Academic Programs 

Introduction to Islamic Law (ET-640) 
Winter/Spring 2008

This course will provide a critical overview of the history and practice of Islamic law. We begin by examining the origins of Islamic law, the development of the classical schools of jurisprudence and the nature of pre-modern legal institutions, especially the courts and madrasa education. In following classes, we will explore the substance of classical Islamic law, especially in the areas of family, finance and international relations. Next, we will discuss the impact of colonialism and modernity on Islamic legal discourses and institutions and finish with a discussion of the way in which Islamic law is observed in contemporary America.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:*

*Note: This course is scheduled to begin Monday, February 6th . Registered students will receive an email from Dr. Scott Thumma by January 29th with instructions on how to access the private web site.

Ingrid Mattson
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9531



Course Syllabus

Course Web Site

This is a vast field to which this course is a modest introduction. The four 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 four books (just think of all the gas money you are saving not having to drive to the Seminary!); 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. You will be graded for the quantity and quality of your responses to the class readings and to each others comments.

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:

  • Focus on the development of Islamic Law in a specific country during a particular period (eg, India under British occupation, contemporary Malaysia, post-colonial Nigeria or Algeria, pre-modern Yemen etc.).
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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%
3) Final research Paper 35%

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

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).

Muneer Goolam Fareed, Legal Reform in the Muslim World: the Anatomy of a Scholarly Dispute in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries on the Usage of Ijtihad as a Legal Tool (San Francisco: Austin and Winfield, 1996). [This book might be difficult to obtain; if that is the case, we will put the selections on-line].

Khaled Abou El Fadl, Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women (Oxford: Oneworld, 2001).

It is probably most efficient for you to order these books on-line. I recommend that you check out or other on-line book sellers like for good used copies of books.


Week One: Introduction to the Study of Law

H.L.A. Hart, “Law as the Union of Primary and Secondary Rules,” selection in Readings in Philosophy of Law, eds. John Arthur and William H. Shaw (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1984): 30-51.

Lon L. Fuller, “The Morality that Makes Law Possible,” ,” selection in Readings in Philosophy of Law, eds. John Arthur and William H. Shaw (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1984): 52-57.

Weiss, Chapter 1.

Week Two: The Foundations of Islamic Law I

Wael Hallaq, “The pre-Islamic Near East, Muhammad and Quranic Law,” cpt. 1 of The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 8-28.

Weiss, Chapters 2 and 3.

Sample primary texts:

Qur’an 2: 261-286; 24: 1-34 (class will find on internet if they do not have a book)

Hadith texts: “Book of Bequests,” from Sahih Muslim rendered into English by ‘Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Arabia, n.d.); vol. 3, 863-870.

Week Three: Foundations of Islamic Law II

Weiss, Chapters 4 and 5

Sam Feldman, “Reason and Analogy: a Comparison of Early Islamic and Jewish Legal Institutions,” UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 2/1 (Fall/Winter 2002-2003): 129-153.

Sample primary texts:

Malik ibn Anas, al-Muwatta, trans. Aisha Abdarahman and Yaqub Johnson (Norwich, U.K.: Diwan Press, 1982.), pp. 337-359.

Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi`I, Al-Risala fi usul al-fiqh, translated by Majid Khadduri, 2 nd ed (Cambridge: the Islamic Texts Society, 1997), pp. 239-273.

Week Four: Development of the Classical Schools

Abu Zahra: Each student is assigned one “book”—ie, a section about one of the four scholars and each student must read the introduction to each of the other three books. This assignment will be made by the instructor to ensure that a roughly equal number of students are reading each book.

Week Five: Taqlid and Ijtihad in the Classical Period

Weiss, Chapter 6

Wael B. Hallaq, “The Rise and Augmentation of School Authority,” Cpt. 3 of Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2001): 57-85.

Sample primary text:

Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn Rushd, The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer: a translation of Bidayat al-Mujtahid by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee (Reading, UK: Garnet Publishing, 1994), v. 1, pp. 529-547.

Week Six: Legal Institutions and Legal Education

Emile Tyan, “Judicial Organization,” in Origin and Development of Islamic Law, v. 1 or Law in the Middle East, eds. M. Khadduri and H. Liebesny (Washington, DC, 1955): 236-278.

Mohamad Hashim Kamali, “Siyasah Shar`iyah or the Policies of Islamic Government,” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 6,1 (1989): 59-80.

George Makdisi, “Magisterium and Academic Freedom in Classical Islam and Medieval Christianity.” Cpt. in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, ed. Nicholas Heer (Seattle and Washington: University of Washington Press, 1990): 117-133.

George Makdisi, “Muslim Institutions of Learning in Eleventh-Century Baghdad,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 24 (1961): 1-56.

Sample primary text:

Abu Bakr Ahmed al-Shaybani al-Khassaf (d. 261/875), Adab al-Qadi: Islamic Legal and Judicial System, trans. by Munir Ahmad Mughal (Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications, 1999): 24-44; 189-211.

Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, “Public Order (hisbah),” cpt. 20 of Yate’s translation of al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (pp. 337-362).

Week Seven: Classical Islamic Law I

Weiss, Chapter 7

Ingrid Mattson, “Women, Gender and Family Law: Early Period 7 th-Late 18 th Centuries, Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

Abdal-Rehim Abdal-Rahman Abdal-Rahim, “The Family and Gender Laws in Egypt during the Ottoman period,” in Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, ed. Amira El Azhary Sonbol (Syracuse University Press, 1996): 96-111.

Mohammad Fadel, “Two Women, One Man: Knowledge, Power, and Gender in Medieval Sunni Legal Thought,” IJMES v. 29, no. 2 (May, 1997): 185-204.

Week Eight: Classical Islamic Law II

Weiss, Chapter 8

Amnon Cohen, “Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting Theory and Practice: The Jewish Community in Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Islamic Law and Society 3,1 (1996): 75-90.

Rossitsa Gradeva, “Orthodox Christians in the Kadi Courts: The Practice of the Sofia Sheriat Court, Seventeenth Century,” Islamic Law and Society 4,1 (1997): 37-69.

Arabi, Oussama, “The Interdiction of the Spendthrift (al-Safīh): a human rights debate in classical fiqh,Islamic Law and Society 7, 3 (2000): 300-324.

Hassan, Hussein. “Contracts in Islamic Law: the Principles of Commutative Justice and Liberality,” Journal of Islamic Studies 13:3 (2002): 257-297.

Sample primary text:

Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik translated as Reliance of the Traveller by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Evanston: Sunna Books):244-261.

Books for review:

Devin Stewart, Islamic Legal Orthodoxy: Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System (University of Utah Press, 1998).

Kevin A. Reinhart, Before Revelation: the Boundaries of Muslim Moral Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Baber Johansen, Contingency in Sacred Law: Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh (Leiden: Brill, 1998).

Baber Johansen, The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent: the peasants’ loss of property rights as interpreted in the Hanafite literature of the Mamluk and Ottoman Period (London and New York: Methuen, 1988).

Chibli Mallat, Islam and Public Law: Classical and Contemporary Studies ( Kluwer Law International, 1993).

Jacob Neusner and Tamara Sonn, Comparing Religions Through Law: Judaism and Islam (Routledge, 1999).

Judith Romney Wegner, Chattel or Person?: The Status of Women in the Mishnah (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Week Nine: Continuity and Change in Classical Islamic Jurisprudence

Ingrid Mattson, “Status-Based Definitions of Need in Early Islamic Zakat and Maintenance Laws,” in Concepts of Poverty and Charity in Islamic Societies, eds. Michael Bonner, Mine Ener and Amy Singer (SUNY Press, 2003): 31-51.

Khaled Abou El Fadl, “Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities: The Juristic Discourse on Muslim Minorities from the Second/Eighth to the Eleventh/Seventeenth Centuries,” Islamic Law and Society 1,2 (August 1994):141-187.

Irene Schneider, “Imprisonment in Pre-Classical and Classical Islamic Law,” Islamic Law and Society 2/2 (1995): 157-173.

Haim Gerber, “Rigidity versus Openness in Late Classical Islamic Law: the Case of the Seventeenth-Century Palestinian Mufti Khayr al-Din al-Ramli,” Islamic Law and Society 5,2 (1998): 165-195.

Books for review:

Haim Gerber, State, Society, and Law in Islam: Ottoman Law in Comparative Perspective (Albany: State University of New York, 1994).

Judith E. Tucker, In the House of the Law: Gender and Islamic Law in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

The Most Learned of the Shi`a: the institution of the Marja` Taqlid. ed. Linda S. Walbridge. Oxford, 2001.

Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Ed. Amira El Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse University Press, 1996.

Week Ten: Pre-Modern Reform, Colonialism and Modernity

Natana J. Delong-Bas, Wahhabi Islam: from revival and reform to global jihad (Oxford University Press, 2004), 93-191.

Muneer Goolam Fareed, Legal Reform in the Muslim World: the Anatomy of a Scholarly Dispute in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries on the Usage of Ijtihad as a Legal Tool (San Francisco: Austin and Winfield, 1996): 1-17; 51-104.

Study the following maps: “European Imperialism in the Muslim World c. 1920,” and “The Achievement of Independence in the Muslim World,” from The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World, ed. Francis Robinson (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 102, 114-115.

