[skip to content]

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

CIMEL Yearbook Vol. 1

Preface by Eugene Cotran and Chibli Mallat

Since its establishment in 1990 at SOAS, CIMEL has been considering the idea of producing a periodical publication on Islamic and Middle Eastern law to fulfil the primary objective of the Centre in "the promotion of the study and understanding of Islamic law and modern Middle Eastern legal systems, individually and comparatively, by encouragement of research and by means of lectures, publications, conferences, seminars, academic visits and exchanges and other related activities".

Our principal discussions centred around whether the periodical should be annual, quarterly or monthly, and whether we had the resources, human and financial, to do it. We eventually ruled out the quarterly and monthly methods and opted for a Yearbook. We were fortunate in finding in Kluwer Law International (and its predecessor, Graham & Trotman) a publishing firm which was most co-operative and encouraging and with whom we had cooperated frequently in the past.

This is the first volume of the Yearbook, and we hope our readers will agree that the final product is unprecedented in the history of Islamic and Middle Eastern law.

To cover, in a given year, Islamic law generally and worldwide and the laws of some 20 countries of the Middle East is a daunting task. It requires research, study and co-operation by a wide group of legal experts, some of whom have to write in a language not their own, and an even wider group of devoted administrators and co-ordinators.

We were fortunate to get the services of both groups. The quality of our authors speaks for itself, whether in qualifications, experience of the subject and country or status. We have Judges, Ministers, State legal officials, academic scholars, well-known law firms and individual practitioners - all very busy people - who have devoted time and energy in producing excellent pieces whether in the form of articles or country surveys. Our administrators have been wonderful in the work of co-ordination, collation and "chasing" to get things in on time. It has realiv been a unique experiment in cooperative legal research.

With respect to content, coverage and division, it is always difficult in a Yearbook to decide whether it is to be subject- or country-based. We have opted for a combination of the two:

Part I: This covers "articles" on various legal subjects connected with Islamic and Middle Eastern law reflecting the variety of laws in the region, viz. the law of contract in Pakistan by Martin Lau, Babylonian and Islamic law by the late scholar Joseph Schacht, human rights in Morocco by Michele Zirari-Devif, nationality law in Syria and Egypt by Eberhard Kienle, maritime boundary disptites, especially in the Gulf, by Husain AI Baharna, constitutional law in the Middle East (the emergence of judicial power) by Chibli Mallat, project finance in Oman by Martin Amison and taxation in Qatar by Najeeb Al-Nauimi. We hope to be able to sustain and enhance this variety of legal themes in the years to come, and we would naturally welcome articles from readers.

Part II: This is in fact a country-based survey of all developments in the law of a country in the year in question - 1994 for this Volume 1. We are delighted that we have been able to include every Arab country in this first volume, along with Iran. We hope more will be included next vear, viz. Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, and possibly Israel, now that the peace process has brought in the era of co-operation rather that boycotts.

Within the country surveys, there is a wide coverage of legal subjects, which includes developments in the legislative field and by cases, where appropriate. Although we had asked our authors to work under given headings of the law to achieve sonic uniformity in presentation, they have not always found it possible to do so. We make no apology for this, as it is necessary depending on the circumstances and the legislative and/or case activity in the country concerned in a given year.

A further comment is necessary on Part 11. As this is the first volume, we had requested our country authors to give a background of the legal and judicial systems and of the various laws which applied before 1994. This they have done in different ways, some concentrating on the background under the heading of SOURCES OF LAW, JUDICIAL AND LEGAL SYSTEMS, others dealing with the background finder each of the 12 or so legal subjects before proceediiig to 1994. Whichever way it was done, we feel it resulted in a remarkable achievement in making this first volume of the Yearbook a complete compendium of the various laws in the various countries of the Middle East. Now that this has been done, future volumes will only describe developments in the year surveyed, i.e. 1995 for Volume 2, 1996 for Volume 3 and so on.

Part III: This deals with selected documents and legislation. Again, the question of selection was a difficult one. We thought it right for 1994, and because of their historical and legal importance, to include the Peace Agreements between Israel and Palestine and Jordan, despite their length. We omitted the Annexes to the Cairo Agreement since they were in any event superseded by the recent Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Washington, 28 September 1995) which will be included in Volume 2 (1995).

As to legislation in Part III, this is intended to include the full text of legislation of importance not only to the country concerned but other countries of the region. For this volume, we have included in this category the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Law of Egypt and the Laws and Resolutions on Iraq concerning the annexation and liberation of Kuwait and 1994 Iraqi penal laws; Decrees in Palestine establishing (or rather preserving) the pre-1967 legal and judicial system and creating an Independent Commission for Citizens Rights., the Libyan law regarding qisas and diyya and Omani investment laws.

Part IV: This covers selected cases. Again, it is intended to include cases of importance not onlv to the country concerned but also to the region generally, as well as case notes or commentary (see for example Martin Lau's Pakistani case note on the case of Zaheer-ud-din v. The State). Case summaries are also included in some of the country surveys.

It will be seen that the contributions of Professor Michele Zirari-Devif, viz. her article on human rights in Morocco and the Moroccan Country Survey, are in French, as is the Country Survey on Tunisia by Maitre Afif Gaigi. Again we make no apology for this and will continue to publish in French (and if need be in Arabic) if we feel that quality is lost through translation.

Plans are already in train for Volume 2 (1995). We hope to adhere, despite the difficulties, to the present schedule of publishing before the end of 1995 the 1994 Volume 1; in 1996 for the 1995 Volume 2, etc.

Naturallv there are gaps both in terms of jurisdictions and in terms of themes. Now that the difficult hurdles conjured up by the unprecedented task of producing a legal Yearbook for the region have been overcome, we hope, together with the continued support of the present contributors, the addition of new authors and our readers, to include in future more jurisdictions of the Islamic and Middle Eastern world, refine the synthesis in the country surveys, further enrich the thematic studies and the documentary sections, especially with regard to cases, add a book review section and perhaps also offer a blbliographical section of the year's legal production. A modest start to this end is to be found in the Syrian Country Survev. Meanwhile, this Yearbook should readily find a special place amongst thosc scholars and practitioners to whom law in the Middle East and the world of Islam matters.