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Spring 2024 Reading Group

Islamic Law and Comparative Jurisprudence

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This reading group will consider several fundamental questions of legal philosophy through the lens of Islamic law, with the objective of introducing students to the Islamic legal tradition, while also grappling with important jurisprudential questions along the way. The first meeting will serve as a primer in Islamic law and legal theory. The next four meetings will each be structured around a different jurisprudential question, starting with “What is Law?”, then “Law and Morality,” “Law and Power,” and “Law and Social Change.” In addressing each topic, we will read works from various schools of thought within both the Islamic legal tradition and Anglo-American jurisprudence (including natural law, positivism, Legal Realism, and Critical Legal Studies), and we will pay special attention to the often unexpected parallels that emerge. We will also use case studies to examine how different answers to these philosophical questions can result in concrete differences in legal outcomes. In our final meeting, we will conclude with broader observations about the relationship between legal theory and practice. The overall hope of the course is that by putting these two legal traditions in conversation with each other, we can learn something new about each of them, as well as about the difficult questions we are trying to answer. Students will be expected to submit one short response paper during the semester.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 1/31, 2/7, 2/14, 2/21, 2/28, and 3/6