On January 3rd, 2004, the Association of American Law Schools, the American Society of Comparative Law, and the Law and Society Association sponsored a Workshop on Islamic Law. Workshop materials can be viewed on this Web site using the links on the right.


Islamic law and law in Muslim societies have been much in the news of late, bringing home to many of us how ignorant we are of these subjects. Perhaps concerned about this ignorance more than most, law professors often express a desire to know more about the field. Many would also like to know about the American scholars who do relevant work, and about the extent of resources devoted by AALS member schools to relevant teaching and research. To begin to meet these needs, AALS, the American Society of Comparative Law, and the Law and Society Association are sponsoring a one-day Workshop on Saturday, January 3, 2004.

A quarter of the world’s population is Muslim, including an estimated seven million Muslims living in the United States. Whether living in a Muslim polity or not, many Muslims strive to follow Islamic law (shari‘a). While they apply it chiefly in their ritual and family life, for many believers Islamic law has consequences also in more public spheres. They may understand Islamic law as stating rules as to social mores (e.g., preserving the environment, whether women should work), commerce and finance (e.g., interest-free banking, insurance), state laws (e.g., criminal laws, divorce law), constitution (e.g., whether basic shari‘a norms should constrain positive law), politics (e.g., whether Muslim polities can or should be democratic), and international law (e.g., whether human rights law is compatible with shari‘a, the law of war).

The Workshop begins with a plenary address by the renowned Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul University on “The Relevance of Islamic Law.” Next a panel introduces Islamic law, sketching its principles, methods, institutions, forms of authority, and scope of application, both historically and today. The panel will try to portray the immense diversity of Islamic thought and practice geographically and temporally. The morning session ends with a case study of Islamic law in action, demonstrating intriguing commonalities and differences with our own law and procedure.

In the afternoon the Workshop resumes with a panel exploring women’s rights, viewing doctrine from a ground-up, social perspective. The session then breaks out into eight concurrent panels – on property and procedure, family law, criminal law, contract, commercial and finance law, conflict resolution, international law, legal reasoning, Islamic law as applied in Muslim countries and Islamic law in the United States and Europe.

The last event is a panel on “Islamic constitutionalism,” framed as a debate among noted Muslim legal thinkers who are also American law professors: Azizah Y. al-Hibri, The University of Richmond, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, Emory University, and Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Fribourg and Professor of Philosophy at College of Geneva. Noah R. Feldman, New York University, now in Iraq advising U.S. officials on Islamic legal and constitutional views, will moderate the panel.



Quick Links

Workshop Materials

General Bibliography of Islamic Law

Glossary of Islamic Legal Terms

Workshop Schedule


Download all Materials in Printer-Friendly PDF Format (Adobe Acrobat Required)

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