The study of Islamic law can be a forbidding prospect for those entering the field for the first time. Wael Hallaq, a leading scholar and practitioner of Islamic law, guides students through the intricacies of the subject in this absorbing introduction. The first half of the book is devoted to a discussion of Islamic law in its pre-modern natural habitat. The second part explains how the law was transformed and ultimately dismantled during the colonial period. In the final chapters, the author charts recent developments and the struggles of the Islamists to negotiate changes which have seen the law emerge as a primarily textual entity focused on fixed punishments and ritual requirements. The book, which includes a chronology, a glossary of key terms, and lists of further reading, will be the first stop for those who wish to understand the fundamentals of Islamic law, its practices and history.
In recent years, Islamic law, or Shari'a, has been appropriated as a tool of modernity in the Muslim world and in the West and has become highly politicised in consequence. Wael Hallaq's magisterial overview of Shari'a sets the record straight by examining the doctrines and practices of Islamic law within the context of its history, and by showing how it functioned within pre-modern Islamic societies as a moral imperative. In so doing, Hallaq takes the reader on an epic journey tracing the history of Islamic law from its beginnings in seventh-century Arabia, through its development and transformation under the Ottomans, and across lands as diverse as India, Africa and South-East Asia, to the present. In a remarkably fluent narrative, the author unravels the complexities of his subject to reveal a love and deep knowledge of the law which will inform, engage and challenge the reader.
The fourteen studies included in this volume have been chosen to serve several purposes simultaneously. At a basic level, they aim to provide a general - if not wholly systematic - coverage of the emergence and evolution of law during the first three and a half centuries of Islam. On another level, they reflect the different and, at times, widely divergent scholarly approaches to this subject matter. These two levels combined will offer a useful account of the rise of Islamic law not only for students in this field but also for Islamicists who are not specialists in matters of law, comparative legal historians, and others. At the same time, however, and as the Introduction to the work argues, this collection of distinguished contributions illustrates both the achievements and the shortcomings of paradigmatic scholarship on the formative period of Islamic law.