In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Shari`a (Islamic Law)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Authority, ʿulama, Ijtihad
  • History of Islamic Law
  • English Translations of Usul Al-Fiqh
  • English Translations of Fiqh (Positive Law)

Islamic Studies Shari`a (Islamic Law)
Andrew March
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0048


Islamic law refers to the idea of a divine law as imagined by God (shariʿa), to Islamic moral epistemology and jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh), to doctrines of positive law as formulated by the Islamic legal schools (fiqh), and in general to the applied legal order of Muslim polities when it makes some claim to religious legitimacy (sulta, siyasa, qanun). Interest in Islamic law, always steady, has grown significantly since the early 1990s. The study of Islamic law in the academy tends to center around the following themes and issues: classical legal theory (usul al-fiqh) as a branch of Islamic religious thought, classical positive law as a source for social history, Islamic law as codified state law in the late Ottoman Empire and post-colonial Muslim countries, and (more recently) Islamic law as Islamic ethics and its evolution in the contemporary world.

General Overviews

The following are some important general overviews of Islamic law as an ideal-theoretical endeavor and some problems of studying Islamic law in practice. The works of Goldziher 1981 and Schacht 1964 represent the first few generations of modern Western (“Orientalist”) scholarship on Islamic law and theology. Their contributions have been built on, and corrected for, by others such as Wael Hallaq.

  • Amanat, Abbas, and Frank Griffel, eds. Shariʿa: Islamic Law in the Contemporary Context. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

    Edited volume by a number of prominent scholars that includes essays examining a range of issues, from modern Muslim discourses on justice, natural law, and the common good, to democracy, the social contract, and “the authority of the preeminent jurist” (Khomeini's vilayet-e-faqih).

  • Bearman, Peri, Wolfhart Heinrichs, and Bernard G. Weiss. The Law Applied: Contextualizing the Islamic Shariʿa. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2008.

    Collection of essays in honor of Frank Vogel on a wide variety of topics broadly connected to the application of Islamic law.

  • Doi, ʿAbdur Rahman I. Shariʿah: the Islamic Law. Kuala Lumpur: A. S. Noordeen, 2002.

    Thematic introduction to both jurisprudence and positive law.

  • Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Shariʿah Law: An Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2008.

    An introduction to a number of aspects of Islamic law, with a recognizable slant towards Kamali's modernist and reformist views. The chapters on legal maxims and the maqasid al-shariʿa are very helpful, although most readers will find the book less useful for the study of Islamic jurisprudence than his Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.

  • Goldziher, Ignaz. Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981 [1910].

    Goldziher's classic lectures on Islamic theology and law from 1910.

  • Schacht, Joseph. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1964.

    This work represented the state of knowledge of Western scholarship on Islamic law, along with his Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. It should now be read alongside more recent works, particularly those by Hallaq.

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