Seminar in Comparative Law: Islamic Law

L770 is taught by T. Waters

Interest in Islam has increased considerably in recent years and with it, interest in its legal system, which historically has occupied a central role in Islamic experience. This course is an introduction to Islamic law, focusing expressly on its sources, interpretation, and claims about authority. Familiarity with these sources is important even to contemporary debates that, arguably even more than in other religious traditions, rely upon or resist those sources.

The course offers students the opportunity to encounter a legal system founded on radically different principles and developed in a different historical context than modern civil or common law systems. The course affords perspectives on the nature and operation of legal institutions and on law s purposes and possibilities, while giving students a basic foundation in a system highly relevant to many current debates about politics in a globalizing society.

In the first half, the course examines conceptual and methodological frameworks of Islamic law and their institutional settings. Then, through student presentations, it takes up particular topics of current interest (such as Islamic finance, the Caliphate, or the treatment of women, chosen by the students in consultation with the professor) to see what outcomes these frameworks achieve in contemporary contexts. Throughout the course considers the interaction of Islamic law with secular perspectives, to see how each responds to difference, dialogue and faith in social ordering. Students will be expected to produce a significant research paper and actively participate in seminar discussions.