SOAS University of London

School of Law

Law and Society in The Middle East and North Africa

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

Law and Society in the Middle East and North Africa (LASMENA) is offered as a full unit postgraduate course in the Law School's LLM programme (LLM: Master of Laws and LLM Islamic Law) and MA Programmes (MA Legal Studies; MA Islamic Law).The module aims to examine the substantive bodies of law and procedure and the legal systems in operation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in modern times, both in the context of the societies they seek to serve, and in the context of the increasing reach of international legal instruments which seek to provide universally applicable legal standards throughout the region governing a broad spectrum of legal activities.

Through the consideration of a number of paradigmatic legal systems, the module will seek to provide a comparative legal perspective on the MENA region. It will focus on a number of themes in law and society and will examine how certain areas of social/economic relations are regulated by particular bodies of law, attempting to explain how these bodies of law have arisen and assessing the policy considerations involved in the choices made by national legislatures in this regard. The themes will be chosen to include consideration of the extent and implications of state formulations of legal pluralism, and attention will be given to the engines of legal reform, whether they be the state itself or social movements with varying objectives, ranging from feminist groups through to proponents of the ‘Islamisation’ of laws. It will seek to place certain areas of law in the context of international legal obligations in order to ascertain the manner and extent of national implementation and interpretation of international norms, with the aim of considering both state action and legal practical reality, including court practice. Case studies will be presented and considered with the intention of setting certain of these themes into the context of a particular state’s legal system in the MENA region.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module students should have an understanding of and be equipped to analyse and research in:

  • General patterns in law and legal systems in countries of the MENA region, including the impact of influences from the colonial period and the Ottoman Empire,  as well as the effect of ‘Islamisation’ policies on law, the impact of customary law, and other issues of particular comparative significance in the legal history of the area;
  • Understanding of the comparative bases of family law, civil law, and criminal law in the region;
  • Issues of law and gender in legislative and social policy and public debate in the region;
  • The role of the courts and judicial precedent in the legal systems of the region;
  • The manner and patterns of national and regional implementation of international norms
  • The significance of law for civil society and for ‘citizens’
  • A familiarity with Middle Eastern/North African legal materials available in English.


  • Weekly 2 hour lecture

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 40% (Two 2,000 words assignments, each worth 20%)
  • Unseen written exam: 60%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules