“What Geography and Maps Can Sound Like” DILL with Najam Haider on the Blog

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On July 10, 2020, Professor Najam Haider from Barnard College of Columbia University joined the Digital Islamic Law Lab (DILL) to discuss how textual sources, with the proper computational power, can self-generate maps and geographic designations.

To read more about Najam Haider’s presentation check out our write-up on the Islamic Law Blog!

Islamic Law Blog: Spotlight on Hagia Sophia

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This past month, Turkey’s highest administrative appellate court annulled a 1934 presidential decision by Kemal Ataturk, founding president of Turkey, converting Hagia Sophia (tr. Aya Sofya) into a museum. For this week’s Recent Case Roundup on the Islamic Law Blog, student editor and SJD candidate at Harvard Law School Cem Tecimer, brings together an array of articles and documents pertaining to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent decision, to restore Hagia Sophia’s status as a mosque. Not only does this round up include articles from leading scholars; but features English translations of the recent court decision that annulled the 1934 decision, and of Ataturk’s presidential decree, which initially converted Hagia Sofia into a museum.


Professor Intisar Rabb to Speak on Keynote Panel at 2019 Political Theology Conference

Professor Intisar Rabb will be a featured speaker alongside Professor Michelle Alexander, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, and others at the Political Theology Conference to be held in October 2019. The sponsoring network of schools has posted registration information

From <https://politicaltheology.com>

Political Theology names a multidisciplinary field of research that engages the unwieldy relationship between religion and politics, all motivated by a desire for justice. At the Political Theology Network Conference, we extend this engagement by bringing together scholars, activists, artists, and religious leaders working both inside and outside the academy. This year’s conference will take place at Union Theological Seminary on Thursday, October 17 to Saturday, October 19. Please click here to learn more and to register

This three-day conference will feature more than 70 presentations of projects and papers, as well as keynote addresses and plenary sessions.

Featured speakers include:

Michelle Alexander, Contributing Opinion Columnist at the New York Times
Gil Anidjar, Chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival
Silvia Federici, Professor Emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University
Lap Yan Kung, Associate Professor of Cultural and Religious Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Intisar A. Rabb, Faculty Director of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School
Najeeba Syeed, Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology

Space is limited. Please register by Friday, October 11.

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PIL Paper Prize on Islamic Law for HLS Students

Program in Islamic Law Prize on Islamic Law (Cambridge, MA). Each year the Law School awards several prizes for the best papers written by Harvard Law School students in particular areas of the law. Graduating prize winners are noted in the Commencement Program, and prize-winning papers are eligible to be published in the School’s public paper series. ILSP will award a prize of $1,000 annually to the Harvard Law School student writing the best paper in the field of Islamic law or on the intersection between other religious legal traditions and Islamic law. Papers eligible for consideration will be ones written during the current academic year, addressing any topic in Islamic legal history and theory, Islamic law and society, and Islamic comparative law—including these topics as related to other religious legal traditions. Papers are due in the Office of Academic Affairs (Lewis 208) by 5:00 pm on 28 Apr 2017. Read more.

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Call for Papers – Conference on Religion and the State

Submission deadline: 18 November 2016
For questions, please contact conferences@dustour.org

The Arab Association of Constitutional Law and the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law, with the support of Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, will hold an international conference, “Religion and the State,” in Tunisia March 24-25, 2017.

In order to inform the discussions that will be taking place at the conference, the organizers are commissioning a number of papers covering the following issues: Islam and the State, Islamic Constitutionalism, and Islam and Social Cohesion.


Islam and the State

Post-2011 constitutional negotiations: Since 2011, the debates that took place over the role of Islam in Arab constitutions have frequently been controversial.  This paper should investigate the different methods that were used in the constitution-drafting processes. What are the constitutional options available to Muslim-majority countries in successfully negotiating this issue?

