in relation to other discourses and practices that made alternative claims about the constitution of Islamic norms.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of a research/response paper.

Note: This course is cross-listed with FAS as Islamic Civilizations 220.

Subject Areas: International, Comparative & Foreign Law