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Justice, Power and Religion in the Islamic World: Shari'a Law Across History (HI33S)

Seminar Times:

Dr Philipp Wirtz
H023, ground floor of the Humanities Building
Group 1: Monday 12noon-2pm, room H454
Group 2: Monday 3pm-5pm, room H347

This 30 CATS undergraduate final-year Advanced Option module examines shari'a law (Islamic law) in several historical contexts including the medieval Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, colonial India, the modern Middle East and modern Britain. The module historicizes shari'a law by tracing the many different ways it has been understood throughout history, and focuses in particular on two themes:

  1. the changing relationship between shari'a law and political power
  2. the different structures of authority that have lain behind shari'a law as it transformed from a scholarly discipline into a tool of government and then into the political program of radical opposition movements

The module engages with the different approaches modern historians have taken to the study of shari'a law, from the Orientalist tradition that focused on the study of classical texts of jurisprudence to the law and society approach that has used court records to study how law was practiced in specific historical contexts.

As well as introducing students to one of the liveliest fields of Islamic history, the module also equips students to understand and engage with some of the key issues in today's world, including political Islam and the rights of minority communities in the west. Students also explore how shari'a law was both a tool of imperial rule and an object of contestation in Muslim and European empires.

This module is available to final-year undergraduate students studying a History or Law degree, both single-honours and joint-honours. All students who wish to be considered for a place must apply through the History Department module nomination and allocation process that takes place during the summer term prior to the start of the module.