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Islamic Law, Society, and the State

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Islamic law occupies a relatively minor place in the legal systems of most Muslim-majority countries, with jurisdiction often limited to matters of family law. In a smaller number of countries, its reach includes criminal and constitutional matters as well. Yet whatever its formal scope, state claims to Islamic law frequently generate controversy and contention. There is a certain irony here: most states that seek to regulate Islamic law do so with the expectation that its role can be carefully stage managed and choreographed. Instead, state leaders more typically find themselves contending with new demands and unexpected forms of claims-making; whether from women’s groups advocating for gender equality grounded in Islam, from conservative groups calling for the adoption of an Islamic criminal code, or from liberals and secularists challenging the state’s claim to Islamic law altogether. When it comes to Islamic law, everyone has an opinion. Many readers will understand these struggles as a politics of tradition versus modernity. But the collection of essays that make up this special issue of Law & Society Review present a different perspective. They demonstrate that contention around Islamic law is, in fact, a quintessentially modern phenomenon. That is to say, the present-day politics of Islamic law are both unique to the contemporary era and contingent on modern state institutions for their expression and distinctive salience. This special issue focuses on what state regulation of Islamic law gives rise to—the new forms of politics it creates, the governing strategies it enables, the modes of resistance it makes possible, and the types of legal or religious consciousness it generates.
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Tamir Moustafa and Jeffrey Sachs, “Islamic Law, Society, and the State” Law & Society Review, vol. 52 (2018) 560-573. DOI: 10.1111/lasr.12360
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Law & Society Review
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Islamic Law, Society, and the State
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