Islamic Law


sharia, the religious law of Islam. As Islam makes no distinction between religion and life, Islamic law covers not only ritual but many aspects of life. The actual codification of canonic law is the result of the concurrent evolution of jurisprudence proper and the so-called science of the roots of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). A general agreement was reached, in the course of the formalization of Islam, as to the authority of four such roots: the Qur'an in its legislative segments; the example of the Prophet Muhammad as related in the hadith; the consensus of the Muslims (ijma), premised on a saying by Muhammad stipulating "My nation cannot agree on an error" ; and reasoning by analogy (qiyas). Another important principle is ijtihad, the extension of sharia to situations neither covered by precedent nor explicable by analogy to other laws. These roots provide the means for the establishment of prescriptive codes of action and for the evaluation of individual and social behavior. The basic scheme for all actions is a fivefold division into obligatory, meritorious, permissible, reprehensible, and forbidden.

Numerous schools of jurisprudence emerged in the course of Islamic history. Four coexist today within Sunni Islam, with one or more dominant in particular areas—Maliki (N and W Africa), Hanafi (Turkic Asia), Shafii (Egypt, E Africa, SE Asia), and Hanbali (Saudi Arabia; see Ibn Hanbal, Ahmad). While these schools of jurisprudence vary on certain rituals and practices, they are often perceived as complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Twelve-Imam Shiite jurisprudence is often referred to as Jafari. Islamic law is an important legal influence, to a greater or lesser degree, in nearly all nations with a Muslim majority population; the primary exception is Turkey, which has been a secular state since Atatürk.

See study by S. Kadri (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Islamic Law: Selected full-text books and articles

Law in the Middle East
Majid Khadduri; Herbert J. Lienbesny.
Middle East Institute, vol.1, 1955
Librarian’s tip: This volume is on the origin and development of Islamic law
The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East
Timur Kuran.
Princeton University Press, 2011
The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State
Noah Feldman.
Princeton University Press, 2008
Studies in Islamic Legal Theory
Bernard G. Weiss.
Brill, 2002
Women in Muslim Family Law
John L. Esposito.
Syracuse University Press, 1982
Islamic Law and Culture, 1600-1840
Haim Gerber.
Brill, 1999
Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law
Wael B. Hallaq.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook
Charles Kurzman.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Shari'a: The Codification of Islamic Law" and Chap. 24 "Shari'a and Basic Human Rights Concerns"
The Unfamiliar Abode: Islamic Law in the United States and Britain
Kathleen M. Moore.
Oxford University Press, 2010
Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam
Jacob Neusner; Tamara Sonn.
Routledge, 1999
Islam in the World
Malise Ruthven.
Oxford University Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Law and Disorder"
Islamic Law and the Making and Remaking of the Iraqi Legal System
Stilt, Kristen A.
The George Washington International Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 4, January 1, 2004
Islamic Law and Its Use in Muslim Politics
Khan, Muqtedar.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Vol. XX, No. 3, April 3, 2001
Implementing Islamic Law within a Modern Constitutional Framework: Challenges and Problems in Contemporary Malaysia
Hamid, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul.
Islamic Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2, Summer 2009
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