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School of Law

Human rights and Islamic law

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course critically explores the different theoretical perspectives of the relationship between Human Rights and Islamic law and examines the practices of some relevant Muslim-majority States in that regard. 

We will examine relevant theoretical and conceptual issues relating to the nature of both human rights and Islamic law respectively. This will include a critical analysis of the theoretical foundations of human rights, its sources, contents and implementation, in relation to the nature, sources and methods of Islamic law, and its role, application and influence in Muslim-majority States. We will then identify the areas of common grounds and conceptual differences between the two systems.  Over the course, we will also critically analyse, in relation to Islamic law, substantive human rights issues such as:

  • right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • right to freedom of opinion and expression; 
  • minority rights;
  • women’s rights; 
  • children’s rights; 
  • prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments and punishments; 
  • right to fair trial;
  • human rights implementation; 
  • case studies of selected Muslim-majority States.                              

We round up with exploring possible mechanisms for the effective implementation of international human rights law, particularly in Muslim-majority States that apply Islamic law.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course, students should be familiar with a range of English-language scholarship on the subject of human rights and Islamic law, have a clear understanding of the debates surrounding the relationship between human rights and Islamic law, and, consequently, should be able to:

  • Critically analyse the relationship between human rights and Islamic law, and evaluate the human rights policies and practices of modern Muslim States within that analysis;
  • carry out independent research on the subject;
  • undertake meaningful written and oral analysis and debate on how to realise human rights within the Islamic ethos of Muslim-majority States.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 40% (4000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 60%

Suggested reading

  • Baderin, M.A., International Human Rights and Islamic Law (OUP, 2005).
  • An-Na’im, A.A., Towards an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law (1990) OR Baderin, M.A., (ed.) Islam and Human Rights: Selected Essays of Abdullahi An-Na’im (Ashgate, 2010).
  • Mayer, E.A., Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics (Westview, 2012).
  • Emon, A.M., et al., (ed.) Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law: Searching for Common Grounds? (OUP, 2012).
  • Hashemi, K., Religious Legal Traditions, International Human Rights Law and Muslim States (Brill, 2008).