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An Introduction to Islamic Law
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The study of Islamic law can be a forbidding prospect for those entering the field for the first time. Wael Hallaq, a leading scholar and practitioner of Islamic law, guides students through the intricacies of the subject in this absorbing introduction. The first half of the book is devoted to a discussion of Islamic law in its pre-modern natural habitat. The second part explains how the law was transformed and ultimately dismantled during the colonial period. In the final chapters, the author charts recent developments and the struggles of the Islamists to negotiate changes which have seen the law emerge as a primarily textual entity focused on fixed punishments and ritual requirements. The book, which includes a chronology, a glossary of key terms, and lists of further reading, will be the first stop for those who wish to understand the fundamentals of Islamic law, its practices and history.


‘This path-breaking new history of Islamic law will become a standard introduction to the subject. Professor Hallaq has provided a magnificent overview of the topic, drawing on his wide reading in primary sources and his many important publications on the history of Islamic law and Islamic legal thought.’

Joseph E. Lowry - University of Pennsylvania

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Suggested further reading
General social and political histories
Hodgson, Marshall G. S., Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Almost indispensable for understanding modern developments. [4]
Hodgson, Marshall G. S., The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974). [3]
Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 1991). [1]
Lapidus, Ira M., A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988). [1]
Marcus, Abraham, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989). [2]
General works on Islamic law and its early history
Calder, Norman, “Law,” in Nasr, Seyyed Hossein and Leaman, O., eds., History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. 1 (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 979–98. [2]
Cohen, H. J., “The Economic Background and Secular Occupations of Muslim Jurisprudents and Traditionists in the Classical Period of Islam (until the Middle of the Eleventh Century),” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (January 1970): 16–61. [1]
Glenn, Patrick H., Legal Traditions of the World: Sustainable Diversity in Law (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). At times inaccurate in its single-chapter treatment of Islamic law, but gives an excellent comparative perspective. [1]
Hallaq, Wael B., “The Authenticity of Prophetic Hadith: A Pseudo-Problem,” Studia Islamica, 89 (1999): 75–90. [2]
Hallaq, Wael B., The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, in Hallaq, W., series ed., Themes in Islamic Law 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). [1]
Hallaq, Wael B., Shariʿa: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). [2–3]
Khadduri, M. and Liebesny, H. J., eds., Law in the Middle East (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1955), chapters 1–5. [1]
Weiss, Bernard G., The Spirit of Islamic Law (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1998). [2]
Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, ed. Cotran, al., vols. 1–8 (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1995–2003); vols. 9–12 (Leiden: Brill, 2004–8). A good source to follow important legal developments in North African and Middle Eastern countries. [5]
Zubaida, Sami, Islam, the People and the State: Essays on Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East (London and New York: Routlege, 1989). [3]
Zubaida, Sami, Law and Power in the Islamic World (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2003). [2]
Chapter 1
Hallaq, Wael, Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1–23, 166–235. [4–5]
Masud, Muhammad Khalid, Messick, Brinkley and Powers, David S., eds., Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996). Introduction [1]; rest of the book [2–3]
Masud, Muhammadet al., eds., Dispensing Justice in Islam: Qadis and Their Judgments (Leiden: Brill, 2006). [2–3]
Messick, Brinkley, The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). [5]
Müller, Christian, “Judging with God's Law on Earth: Judicial Powers of the Qadi al-Jama‘a of Cordoba in the Fifth/Eleventh Century,” Islamic Law and Society, 7, 2 (2000): 159–86. [4]
Powers, David S., “On Judicial Review in Islamic Law,” Law and Society Review, 26 (1992): 315–41. [4]
Powers, David S., “Legal Consultation (futya) in Medieval Spain and North Africa,” in Mallat, Chibli, ed., Islam and Public Law: Classical and Contemporary Studies (London and Boston: Graham and Trotman, 1993), 85–106. [3]
Tyan, E., “Judicial Organization,” in Khadduri, M. and Liebesny, H. J., eds., Law in the Middle East (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1955), 236–78. [1]
Chapter 2
Hallaq, Wael, A History of Islamic Legal Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). [2]
Hallaq, Wael, “Non-Analogical Arguments in Sunni Juridical Qiyas,” Arabica, 36, 3 (1989): 286–306. [3]
Hallaq, Wael, “On the Authoritativeness of Sunni Consensus,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 18 (1986): 427–54. [3]
Hallaq, Wael, “Was the Gate of Ijtihad Closed?International Journal of Middle East Studies, 16 (1984): 3–41. [1]
Kamali, Hashim, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Selangor: Pelanduk Publications, 1989). [2]
Lowry, Joseph, “Does Shafiʿi Have a Theory of Four Sources of Law?” in Weiss, Bernard G., ed., Studies in Islamic Legal Theory (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 23–50. [4]
Wakin, Jeanette, “Interpretation of the Divine Command in the Jurisprudence of Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudamah,” in Heer, N., ed., Islamic Law and Jurisprudence: Studies in Honor of Farhat J. Ziadeh (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 33–53. [4]
Weiss, Bernard G., “Interpretation in Islamic Law: The Theory of Ijtihad,” American Journal of Comparative Law, 26 (1978): 199–212. [1]
Weiss, Bernard G., “Knowledge of the Past: The Theory of Tawatur According to Ghazali,” Studia Islamica, 61 (1985): 81–105. [3]
Weiss, Bernard G., The Search for God's Law: Islamic Jurisprudence in the Writings of Sayf al-Din al-Amidi (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992). [5]
Weiss, Bernard G., ed., Studies in Islamic Legal Theory (Leiden: Brill, 2002). [3–4]
Chapter 3
Bearman, al., eds., The Islamic School of Law (Cambridge, MA: Islamic Legal Studies Program, 2005). [3–4]
Hallaq, Wael, Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 57–120. [5]
Hallaq, Wael, “From Geographical to Personal Schools? A Reevaluation,” Islamic Law and Society, 8, 1 (2001): 1–26. [4]
Hallaq, Wael, The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, in Hallaq, W., series ed., Themes in Islamic Law 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005): 150–77. [1]
Melchert, Christopher, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997). [2]
Melchert, Christopher, “The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law,” in Hallaq, W. B., ed., The Formation of Islamic Law, in Conrad, L., series ed., The Formation of the Classical Islamic World 27 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), XIII. [2]
Tsafrir, Nurit, The History of an Islamic School of Law: The Early Spread of Hanafism (Cambridge, MA: Islamic Legal Studies Program, 2004). [4]
Chapter 4
Berkey, Jonathan Porter, The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). [1]
Chamberlain, Michael, Knowledge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus, 1190–1350 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). [4]
Ephrat, Daphna, Learned Society in a Period of Transition: The Sunni Ulama of Eleventh-Century Baghdad (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000). [2]
Makdisi, George, The Rise of the Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981). [3]
Tibawi, A. L., “Origin and Character of al-Madrasah,'Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 25 (1962): 225–38. [4]
Zaman, Muhammad Qasim, Religion and Politics under the Early ʿAbbasids (Leiden: Brill, 1997). [4]
Chapter 5
Antoun, Richard T., “The Islamic Court, the Islamic Judge, and the Accommodation of Traditions: A Jordanian Case Study,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 12 (1980): 455–67. [4]
Deguilhem, Randi, “Consciousness of Self: The Muslim Woman as Creator and Manager of Waqf Foundations in Late Ottoman Damascus,” in Sonbol, Amira, ed., Beyond the Exotic: Women's Histories in Islamic Societies (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 102–15. [4]
El-Nahal, Galal H., The Judicial Administration of Ottoman Egypt in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago and Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1979). [3]
Fay, Mary Ann, “Women and Waqf: Toward a Reconsideration of Women's Place in the Mamluk Household,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 29, 1 (1997): 33–51. [1]
Gerber, Haim, “Social and Economic Position of Women in an Ottoman City, Bursa, 1600–1700,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 12 (1980): 231–44. [1]
Jennings, Ronald C., “Divorce in the Ottoman Sharia Court of Cyprus, 1580–1640,” Studia Islamica, 78 (1993): 155–67. [2]
Jennings, Ronald C., “Women in Early 17th Century Ottoman Judicial Records: The Sharia Court of Anatolian Kayseri,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 18 (1975): 53–114. [2]
Johansen, Baber, “Legal Literature and the Problem of Change: The Case of the Land Rent,” in Mallat, Chibli, ed., Islam and Public Law: Classical and Contemporary Studies (London and Boston: Graham and Trotman, 1993), 29–47. [4]
Marcus, Abraham, “Men, Women and Property: Dealers in Real Estate in Eighteenth-Century Aleppo,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 26 (1983): 137–63. [2]
Meriwether, Margaret L., “The Rights of Children and the Responsibilities of Women: Women as Wasis in Ottoman Aleppo, 1770–1840,” in Sonbol, A., ed., Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 219–35. [2]
Meriwether, Margaret L., “Women and Waqf Revisited: The Case of Aleppo, 1770–1840,” in Zilfi, Madeline C., ed., Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women (Leiden and New York: Brill, 1997), 128–52. [2]
Peirce, Leslie, Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). [3]
