Islamic Law in Theory and Practice: Studies on Jurisprudence in Honor of Bernard Weiss

May 18

This book contains a series of studies that emerged from a conference held in the fall of 2008 to honor the career of Bernard Weiss, a pioneering scholar of Islamic jurisprudential theory in the United States.  His most famous book is “The Search for God’s Law,” a magnificent study of the medieval Islamic theological-jurisprudential tradition through the works of the 13th century Ash’ari theologian and jurisprudent, Sayf al-Din al-Amidi. Happily, the book is now out.  Many thanks to Kevin Reinhart and Robert Gleave for their hard work in putting together this book.  Here is a link to my chapter, “Istafti qalbaka wa in aftaka al-nas wa aftuka: the Ethical Obligations of the Muqallid Between Autonomy and Trust.”

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Due Process in Islamic Law

Jan 28

Did medieval Muslim, specifically Sunni jurists, have a conception of due process?  While they did not have a term that corresponds to what common law lawyers call “due process,” they elaborated numerous procedural and jurisdictional rules that manifest concern with that constellation of values which is associated with due process and, in the terms of US constitutional law, “ordered liberty.”  I am currently finishing up a translation of an important medieval treatise on the powers of various public officials which touches on many of these issues, Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi’s, al-Ihkam fi Tamyiz al-Fatawa ‘an al-Ahkam wa Tasarrufat al-Qadi wa-l-Imam.  I have pasted below a particularly interesting discussion on the question of when it is permissible for an individual to determine, unilaterally, whether sufficient legal cause exists to exercise some legal right or privilege, and when that legal right or privilege cannot be exercised without a prior judicial determination that exercise of the right in question is legally justified (Question no. 32 from that book).  Any comments or questions would be appreciated.

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German Judge and Legal Orientalism (originally posted March 29, 2007)

Jul 14

I originally posted this on March 29, 2007 on, and it was subsequently re-posted on  Both sites are no longer operational, so I thought I would repost on for those who might find it of interest.

The Friday New York Times reported that a German judge denied a Moroccan woman’s request for an expedited divorce from her Moroccan husband – despite the apparently undisputed evidence that the husband had repeatedly abused her – on the grounds that such conduct is “common” in Morocco and that the “Koran . . . sanctions such physical abuse.”

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“Is Historicism a Viable Strategy for Islamic Law Reform?”

Jun 24

Islamic Law & Society has just published a recent article of mine with the title “Is Historicism a Viable Strategy for Islamic Law Reform? The Case of “Never Shall a People Prosper Who Have Appointed a Woman to Rule Them.” This article is both methodological and substantive, insofar as it proposes both a methodology for reformist arguments within Islamic law, and a substantive critique of other progressive arguments on the specific issue of how to interpret the infamous hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad is reported as having said, “Never shall a people prosper who have appointed a woman to rule them.”

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