SOAS University of London

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

Commercial Law in the Middle East

Preface by The Right Honourable The Lord Woolf

Two years ago I had the privilege of opening a conference on commercial law in the Middle East, which was jointly organised by the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London. It was an important occasion which brought together authoritative contributors from the principal countries in the Middle East as well as United Kingdom lawyers. It was probably the first occasion of this nature ever to occur in London, It provided an opportunity to compare how different Islamic legal systems were learning to accommodate the demands of contemporary commerce with Islamic traditions. This book is a valuable sequel to that conference.

The English participants found, in some cases to their surprise, that there was no deep-seated conflict between English commercial law and commercial law of the various states which were represented at the conference. It was certainly beneficial for me to learn of the considerable progress which was being made in the Middle East to provide satisfactory framework for commercial activities in the region.

Since that conference the first judicial exchange has taken place in London between the senior judiciary of Pakistan and England. Among the subjects discussed were law, morals and religion which are much more closely interwoven into a single whole in an Islamic state than they are in the West. It was particularly interesting for the members of the English judiciary who were involved to see how Pakistani law was managing to assimilate into its system, which had in the past been very much under the influence of English law, the principles of Islam. The process did create tensions but they were being overcome and the results demonstrated how compatibility between a common law and Islamic law approach can be achieved. The requirement for this, however, is a knowledge and understanding of the different traditions and beliefs involved.

Unfortunately, this has been a neglected field in the past. The two conferences to which I have referred were exceptional because they were so novel. Through the efforts of Hilary Lewis Ruttley at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and the work of the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (CIMEL), under its Director, Chibli Mallat and under the chairmanship of Judge Cotran, a start has been made to rectify the situation. Much has already been achieved. An energetic and imaginative programme is taking place to extend the knowledge of Islamic law in its Middle Eastern dimensions.

However, conferences and lectures can only reach a small audience. There had to be sources through which a wider audience can have resort. This is why Chibli Mallat and Hilary Lewis Ruttley are to be congratulated on bringing together in a book this significant collection of papers which, together with their introductory overview, provide a "multifaceted insight into commercial law and practice in the Middle East". For those, like myself, who have limited knowledge of the subject, this book will provide an admirable introduction. For those who are already well-informed, there will be found in this book insights as to the development of law and practise in the Middle East which complements their existing knowledge. This book provides an instructive and stimulating contribution to a subject, the importance of which is becoming increasingly appreciated. I congratulate the authors of the papers on their contributions and hope that this book will reach the wide audience it deserves.