Powers, David S., “Four Cases Relating to Women and Divorce in al-Andalus and the Maghrib, 1100–1500,” in Masud, al., eds., Dispensing Justice in Islam: Qadis and Their Judgments (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 383–409. [4]
Powers, David S., Law, Society, and Culture in the Maghrib, 1300–1500 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). [3–4]
Rapoport, Yossef, Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). [2]
Rosen, Lawrence, The Anthropology of Justice: Law as Culture in Islamic Society (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). [3]
Rosen, Lawrence, The Justice of Islam: Comparative Perspectives on Islamic Law and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). [3]
Seng, Yvonne J., “Standing at the Gates of Justice: Women in the Law Courts of Early Sixteenth-Century Isküdar, Istanbul,” in Hirsch, Susan and Lazarus-Black, M., eds., Contested States: Law, Hegemony and Resistance (New York: Routledge, 1994), 184–206. [2]
Sonbol, Amira, ed., Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996). [3–4]
Tucker, Judith E., In the House of the Law: Gender and Islamic Law in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). [3]
Zarinebaf-Shahr, Fariba, “Women, Law, and Imperial Justice in Ottoman Istanbul in the Late Seventeenth Century,” in Sonbol, Amira, ed., Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 81–96. [2]
Chapter 6
Gerber, Haim, State, Society, and Law in Islam: Ottoman Law in Comparative Perspective (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994). [3]
Hanna, N., ed., The State and Its Servants: Administration of Egypt from Ottoman Times to the Present (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1995). [3–4]
İnalcık, Halil, “Suleiman the Lawgiver and Ottoman Law,” Archivum Ottomanicum, 1 (1969): 105–38. [4]
Mardin, Serif, “The Just and the Unjust,” Daedalus, 120, 3 (1991): 113–29. [2]
Zilfi, Madeline C., The Politics of Piety: The Ottoman Ulema in the Postclassical Age (1600–1800) (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1988). [3]
Chapter 7
Anderson, Michael R., “Legal Scholarship and the Politics of Islam in British India,” in Khare, R. S., ed., Perspectives on Islamic Law, Justice, and Society (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999), 65–91. [2]
Christelow, Allan, Muslim Law Courts and the French Colonial State in Algeria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). [3]
Çizakça, Murat, History of Philanthropic Foundations: The Islamic World from the Seventh Century to the Present (Istanbul: Bogaziçi University Press, 2000). [2]
Cohn, Bernard, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). Although this important work deals mainly with the non-Muslims of British India, its analysis is equally valid as to the Muslim population there. [5]
Hooker, M. B., Legal Pluralism: An Introduction to Colonial and Neo-Colonial Laws (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975). [4]
Hoyle, Mark S. W., The Mixed Courts of Egypt (London: Graham and Trotman, 1991). [3]
İnalcık, Halil, “Application of the Tanzimat and Its Social Effects,” Archivum Ottomanicum, 5 (1973): 97–127. [4]
Kugle, Scott A., “Framed, Blamed and Renamed: The Recasting of Islamic Jurisprudence in Colonial South Asia,” Modern Asian Studies, 35, 2 (2001): 257–313. [3]
Lev, Daniel S., “Colonial Law and the Genesis of the Indonesian State,” Indonesia, 40 (October 1985): 57–74. [3]
Powers, David S., “Orientalism, Colonialism and Legal History: The Attack on Muslim Family Endowments in Algeria and India,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 31, 3 (July 1989): 535–71. [1]
Singha, Radhika, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). [5]
Strawson, John, “Islamic Law and English Texts,” Law and Critique, 6, 1 (1995): 21–38. [2]
Chapter 8
An-Na'im, Abdullahi, Islamic Family Law in a Changing World (London: Zed Books, 2002). [1–3]
Anderson, J. N. D., Law Reform in the Muslim World (London: Athlone Press, 1976). [2]
Asad, Talal, “Conscripts of Western Civilization,” in Gailey, Christine W., ed., Civilization in Crisis: Anthropological Perspectives (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1992), 333–51. [3]
Asad, Talal, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003). [5]
Barnes, J. R., An Introduction to the Religious Foundations in the Ottoman Empire (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986). [2]
Buskens, L., “Islamic Commentaries and French Codes: The Confrontation and Accommodation of Two Forms of Textualization of Family Law in Morocco,” in Driessen, H., ed., The Politics of Ethnographic Reading and Writing: Confrontations of Western and Indigenous Views (Saarbrücken: Breitenbach, 1993), 65–100. [3]
Carroll, Lucy, “Orphaned Grandchildren in Islamic Law of Succession: Reform and Islamization in Pakistan,”Islamic Law and Society, 5, 3 (1998): 409–47. [3]
Carroll, Lucy, “The Pakistan Federal Shariat Court, Section 4 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, and the Orphaned Grandchild,”Islamic Law and Society, 9, 1 (2002): 70–82. [3]
Hélie-Lucas, Marie-Aimée, “The Preferential Symbol for Islamic Identity: Women in Muslim Personal Laws,” in Moghadam, Valentine M., ed., Identity Politics and Women: Cultural Reassertions and Feminisms in International Perspective (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), 188–96. [4]
