SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Islamic Legal Texts in Arabic Part A

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is principally aimed at students with an interest in classical Islamic legal discourses. Its main purpose is to introduce materials from the legal literature and traditions of learning which over the centuries have defined classical Islamic juridical thought. Students will have the opportunity to read, translate and discuss samples of works from a variety of seminal legal works and compilations. With a concern for both context and relevance, the module will provide students with insights into the discussions, debates and concepts which helped shape Islamic legal scholarship. Materials will be explored through the lens of the academic discourses which have defined the study of Islamic law and its literary tradition. Students should emerge not only with a sound grasp of the historical contexts within which much of this legal thought was developed and refined, but they should also acquire an appreciation of the form and context of the discussions featured in classical legal literature.


Given that this is essentially a text-based module, it is expected that students should be able to read and comprehend classical Arabic material.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Understand the traditions of learning which feature in classical Islamic legal thought
  2. Read, translate and competently analyse selected Arabic texts from the discipline of classical law
  3. Engage with the academic discourses which feature in the analysis and treatment of Islamic legal texts
  4. Understand the discourses germane to the theory of Islamic law


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week, consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

Part A of the module reviews discussions on the principles of Islamic law, studying selected classical works and materials which articulate the various attempts to formulate a theory of law. Students will have the opportunity to examine legal concepts and ideas selected from the following topics, reviewing their exposition in classical works:

  • Origins of the uṣūl: al-Risāla by al-Shafiʿī
  • Conflict of evidence
  • The Relationship between between reason and revelation in legal thought
  • Classifications of legal obligations
  • Legal theory within the Muʿtazalī School
  • Concepts of legal maxims

Method of assessment

One 3000-word essay (100% of final mark) due on Friday, Week 1, Term 2.

Suggested reading

Suggested reading

Primary sources:

  • Al-Mawardi, Abu al-Hasan, The Ordinances of Government, Garnet Publishing (2000),
  • Al-Qarafi, Al-Ahkam fi tamyyiz al-Aftawa 'an al-Ahkam, Halab 1967.
  • Al-Qurtubi, Muhammad, Aqdiyat al-Rasul, Dar al-Wa'i, Halab, 1396H.
  • Ibn Abi al-Dam, Adab al-Qada, Bayrut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyah, 1987
  • Ibn Furhun, Tabsirat al-Hukam, Dar al-kutub al 'lmiyyah, Beirut, 1995.

Secondary sources:

  • Abdel Haleem, Muhammed, Sharef, Adel Omar, Daniels, Kate, (ed.), Criminal justice in Islam, judicial procedure in the Shari`a / edited by, London : I.B. Tauris, 2003.
  • Al-Zuhayli, Muhammad, al-Tanzim al-Qada'I fi al-Mamlakah, Dar al-Fikr, Damascus, 1980.
  • Azami, M. M., On Schacht's Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, (Islamic Texts Society, 1996.
  • Calder, N., Studies in Early Muslim Jurisprudence (Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Coulson, N.J., A History of Islamic Law, Edinburgh, 1978.
  • Burton, J., An Introduction to the Hadith, Edinburgh, 1994.
  • Calder, N., Studies in early Muslim Jurisprudence, Oxford 1993.
  • Goitein, S.D., 'The Birth-Hour of Muslim Law', The Muslim World, 1960, pp.23-29.
  • Goldziher, Ignaz, Introduction to Theology and Law (Princeton University Press, 1981.
  • Hallaq, Wael, Law and legal theory in classical and medieval Islam, Aldershot: Variorum, 1994.
  • Hallaq, Wael, The origins and evolution of Islamic law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Liebesny, Herbert J., The Law of the Near & Middle East: Readings, Cases & Materials (Albany, 1975), Ch. 1
  • Muslehuddin, judicial system of Islam: its origins & Development, Islamic Book Service, Idara Islamiyat-e-Diniyat, or Kitab Bhavan (India)
  • Azad, G., Judicial System of Islam, Kitab Bhavan, 1994.
  • Schacht, Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford University Press, 1964)
  • Schacht, Joseph, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford University Press, 1950)
  • Vogel, Frank E. Islamic Law and Legal System: Studies of Saudi Arabia (Brill Academic Publishers 2000).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules