Discuss Week 8

Give yourself time to look over ONE of the articles uploaded (you’re welcome to read both but together, they can be rather dense and consuming). The articles can be found in the “files” section of this course, in the “Legal Traditions” folder.

There’s not really such a thing as “Islamic law” in the sense that it gets normally discussed. The tradition does have a concept of shari’a (literally “path”/”way”/”road”) as divinely revealed (and inclusive of lots of stuff that you wouldn’t think of “law,” such as washing your feet before prayer), but shari’a’s not exactly a set of laws. The Qur’an and hadith do not provide much in the way of absolute legal code. Fiqh represents the human effort to understand, interpret, and apply divine command, which has led to multiple schools of thought that disagree with each other on various methodological points. So most of the time that people in popular media talk about “shari’a,” it would be more accurate to say “fiqh.”

Two points might help before you jump into the readings: In Sunni legal tradition, there have been many, many schools of law, but only 4 survived into the modern period: Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanafi, and Hanbali. For a majority of Shi’i Muslims, the main legal school is the Jafari school. 

Anyway, here’s what we’re going to do this week: Choose one of the two articles provided (again, If you want to read both, of course you’re welcome to). Let us know which one you read and try to summarize its content and argument for your colleagues who read the other article. And let’s think about some of these conversation starters:

From your reading, what impression do you have of Muslim legal traditions?

How might the article complicate or challenge popular assumptions about “Islamic law?” 

Did you encounter unfamiliar terms/concepts that obstructed your reading? Did you have to look anything up? Let’s talk about those too and I’ll be happy to fill in the gaps. Please ask a question!