Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law

 

This project ended with the final workshop in December 2009 at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  The network will, it is hoped, be continued in some form, and funding enquiries are ongoing.  In the meantime, we keep these pages online for those interested in the work of the project.

 

  • For the programme of the first workshop, which took place on 19th-20th June 2008 at the University of Exeter, click here.
  •  The workshop was entitled "Interpretation and Application of Islamic Law" and concentrated on the Hanafi and Shafi'i schools. For a report on the first workshop click here.
  • For the programme of the second workshop, which took place on 14th-15th November at the University of Exeter, click here. The second workshop was entitled "Traditionalism and Modernism in Islamic Law", with a particular focus on the Maliki and Hanbali Schools. You can view a report on the workshop here.
  • For the programme for the third workshop, which took place on 4th-5th June 2009 at the University of Exeter, click here. This workshop was entitled "Diversity and Change in Islamic Law: Developments in Shi'ite Jurisprudence"
  • The Network has links with the International Society of Islamic Legal Studies, whose conference entitled "Islamic law and Custom" it hosted at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, 12th-15th July 2009. For details, click here.
  • The fourth workshop, entitled "Islamic Law in Minority Contexts: Perspectives on the marginal and the mainstream in Islamic Jurisprudence" took place at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London on 17th and 18th December 2009. A programme for this workshop is available, here.

 

Project summary:

The term Islamic Law covers both the law as it is (and has been) practised in Muslim countries and communities, as well as the ideal system of rules and regulations which Muslims have thought should be practised. This proposed network aims to bring together UK-based scholars and legal practitioners working with these different conceptions of Islamic Law - both in their historical manifestations, but also in the contemporary period. Academic scholars and practitioners of Islamic Law rarely have the opportunity to share research, exchange ideas and explore possible collaborative research. This network aims to bring these scholars and practitioners together for four network sessions. Each session will consist of research papers, reflections on legal practice and opportunities for discussion concerning future activity. The academic theme of each session will concentrate on the experience of a particular "school" of Islamic Law. In the premodern period, most legal activity (be it teaching, writing or judging) in the Muslim world involved adherence to a particular tradition of legal interpretation (summed up in the Arabic term madhhab). The different madhhabs had divergent opinions on fundamental legal questions. These differences were due to differences in interpretation of the sources, as well as the personal views of the madhhabs' founders (whose opinions were always viewed as central to a madhhab's distinct character). There are four Sunni schools of Islamic law (Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafii, all named after their founders), but there are also Shiite schools (the two most vibrant being the Zaydi and Twelver) and the Ibadi school.  There have also existed schools in the past which periodically have enjoyed resurgences in popularity. In the modern period, the madhhabs appear to have lost some of their intellectual power, as legislators and judges attempted to modernise the law in Muslim countries under the influence of Western European models.  However, the decline of the madhhab has not been uniform.  In some parts of the world, both in Muslim majority and minority contexts, the madhhab has retained its importance, or morphed to take on the challenges of a rapidly modernising society.  The various madhhabs, dominant as they are in different parts of the Muslim world, are convenient themes with which to bring together legal scholars from different academic disciplines, as well as practitioners (such as lawyers, rights activists, legislators) to share their research and experiences. Each of the four network sessions will examine two schools over a two day period, with scholars examining the madhhab's formation, history and contemporary experience.

 

Once assembled, the participants in the network will explore potential collaborative research, and the possibility of developing a subject association for UK-based researchers on Islamic law. There already exists the International Society for Islamic Legal Studies, but it has few members in the UK and very limited resources. There is also the Association of Muslim Lawyers (UK), which primarily serves the Muslim community.  Both organisations will hopefully participate in the network sessions, and contribute to the design of any future British learned society (tentatively named the British Association for the Study of Islamic law, or BASIL), which could offer a distinctly British and cross-confessional perspective on the history and future development of Islamic law.

 

The network sessions will take place at the University of Exeter between 2007 and 2009, bringing in participants from across the UK HE sector as well the legal profession. In addition, international experts, including academics and practitioners from the Muslim world will contribute to the discussions. Of the greatest importance is the inclusion of emerging researchers and practitioners, and hence doctoral and postdoctoral researchers will be recruited to both present their research and participate in the discussions.

 

Anyone wishing further information about the Network should contact Robert Gleave (r.gleave@exeter.ac.uk).