Academic Programs 

Islamic Law  (ET-640)  
Winter/Spring 2004

This course is an introduction to the history and practice of Islamic law.  During the first part of this course, the sources of Islamic law, the formation of Islamic jurisprudence, and the history of Islamic law in society will be examined.  In the second part of the course, contemporary issues and developments in Islamic law will be explored.   (Formerly IS-640)  Ingrid Mattson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 

Ingrid Mattson
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations


Contact Information:
(860) 509-9531


Course Syllabus
Class web site

This course will provide a critical overview of the history and practice of Islamic law.  This is a vast field to which this course is a modest introduction. The two texts I have selected for the course should serve together as a good introduction to the main themes of Islamic jurisprudence.  Students need to purchase these two books; the other readings are available electronically to all registered students.

This is an on-line course that does not require the group to be “present” in the electronic classroom at the same time.  Weekly assignments must be completed by 5pm every Sunday night (specific dates to be given with detailed reading list at beginning of class).  Once you have registered for the course, you will receive more instruction about the technical aspects of participating.  Participation in class—by reading the assigments, by responding to the instructor’s questions and by engaging in class “discussion”—is crucial to learning.

Each student is required to submit one 500 word book report during the latter half of the semester.  Starting from Week Eight, I have listed a number of books each week that may be selected for the book report.  I urge you to seek my permission to review the book you have selected as soon as possible, as only one student will be permitted to review any one book.  Written book reports must be presented to the class on the weeks they are listed.

Each student is required to compile his or her own glossary of Islamic legal terms, important personalities and significant dates.  This glossary must be submitted during the last week of class. 

Final papers must be submitted within four weeks of  completion of the course.  Papers should be approximately 20 pages (no big margins, large fonts or triple spacing to fill the paper).  For the structure and style  of the paper, consult the “Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper.” 

Paper topics must be approved in advance by the instructor.  The student is expected to use not only monographs, but a number of academic articles and/or chapters as sources for the paper.  Students must inform themselves about the definition of plagarism and the sanction that will be applied to those who plagarize, including by copying text from internet sites. 

Here are some possible paper topics:

1.  Focus on the development of Islamic Law in a specific country during a particular period (eg, Pakistan during the British occupation, contemporary Malaysia, post-colonial Nigeria or Algeria, pre-modern Yemen etc.).

2.  Focus on a particular topic in  ritual law and the differences of opinion among schools regarding that subject (e.g., the ritual slaughter of animals).

3.  Research a topic in the history of Islamic legal education.  For example, the role Al-Azhar University in Egypt and what is its relationship to Egyptian law schools.

4.  Choose a particular area of law, for example, the law of torts, and make a comparative study between Islamic law and another legal system (e.g., Common Law).

5.  Focus on a prominent historical or contemporary Islamic legal scholar,  presenting his or her theories their impact on society.


The final grade will be calculated as follows

1) Participation                                     40%
2) Book Report                                     15%
3) Glossary                                          10%
4) Final research Paper                         35%

*Note:  D. Min. students need to contact the instructor for their assignments.


Required Texts: 

Muhammad Abu Zahra, The Four Imams, translated by Aisha Bewley (London:  Dar al-Taqwa, 2001).

Bernard Weiss, The Spirit of Islamic Law, (Athens and London:  The University of Georgia Press, 1998).


It is probably most efficient for you to order these books on-line.  The Abu Zahra books is carried by  The Weiss book is widely available, including directly from the publisher at  If you have trouble getting the books, contact Margaret Lezak at Hartford Seminary Bookstore:


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