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School of Law

Islamic law

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

Islamic Law considers from a comparative perspective the history and development of Islamic law and its application in contemporary jurisdictions. An overview of historical and jurisprudential themes in the first term includes the relationship between sacred texts and human reason in the development of the law, dissent and consensus in the articulation of the law, law and morality and normative pluralism. In the second term a detailed examination is made of the various applications of Islamic family law, with a regional focus on countries of the Middle East and South Asia.

Prof. Mashood Baderin talks about studying islamic law at SOAS, University of London

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of the course students should be familiar with a range of English-language scholarship on Islamic Law and legal history, and should be able to:

  • Reflect critically on the issues raised in contemporary debates about Islamic Law and sharia’a;
  • Carry out independent research in the field of Islamic Law;
  • Undertake both written and oral analysis and debate on key issues in Islamic Law.

Scope and syllabus

The course presents an overview of Islamic Law in its historical and contemporary aspects in the Muslim world, from a comparative perspective. Based on modern English-language scholarship, the course covers legal history and jurisprudential developments as well as contemporary applications of Islamic Law. In its consideration of legal history and jurisprudence, the course focuses on contemporary scholarship and the critical theoretical debates currently underway in the field. Family law is a particular focus in the sections on contemporary applications, including material from UK courts as well as from the Middle East and South Asia.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 30% coursework (two essays, each worth 15%); 70% unseen examination. Resubmission of coursework regulations do not apply to this course.

Suggested reading

  • A. An-Na’im: Towards an Islamic Reformation, Syracuse UP, 1990
  • Oussama Arabi: Studies in Modern Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, Kluwer 2001
  • N. Coulson: a History of Islamic Law, Edinburgh UP 1964
  • .I Edge 9ed.): Islamic Law andLegal Theory, Dartmount 1996
  • Khaled Abou El Fadl: Speaking in God’ name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women, Oxford: Oneworld Publications 2001
  • Y. Y. Haddad and B F Stowasser: Islamic Law and the Challenges of Modernity, Altamira 2004
  • W Hallaq: A history of Islamic Legal Theories, CUP 1997
  • W Hallaq: The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, CUP 2005
  • C. Mallat 9ed.): Islam and Public Law 1993
  • Mallat & Connors (eds): Islamic Family Law, London 1990
  • Masud,Messick, Powers (eds): Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas, Harvard university Press 1996
  • R. Peters: Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: Theory and Practice from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First Century, CUP 2005
  • J. Schacht : An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford (OUP) 1964
  • A Sonobol (ed.): Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, Syracuse University Press 1996
  • B. Weiss : The Spirit of Islamic Law, Georgia 1998
  • L. Welchman (ed.): Women’s rights and Islamic Family Law: Perspectives on Reform, Zed Press 2004
  • S. Zubaida: Law and Power in the Islamic World, London: I.B. Tauris 2003