Secularism, Islam and constitutional law: This paper should survey whether constitutions in Muslim-majority countries currently feature or should feature counter-majoritarian safeguards designed to counteract the potential for theocratic encroachment.  It should also examine what the purpose of such safeguards should be, and in particular whether they can serve the purpose of transitioning towards state secularism within these countries’ constitutions or separating religion and politics.  The paper should also discuss how the relationship between religion and state is worded in comparative practice, particularly to protect state institutions and citizens’ rights from encroachment by religion. 

Islam, democracy and human rights: Most muslim-majority states officially recognise Islam as the state religion and also enshrine liberal democratic principles within their constitutions, even as the larger debate over their compatibility continues. This paper should assess a) the empirical relation between Islamist governance and human rights and/or b) interpretive approaches that have been invoked at times by various state actors in order to reconcile the two.


Islamic Constitutionalism

Islamic lawmaking: Many Islamic constitutions include a clause establishing “shari’a” or “principles of shari’a” as a/the primary source of legislation. This paper should discuss how legislatures and other lawmaking bodies have interpreted this mandate and how they have translated shari’a and the various schools of shari’a thought (madhahib) into unified, civic codes of law.

Judicial review: Just as it is empowered to review legislation generally for constitutional compliance, the judicial branch is tasked with holding the legislature accountable to shari’a supremacy clauses. In several states, however, the executive reserves the right to restrain or override this power. This paper should explore the methodology, independence, and activism of the judiciary in its exercise of this privilege along with the complementary checks wielded by the political branches. If appropriate, it might compare Islamic judicial review to more conventional forms of constitutional review or comment upon its impact on society.

The role of religious institutions: Some scholars have argued that Islamic jurists (ulama’) comprise a “fourth branch” of government in states founded upon Islamic principles. Depending on the state, clerics have alternately been granted sweeping executive authority, limited autonomy over certain religious matters adjudicated in specialized courts, or merely an advisory role to lay judges and lawmakers. In what circumstances is it appropriate to either reserve legal issues to the exclusive jurisdiction of the ulama’ or to seek their input?


Islam and Social Cohesion

Religious freedom: This paper should discuss whether full religious freedom and equality is possible under Islamic rule, focusing on the condition of religious minorities and/or secularists. It should confront issues such as communitarian notions of citizenship, vestiges of the Ottoman millet system, blasphemy and apostasy laws, equality before the law, and conflict of religious law.

Women’s rights: This paper should examine the current status of and prospects for women’s rights under Islamic-influenced constitutional systems, engaging in debates surrounding areas such as family and inheritance law, modesty requirements, and political inclusion. It might also explore the avenues Muslim women have taken to advocate for their rights.


Application Instructions

Individuals who are interested in participating in the conference must submit an abstract in accordance with the following instructions:

  1. If you are interested in carrying out any of the above studies, please send an abstract to conferences@dustour.org no later than 17:00 Tunis time on 18 November 2016.  Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words, which includes the research methodology and the main research question that will be addressed in the study.  Applicants should also send their CVs, including a list of publications, with their abstracts.  
  2. Abstracts may be submitted by individuals, co-authors or institutions.  Membership in the Arab Association of Constitutional Law is not a requirement. 
  3. Abstracts and papers are strongly encouraged to adopt a comparative approach.  Abstracts and papers that focus on individual countries will still be considered. 
  4. Individuals from outside the Arab region who wish to submit an abstract that focuses on developments that are taking place outside the Arab region are encouraged to do so, while ensuring that all discussions are aimed towards furthering and enriching the discussion in the Arab region on the topics set out above. 
  5. Abstracts may be submitted in Arabic or English.  

The individuals who will be selected to carry out the above studies will be required to prepare oral presentations summarizing their findings at the conference. 


CMES January 2017 Travel Research Grant

Fri, Oct 14 | 2.00-3.00p

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies is offering two winter term travel research grants in the amount of $3,000 for Harvard College undergraduates, or graduate students at any Harvard School, engaging in research in the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman). This award is also available during summer. Visit this information session to learn more about how to apply.

