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Book description

Western analysts have long denigrated Islamic states as antagonistic, even antithetical, to the rule of law. Mark Fathi Massoud tells a different story: for nearly 150 years, the Somali people have embraced shari'a, commonly translated as Islamic law, in the struggle for national identity and human rights. Lawyers, community leaders, and activists throughout the Horn of Africa have invoked God to oppose colonialism, resist dictators, expel warlords, and to fight for gender equality - all critical steps on the path to the rule of law. Shari'a, Inshallah traces the most dramatic moments of legal change, political collapse, and reconstruction in Somalia and Somaliland. Massoud upends the conventional account of secular legal progress and demonstrates instead how faith in a higher power guides people toward the rule of law.


'An invaluable, brave, and insightful contribution.'

Source: American Political Science Association Ralph J. Bunche Award Citation

'A powerful, important piece of scholarship [produced] through the expert use of multiple methods.'

Source: American Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Section Distinguished Book Award citation

‘A remarkable new take on legal pluralism [and] the limits of secularism … Highly recommended.’

R. A. Miller Source: Choice

'Shari‘a, Inshallah takes Massoud’s pathbreaking scholarship on fragile states to a new frontier … A brilliant, superbly nuanced analysis of the integral role of religion in state-building, law-making, and social life.'

Terence C. Halliday - Research Professor, American Bar Foundation

'In Shari‘a Inshallah, Massoud examines Somalia’s political history through the lens of peacebuilding rather than state failure. The result is a bold and refreshing perspective on struggles over governance in Africa’s Horn that also offers an elegant reimagining of Islamic law’s role in the making of 21st century states.'

Susan Hirsch - Professor and Lynch Chair of Conflict Analysis and Anthropology, George Mason University

'A compassionate, timely, and hopeful study. The core message that ‘the problem is not shari‘a, it is what people have done with it’ presents an opportunity for Muslim-majority countries to reconcile faith, custom, and law.'

Jama Musse Jama - Director, Hargeysa Cultural Centre

'A comprehensively researched and fascinating legal ethnography. Massoud shows how Somali activists acclaim, yet strategically manipulate, shari‘a to link nation, state, human rights, and inter-clan unity - perhaps even more so than the judicial institutions favored by the Western aid community.'

David D. Laitin - Watkins Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

'Whatever you understand about shari‘a, this insightful book will challenge it. Massoud’s engaging narrative invites you to travel across places and times that deserve more attention. Your journey will end with new realizations about the rule of law, nation-building in Africa, and especially shari‘a.'

Asifa Quraishi-Landes - Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin, Madison

‘Evokes deep questions that go to the core of state sovereignty, the rule of law, religion, and power.’

Rebecca Tapscott Source: Contemporary Political Theory

‘Thoroughly documented, well researched, and effectively argued … an admirable addition to the literature.’

Ricardo René Larémont Source: Law and Politics Book Review

‘An impassioned piece of advocacy for the value of shari‘a as a source of justice.’

Justin Willis Source: The Conversation

‘A pioneering work that transforms the way we think about the interplay of law and religion in state-building.’

Nafay Choudhury Source: Law and Society Review

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