Call for Papers: Journal of Islamic Law Special Issue

The Journal of Islamic Law invites papers that explore encounters between Islamic law and other legal traditions from the 18th through mid-20th centuries. Scholarship on encounters mostly focuses on colonial history, presenting a defeating view of shari’a, seen as having “died” against the intruding forces of colonialism. Indeed, European colonialism greatly affected the operation of Islamic law. Colonial officials, targeting the ulema and the courts, transformed the foundational practices and institutions on which the Islamic legal tradition rested. Yet, it is worth revisiting how Islamic law operated given its flexible nature and the agency of its actors. For example—with some exceptions—we know little about processes of negotiation, dependence, borrowing, jurisdictional jockeying, forum shopping, and entanglements between Islamic legal practices and those of other legal systems. Furthermore, a scholarly understanding of encounters between Islamic law and other legal traditions would greatly benefit from explorations of other regional and temporal spaces—and not just European colonialism—where legal encounters unfolded. This special issue is interested in hosting works on such legal encounters broadly from the 18th to the mid-20th century. Thematically, it seeks to present scholarship that looks at metamorphosis, borrowing, and dialogue between Islamic law or shari’a and other legal traditions in the context of foreign/external influences, colonial powers, and imperial interactions.

We seek articles of up to 25,000 words. To signal interest, please submit a proposed title and abstract of 250-500 words by November 18, 2022, using our online submissions portal. Once accepted, soon thereafter, the deadline for the submission of full drafts is February 1, 2023, after which we will go through a process of peer review, a final decision on acceptance, and editing and publication. This special issue of the Journal of Islamic Law is edited by Dilyara Agisheva ([email protected]), Research Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program in Islamic Law, and will be published in Spring/Summer 2023. For further questions, please contact us at [email protected]

New Book! Text and Interpretation by Hossein Modarressi

We are excited to announce the publication of the latest book in our Harvard Series in Islamic Law, Hossein Modarressi’s Text and Interpretation: Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq and His Legacy in Islamic Law! This book examines the main characteristics of the legal thought of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, a preeminent religious scholar jurist of Medina in the first half of the second century of the Muslim calendar (mid-eighth century CE). Numerous works in different languages have appeared over the past half century to introduce this school of Islamic law and its history, legal theory, and substance in contexts of Shīʿī law.

While previous literature has focused on the current status of the school in its developed and expanded form, this book presents an intellectual history of how the school began. The Jaʿfarī school emerged within the general legal discourse of the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods, but was known to differ in certain approaches from the other main legal schools of this time. Namely, the Jaʿfarī school expanded the tools for legal interpretation generally and contracts specifically, to a degree unmatched by any of its counterparts in the Muslim legal tradition. In addition to sketching the origins of the school, the book examines Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq’s interpretive approach through detailing his position on a number of specific questions, as well as the legal canons, presumptions, and other interpretive tools he adopted.

Check it out today and stay tuned for more!

Journal of Islamic Law Volume 3: Special Issue

We are pleased to announce the publication of the third volume of the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Islamic Law, a special issue on racial justice and equality.

We invite you to digitally explore the third issue which started with one question: how do Islamic legal traditions, whether in theory or in practice, inform contemporary debates on racial justice and equality, particularly with the notable rise of mass incarceration? Exploring this question appeared to us critical in several respects. First, race continues to be a major fault line in today’s world—W. E. B. Dubois’s color line persists. Race also continues to affect the way Black people and other people of color—including many Muslims—are treated on a day-to-day basis. Second, the Black Lives Matter moment brought realist approaches to law out of law reviews and into the mainstream conversation through its focus on structural inequalities, mass incarceration, and the policing of communities of color and immigrants in the United States. No matter what law said it did, one had to look at what it actually did to affect (different segments of) society. Third, Muslims, be it in the United States or in the Global South, were not simply subjects or victims of the law or of its systems. We recognized that they are actors shaping the course of the developments in law and society that touch on racial equality, criminal justice, and equality; and they sometimes draw on Islamic traditions in doing so. We sought to examine how.

This special issue includes an introduction by this Special Issue’s Editor and current PIL Research Fellow, Hedayat Heikal (Harvard Law School), and essays by Adnan A. Zulfiqar (Rutgers Law School), SpearIt (University of Pittsburgh School of Law), Seyed Masoud Noori (NYU School of Law), and Zahra Azhar (Shahid Beheshti University), that examine some of these Islamic legal “traditions of action” and how they bear on questions of racial justice and equality today. Read these essays today!

New Book – Leaving Iberia by Jocelyn Hendrickson

We are excited to announce the publication of the latest book in our Harvard Series in Islamic Law, Jocelyn Hendrickson‘s Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and Christian Conquest in North West Africa! This book examines Islamic legal responses to Muslims living under Christian rule in medieval and early modern Iberia and North Africa. The fall of al-Andalus, or reconquista, has long been considered a turning point, when the first substantial Muslim populations fell under permanent Christian rule. Yet a near-exclusive focus on conquered Iberian Muslims has led scholars to overlook a substantial body of legal opinions issued in response to Portuguese and Spanish occupation in Morocco itself, beginning in the early fifteenth century. Check out the book today!

Collaboration with the Library of Congress

We are delighted to share with you that the Library of Congress and the Program in Islamic Law have initiated a collaborative effort to “identify, select and assess the copyright status of materials focusing on national legal gazettes.”