Center for Middle Eastern Studies
38 Kirkland Street

For more information and to apply: cmes.fas.harvard.edu/arabian-peninsula
Applications due: October 21, 2016, at 11:59pm via CARAT

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Open House

SHARIAsource hosted its annual open house on September 21st, where it presented its portal and blog to a crowd that included current JD and LL.M students, scholars in related fields, HLS librarians, and members of the wider public with a general interest in Islamic law. Professor Intisar Rabb introduced new executive director Paul Beran, who expanded on the project’s current developments while hinting at the events of the coming year, which will include a lecture series, a portal launch, and other opportunities. Particularly emphasized was the open nature of SHARIAsource—not only is Austin 102 meant to be an open work space for all those affiliated with SHARIAsource, but the portal itself is designed to be virtual headquarters housing any germane research and hosting open academic debate.

Building detail, Harvard Law School
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Welcome JD’20 and New Graduate Students

Building detail, Harvard Law School

ILSP offers a hearty welcome to incoming HLS students. We encourage your participation in Program activities. Check back soon for information on events, grants, and other opportunities.

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Paul Beran Joins SHARIAsource as Executive Director

Dr. Paul Beran will join the Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program as Executive Director of SHARIAsource—the online platform designed to provide content and context on Islamic law. Beran comes to ILSP from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where he was the Associate Director of Academic Ventures. Prior to his work at Radcliffe, Beran was Director of the Outreach Center at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard.

Professor Intisar Rabb, ILSP Director and Founding Editor-in-Chief of SHARIAsource, said: “We are so excited to welcome Paul Beran to the SHARIAsource team as its executive director. Paul brings a wealth of skills and experience that offer the perfect combination of leadership and team-building, academic and digital programming, and expertise in matters of culture and policy with respect to the Middle East and the larger Muslim world. I can’t think of a person better suited to help build a platform that will link content with context of Islamic law, and make it accessible to the world. We all look forward to working with Paul to that end.”

SHARIAsource is built on a model of broad collaboration. Housed at the Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, SHARIAsource operates in partnership with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and the Harvard Law School Library. It also collaborates with other centers at Harvard,  leading  global educational institutions, and  individual scholars of Islamic law around the world to build a platform that collects and makes accessible wide-ranging research and resources on Islamic law.

Echoing the general excitement over Beran’s move is Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law, Director of the HLS Library, and a co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center: “The Harvard Law School Library aspires to make the whole world’s law available freely—whatever its source, and whoever seeks to read and understand it,” he said. “We’re delighted to see Paul advancing this effort.”

Likewise, Chris Bavitz, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and one of the faculty directors of the Berkman Klein Center, commented on his excitement that “ILSP is bringing Paul on board as SHARIASource’s Executive Director. His involvement in managing the project day-to-day and defining its strategic vision will be crucial as ILSP seeks to maximize impact with a broad audience.”

For Beran, this new venture offers tremendous opportunities to draw on his extensive background in Middle East programming, education, and policy work. During the span of his career, Beran has worked on the Middle East region to further knowledge and human development programs. He has engaged faculty, practitioners, and students in educational programming with institutions of higher education, local nongovernmental organizations, and international agencies. Paul has taught in the classroom as well as outside of it—as leader of travel-study programs in several countries, which has accompanied his work on other projects in Egypt, Turkey, and Tanzania, among others. Beran’s research areas have focused on civil society, social movements, Arab politics, and U.S. foreign policy.

 “I am delighted to be joining the SHARIAsource team at the Islamic Legal Studies Program. The work of SHARIAsource is needed now more than ever,” Beran said. “Generating and connecting academic research from around the world on topics related to Islamic law, including their historical and contemporary contexts, is an important application of the scholarship ongoing through the Islamic Legal Studies Program. I look forward to helping SHARIAsource be the go-to location for policy makers, legal practitioners, and media professionals looking for research-driven information.”

Ethan Zuckerman, Director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media and a member of the SHARIAsource Advisory Board, summed up the sentiment of the entire team: “We’re deeply excited to have a scholar and academic entrepreneur with Paul’s deep knowledge and experience in the Middle East joining SHARIAsource as executive director. Paul is a leader in designing and carrying out multidisciplinary research, and he brings a wealth of expertise that will help SHARIAsource take great strides forward.”


SHARIAsource is a new initiative of Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. It will provide an online portal of content and context on Islamic law, in cooperation with scholars of Islamic law and policy in the United States and around the world.

SHARIAsource envisions a world of global access for resources and analysis of Islamic law as law, with particular emphasis on facilitating exchange between academics, policymakers, and journalists seeking to grasp the basics and the complexities of Islamic law. The portal will accomplish this goal by collecting primary sources (e.g., court cases, legislation, and fatwas) about Islamic law, past and present, and offering scholarly analysis about them. All analysis will come from recognized experts in Islamic law and related fields in the United States and abroad, and will be peer-reviewed. All sources will be made available in their original languages, with summaries and robust search capabilities in English. SHARIAsource plans to also draw on the century-old collection of resources at Harvard Law School Library, which offers the added value of curation, organization, and dissemination of material through a platform that links the collation of Islamic law sources to a vehicle designed to share them and provide room for debate about them with a wider audience.

For more information, see the summer profile of SHARIAsource in the Harvard Magazine: http://harvardmagazine.com/2015/05/debating-sharia-law-digitally (July–August 2015)

Blog: http://shariasourceblog.wordpress.com

Contact: shariasource@law.harvard.edu


Early Islamic Courts Conference Honors Roy Mottahedeh

As a flagship project of the Islamic Legal Studies Program (ILSP), SHARIAsource hosted a conference on Courts and Judicial Procedure in Early Islamic Law (632-1250 AD) on May 6th at Harvard Law School. Convened by Professors Intisar Rabb (Harvard Law School) and Abigail Balbale (Bard Graduate Center) to honor Roy Mottahedeh, who is retiring as the Gurney Professor of History at the University after thirty years of service, the conference gathered some 100 legal scholars, experts, and practitioners from various continents, including Europe, Asia, and North America.

Introductions by Professors Rabb and Balbale contextualized the importance of discussing a topic that is of crucial importance to the formation and function of Islamic law, even if it stands at some remove from modern life. Advancing understandings of how any society is affected by legal systems, and how legal systems affect society, requires the study of judicial procedure. The study of Islamic law is no different, as attendees learned from presenters. Three panels formed the conference: “The Formation of Early Islamic Judicial Procedure,” “Imagining and Enacting Justice in the Abbasid Period and Beyond,” and “Legal Perspectives from the Islamic West.” Each offered insight into procedure from both sides of the bench. Moderated by Professors William Graham (Harvard), Abbas Amanat (Yale), and Abigail Balbale (Bard), respectively, these panels engaged attendees with a wide variety of topics, including witness testimony, property law, translations, heavenly justice, and humorous judges.

Clearly evident in each of the ten presented papers was Roy Mottahedeh’s influence. Besides his colleagues Cemal Kafadar and William Granara’s remarks about his indelible mark as an historian of the Islamic world, the presenters’ papers honored him through the rigor of their ideas and research. In addition to acknowledging the influence of Professor Mottahedeh, the presenters’ engagement with each other’s work attested to their gratitude for the opportunity to honor him.

The conference organizers expect to publish the papers online and in hard copy. In conjunction with SHARIAsource, the conference proceedings and some of the primary resources that were used will also be included in the SHARIAsource database. Designed to ease research for policymakers, academics, and journalists, SHARIAsource is an online portal specifically for the study of Islamic law. This conference will therefore contribute to the study of Islamic law in at least two ways: firstly, by pure research alone, and secondly by increasing scholarly access to a topic that is still little-studied and about which little is known. The public launch of SHARIAsource is expected to be later this year.

This event was organized by the Islamic Legal Studies Program (ILSP), Harvard Law School, and SHARIAsource (with support from the Luce and MacArthur Foundations). Co-Sponsored by Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, and Department of History.