Lev, Daniel S., Islamic Courts in Indonesia: A Study in the Political Bases of Legal Institutions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972). [3]
Lev, Daniel S., “Judicial Unification in Post-Colonial Indonesia,”Indonesia, 16 (October, 1973): 1–37. [4]
Lombardi, Clark B., State Law as Islamic Law: The Incorporation of the Shariʿa into Egyptian Constitutional Law (Leiden: Brill, 2006). [3]
Moors, Annelies, “Debating Islamic Family Law: Legal Texts and Social Practices,” in Meriwether, M. L. and Tucker, Judith E., eds., Social History of Women and Gender in the Modern Middle East (Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press, 1999), 141–75. [2]
Peletz, Michael G., Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). [3]
Tucker, Judith E., “Revisiting Reform: Women and the Ottoman Law of Family Rights, 1917,”Arab Studies Journal, 4, 2 (1996): 4–17. [2]
Chapter 9
Cole, Juan Ricardo, Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture, and History of Shi'ite Islam (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002). [3]
Collins, Daniel P., “Islamization of Pakistani Law: A Historical Perspective,”Stanford Journal of International Law, 24 (1987–88): 511–84. [2]
Dahlén, Ashk P., Islamic Law, Epistemology and Modernity (New York and London: Routledge, 2003). [4]
Eickelman, Dale F., “Islamic Liberalism Strikes Back,”Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, 27 (1993): 163–68. [3]
Euben, Roxanne L., Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). [5]
Feener, Michael, Muslim Legal Thought in Modern Indonesia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). [3]
Feldman, Noah, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). [2]
Haj, Samira, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition: Reform, Rationality, and Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).[2]
Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories, 207–54. [2]
Salim, A. and Azra, A., eds., Shariʿa and Politics in Modern Indonesia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2003). [3]
Schirazi, Asghar, The Constitution of Iran: Politics and the State in the Islamic Republic, trans. O'Kane, John (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 1997). [4]
Zaman, Muhammad Qasim, The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). [2]
Zeghal, Malika, “Religion and Politics in Egypt: The Ulema of al-Azhar, Radical Islam, and the State (1952–94),”International Journal of Middle East Studies, 31, 3 (1999): 371–99. [2]
Chapter 10
Hallaq, Wael, “What is Shariʿa?”Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, 2005–2006, 12 (Leiden: Brill, 2007): 151–80. [2]
Select topics in substantive law
Bassiouni, Cherif, “Evolving Approaches to Jihad: From Self-Defense to Revolutionary and Regime-Change Political Violence,”Chicago Journal of International Law, 8, 1 (2007): 119–46. [3]
Coulson, Noel James, Succession in the Muslim Family (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971). [5]
Encyclopedia of Islamic Law: A Compendium of the Major Schools, adapted by Bakhtiar, Laleh (Chicago: KAZI Publications, 1995). [2–5]
Hallaq, Wael, Shariʿa: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), chapters 6–12 (covering rituals, contracts, family law, property, penal law, jihad, and evidence and procedure). [2]
Rushd, Ibn, Ahmad, Muhammad b., The Distinguished Jurist's Primer, trans. Nyazee, I. Khan, 2 vols. (Reading: Garnet Publishing, 1994–96). A twelfth-century legal text of the Maliki school, covering the entire range of legal topics. [3–5]
Kelsay, John, Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). [2]
Khadduri, M. and Liebesny, H. J., eds., Law in the Middle East (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1955), chapters 6–10. [2]
Khalilieh, Hassan, Islamic Maritime Law: An Introduction (Leiden: Brill, 1998). [5]
Marghinani, Burhan al-Din, Al-Hidaya: The Guidance, trans. Nyazee, I. Khan, 2 vols. (Bristol: Amal Press, 2006). A twelfth-century text of the Hanafi school, covering almost the entire range of legal topics. [3–5]
Misri, Ibn Naqib, The Reliance of the Traveller, trans. Keller, N. H. M. (Evanston, IL: Sunna Books, 1991). A fourteenth-century text (with a later commentary) of the Shafiʿi school, covering a wide range of legal topics. [2–5]
Peters, Rudolph, Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: Theory and Practice from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First Century, in Hallaq, Wael, series ed., Themes in Islamic Law 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). [2]
Schacht, Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964), 112–98. [2]
Udovitch, Abraham L., Partnership and Profit in Medieval Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970). [3–4]
Vogel, Frank, “Contract Law of Islam and the Arab Middle East,” International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law (Dordrecht: Mohr Seibeck; Tübingen: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2006), vol. 7, 3–76. [3]
Vogel, Frank and Hayes, S. L., Islamic Law and Finance: Religion, Risk and Return (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998). [3]


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