Initially set for three years, the collaboration will focus on the legal analysis of Library of Congress’ collections related to Islamic law.  As part of the joint effort, following copyright clearance, the Library of Congress will make the selected materials accessible for online use, with the Program in Islamic Law being able to repost the same content, rendering them accessible to the Harvard community and beyond.

The Program in Islamic Law is also working on developing an AI-powered search tool, “SEARCHstrata,” to assist researchers in generating more effective search results that will include bibliographic metadata (e.g. peoples, titles, places) related to users’ searches.  The Law Library at the Library of Congress has agreed to serve in an advisory capacity to help develop this search tool.

Commenting on the joint collaboration, PIL Faculty Director, Professor Intisar Rabb stated: “This collaborative effort with the Library of Congress will expand access to and insights from the extensive and growing collection of primary sources at the Library, which provide the essential grist for the transformative work of any researcher, historian, and lawyer.”

Journal of Islamic Law Volume 2

The Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce the publication of the second volume of the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Islamic Law.

We invite you to digitally explore the second issue which includes a look at developments at the intersections of law and data science, internationally engaging with scholars across the field of Islamic law, and a forum featuring selections from our Islamic Law Blog’s Roundtable on Islamic Law & Legal History.

This volume features:

  • long-form articles
  • case briefs
  • student notes
  • new developments in digital Islamic law scholarship
  • and much more!

Journal of Islamic Law Open for Submission

The Journal of Islamic Law is still accepting Spring 2021 volume submissions for the following:

Scholarship Reviews
Book reviews of books or articles published within the last two years 2019-2021) will be accepted. Book review submissions should have fewer than 1,500 words, including footnotes.

Digital Humanities / Data Science Essays or Reviews [New!]
Digital humanities / data science essays examine research questions in Islamic law or legal history using data science or digital humanities methods. Essays must not exceed 10,000 words, including footnotes. 
Digital humanities / data science reviews critically assess new data science and digital humanities tools, including databases and relevant AI tools that operate at the intersection of data science methods and Islamic law and history. Submissions should not exceed 1,500 words.

Deadline: January 22, 2021

Visit the Journal of Islamic Law submissions website. 

Please note that volume submissions for general articles and essays are no longer being accepted.

Our New Journal

The Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce the launch of the new open-access peer-reviewed Journal of Islamic Law. We invite you to digitally explore the first issue at with features including a look at developments at the intersections of law and data science, internationally engaging with scholars across the field of Islamic law, and a special symposium on Brunei’s new Islamic criminal code.

We encourage you to join the Program’s various lists for new scholarly pieces and announcements of exciting new initiatives.

Remaining Events in 2019–2020 Academic Year Are Cancelled

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All Program in Islamic Law events for the remainder of the 2019–2020 academic year have been cancelled. Please refer to the Program in Islamic Law’s COVID-19 Updates page for further details.

Message from the Director

The Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce that Mona Rahmani has joined the Program as our new Associate Director. Mona comes to Harvard with deep experience and vast background in data-driven research, international relations, and higher education administration. She brings these skills to the growing community of Islamic law scholars, students, and data scientists working with the Program in its mission to advance research and provide resources in the study of Islamic law, by combining Islam with data science. We are particularly excited about the unique skills that she brings to guide a range of exciting new projects. Mona will be critical to shaping new projects that both preserve the best of the traditional ways of sharing knowledge, such as our fellowship programs and public events, and promise to change the way we think about building and sharing new types of knowledge with innovative methods in digitization and data science.

The imperative to rethink research and resources for Islamic law and history, among other fields, could be no more important today—with the advent of data science tools that can be mapped onto and present new possibilities for these fields. Given the unprecedented changes that COVID-19 has wrought among people and in educational and other institutions worldwide, the imperative to approach this field of study with renewed focus on the global community is clear. To that end, we are excited to launch new work on initiatives that will enable remote library browsing (StackLife 2.0) and enable researchers and students to collaborate remotely on map and explore historical cases and interpretive tools (Courts & Canons)—with more details to come in the coming weeks and months. Mona is fantastically well suited to steer our work in this new era, and bring these projects, and others, to the next phase. She comes most recently from the data strategy group at Dow Jones, where she specialized in sanctions research, Western Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. She previously served as a Senior Research Specialist at Princeton University’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, where she directed the Center’s inaugural years of academic programs and projects.

We are pleased to announce new members of the community and continuing initiatives joining Mona during these times: Sohaib Baig of UCLA will come to Harvard as our incoming 2020-2021 Research Fellow; and several scholars of Islamic law globally are newly slated to join the cohort of global editors and Harvard students actively working on research in the field. We thank Jenna Cowie for her work in providing program assistance, and welcome Henry Shull as the new Program Assistant. Our work goes on, even with the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Zoom has become a friend to remote collaboration and education; we’re working with a global community of scholars to expand the resources available on the SHARIAsource Portal, and we’ll keep you updated on our own continuing programming and online resources for Islamic law and history research at our dedicated PIL/Covid-19 updates website (including online guides for remote research in Islamic law, Middle East and Islamic Studies, and Arabic monographs).

We are grateful and hopeful. We are grateful to be able to carry on the research and other exciting work that we do with the addition of and warm welcome to an expanding community with which to do it. We are hopeful that we and the world will keep an eye on and help address the most vulnerable who lack good health, a safe haven, and secure work or access to resources. We look forward to working with all scholars and fellows, staff and students in both veins. With best wishes that all keep healthy and safe and mindful during these times.

~Intisar Rabb, Faculty Director