Sample primary text:

Muhammad Sa`id -`Ashmawi, “Shari`a: The Codification of Islamic Law,” in Liberal Islam: a sourcebook, ed. Charles Kurzman (Oxford University Press, 1998): 49-56.

Books for review:

Robert H. Eisenman, Islamic Law in Palestine and Israel: a History of the Survival of Tanzimat and Shari’a in the British Mandate and Jewish State. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978.

Kozlowski, Gregory C. Muslim Endowments and Society in British India (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Michael Dumper, Islam and Israel: Muslim Religious Endowments and the Jewish State. Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1994.

Layish, Aharon. Divorce in the Libyan Family: a study based on the sijils of the Shari`ah courts of Ajdabiyya and Kufra (New York University Press, 1991).{years?}

Allan Christelow, Muslim Law Courts and the French Colonial State in Algeria (Princeton University Press, 1985).

Week Eleven: Struggle for Authority

Aharon Laylish, “The Contribution of the Modernists to the Secularization of Islamic Law,” Middle Eastern Studies, 14 (1978): 263-277. (Reprinted in Islamic Law and Legal Theory, ed. Ian Edge).

Khaled Abou El Fadl, Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women (Oxford: Oneworld, 2001): 9-85; 170-208.

David Glenn, “Who Owns Islamic Law,” The Chronicle of Higher Education Volume 51, (Feb. 25, 2005); Issue 25 (pp?).

Books for review:

Frank Vogel, Islamic Law and Legal System: Studies of Saudi Arabia (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

Frank Vogel and Samuel L. Hayes, III. Islamic Law and Finance: Religion, Risk, and Return (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998).

Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas, e d. by Muhammad Khalid Masud, Brinkley Messick and David S. Powers (Harvard University Presss, 1996).

Susan F. Hirsch, Pronouncing and Persevering: gender and the discourses of disputing in an African Islamic Court ( University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Farhad Malekian, The Concept of Islamic International Criminal Law: a comparative study (Graham and Trotman, 1994).

Sami Zubaida, Law and Power in the Islamic World (I.B. Taurus, 2003).

Week Twelve: New Paradigms; New Perspectives

Mohammed Hashim Kamali, Issues in the Legal Theory of Usul and Prospects for Reform (Kuala Lumpur: International Islamic University Malaysia: 2002).

Mohammad Hashim Kamali, “Equality (Musawat),” chapter 2 of Freedom, Justice and Equality in Islam (Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2002), 47-102.

Mohammed Hashim Kamali, “Punishment in Islamic Law: a critique of the Hudud Bill of Kelantan, Malaysia,” accessed on web-site (

Books for review:

Distributive Justice and Need Fulfilment in an Islamic Economy, e d. Munawar Iqbal (Leicester, U.K.: The Islamic Foundation, 1988).

Nabil A. Saleh, Unlawful Gain and Legitimate Profit in Islamic Law: Riba, Gharar and islamic Banking (Graham and Trotman, 1992).

Muhammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, Partnership and Profit-Sharing in Islamic Law (London: The Islamic Foundation, 1985).

Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1997).

Religion, Law and Society: A Christian-Muslim Discussion (e d. Tarek Mitri. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1995).

Abdullah Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (Ashgate Press, 2003).

Louay Safi, Peace and the limits of war: transcending classical conception of jihad (Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2001).

Week Thirteen: Muslims in North America

Asifa Qurayshi and Najeeba Syeed-Miller, “No Altars: a survey of Islamic Family Law in the United States,” ( )

Mohammad Fadel, “Reinterpreting the Guardian’s Role in the Islamic Contract of Marriage: the Case of the Maliki School,” Journal of Islamic Law 3/1 (1998): 1-26.

Faisal and Ahmed Kutty, “Shari´ah courts in Canada: Myth and Reality,” published on Iviews web site March 2004:

Ingrid Mattson, “How Muslims use Islamic paradigms to define America,” in Becoming American: Immigration and Religious Life in the United States,” eds. John Esposito, Yvonne Haddad and Jane I. Smith (Altimira Press, 2003).

Taha Jabir Al Alwani, Fatwa on “The Participation of Muslims in the American Political Process.” (published on the web in the year 2000).

Books for review:

Mohammed Hashim Kamali, Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Futures and Options ( Islamic Texts Society, 2000).

Islam and European Legal Systems, eds. Silvio Ferrari and Anthony Bradney (Ashgate Press, 2000).

Islamic Political Ethics: civil society, pluralism and conflict, ed. Sohail H. Hashmi (Princeton University Press, 2002).

Parviz Owsia, Formation of Contract: a comparative study under English, French, Islamic and Iranian Law (Graham and Trotman, 1994).

Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500