Pakistan and the FATF Grey List: An HLS Case Study, Harvard Law School

On Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at 12:15pm in WCC 2012, HLS International Legal Studies & the Program in Islamic Law will hold the event “Pakistan and the FATF Grey List: An HLS Case Study.” The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) spearheads global efforts to address money laundering and terrorist financing. This panel discussion will explore FATF’s work and its impact on developing countries through the lens of a forthcoming HLS Case Study on efforts of the Pakistani government in 2022 to get itself removed from FATF’s “Grey List” of countries subject to increased monitoring for deficiencies in anti-money-laundering (AML) and combatting the financing of terrorism (CFT) frameworks.


·       Professor Howell E. Jackson, Harvard Law School

·       Professor Faiza Ismail, Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law, LUMS, Lahore, Pakistan

·       Dr. Shlomit Wagman, Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government and former member of the FATF Steering Committee


Sponsored by HLS International Legal Studies & The HLS Program in Islamic Law

“Three Strikes and She’s Out: The Origins and Expansion of a Divorce and Remarriage Stipulation in Q 2:230,” Professor Lyall Armstrong, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Program, Harvard University


Join us on Monday, November 27, 2023 at 12pm EST for a talk titled “Three Strikes and She’s Out: The Origins and Expansion of a Divorce and Remarriage Stipulation in Q 2:230” by Professor Lyall Armstrong.  

Abstract: Q 2:230 stipulates that if a man divorces his wife three times and then wants to marry her again, she must have married and divorced another man in the intervening period in order for her to be legally licit for the previous husband. This lecture will explore the origins of this divorce ruling by evaluating its relationship to divorce and remarriage law in Late Antiquity and by analyzing the Islamic tradition purported to be the source for the ruling. The lecture will then investigate how early and medieval legal scholars approached the ruling in light of its canonization in the Qur’ān. This evaluation of Q 2:230 hopes to contribute to the expansion of our understanding of the origins and applications, even in the modern period, of Islamic law.





“Sharīʿa as Civil Rights: Portraits from American History, 1619-2020,” Professor Intisar Rabb, Princeton University


This event is hosted by the Princeton University. Professor Intisar Rabb (Harvard University) will present her research titled “Sharīʿa as Civil Rights: Portraits from American History, 1619-2020. The event will take place  on Thursday, November 16, 2023.



Questions about how to “define sharīʿa” are common among students, journalists, and politicians. Popular outlets—from detractors to practitioners—often take on that task by defining Islamic law with either with reference rituals, such as prayer or fasting, or with reference to political violence stemming from overseas conflict. Historical perspective can help. The popular narratives often overlook the single largest group of Muslims to define sharīʿa in United States history: American Muslims of the civil rights era and their progeny, who joined Islam or represented it from a civil rights‐social justice impetus in response to Jim Crow America and its aftermath. This group often helped define the color of civil rights law and the civil rights movement itself. Think of the likes of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. One took a stand against racial injustice at home and decried the politics of poverty and mass incarceration. The other took a stand against global injustice when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Both were inspired by their understanding of Islam. Drawing on historical archives and oral histories, this talk will explore historical definitions of sharīʿa and civil rights through highlighting some of the common experiences of ordinary Muslims who helped define it in America most memorably, for their own communities and in advancing civil rights laws writ large.

“Islamic Common Law,” Professor Intisar Rabb, Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium

This event is hosted by the Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium. Professor Intisar Rabb (Harvard University) will present her research titled “Islamic Common Law.”  The event will take place at Princeton University, 1879 Hall, Room 137 on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.


Conventional accounts of early Islamic law tend to discount courts but inflate the importance of a symbiotic relationship between caliphs and jurists. These accounts often present judges, who were appointed by caliphs and instructed on questions of law by jurists, as either arbitrary (dispensing justice from under a tree, per Weber) or unnecessary (marginal to the history and operation of Islamic law, per nearly everyone else). The conception of law, throughout, is one of solely divine religious origin and independent juristic elaboration to either be tolerated or obstructed by caliphs. In most histories of Islamic law from its advent in the 7th century until the caliphate’s fall in 1258 (its long ‘founding period’), courts blur into the background.

The usual lament barring attempts to paint a fuller picture of Islamic law is that early Islamic court records were lost, so we lack the sources for any broader brush strokes. But not all is in fact lost. A landmark case during Islam’s founding period—The Case of Bughaybigha, 661–883—illustrates the point. It finds mention in an astonishingly wide range of early founding-era sources that facilitate reconstruction of the ways in which one judge used his discretion to choose certain laws and interpretive methods over others to mediate a major political-legal dispute (so major that it might be called the Marbury v. Madison of Islamic law—a modern U.S. case that set forth the role of judges). In the process of issuing such decisions, judges helped concretize juristic rulings, constrain executive agents, and, I argue, construct a type of Islamic common law. Uncontained in a single ‘court record,’ this Case and the surrounding historical and religious contests informing it come from unexpected places for most legal historians: they range from works of history—historical chronicles, regional histories, geographical dictionaries, judicial biographies, endowment deeds, heresiographies, literary anthologies, and theological tracts; to works of law—treatises on substantive law (fiqh) and jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fiqh), and collections of legal canons (qawāʿid fiqhiyya). Moreover, when approached capaciously, diverse sources from Islam’s founding period are replete with accounts that depict judges at the center of interpretation and the construction of Islamic law at key moments. Rather than look for law in the expected places, it is worth taking law from wherever we find it. In fact, it is essential that we do so: combining sources for history and law, read with attention to both historiography and interpretive methods.

Through examining this generations-long dispute with attention to sources and constructions of both history and law (and against the turn away from centering courts in legal histories of the common law), in this book, I argue that judges formulated an Islamic common law through the strategic and repeated use of legal canons. Adding color from modern statutory interpretation theory deepens perspective on the ways in which Muslim judges historically used these legal canons not only to resolve disputes but to build a judicial practice of interpretive precedent and to mediate institutional relations between caliphs, jurists, and diverse groups of ordinary Muslims. My examination of this generations-long dispute with attention to early medieval sources and constructions of both history and law, along with my appeal to modern theories of law and interpretation, adds texture to the working sketches of Islamic law’s early history, and of the robust role of both courts and canons within it.

Q&A with Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan

Join us for a discussion and Q&A with Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, moderated by Professor Intisar Rabb. This event is co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA), Muslim Law Students Association (MLSA), and the Program in Islamic Law (PIL).

Date: September 26, 2023
Time: 12:15 PM
Location: WCC 1023

Students will get the chance to ask live questions during the event. To make this discussion even more interactive, you can also submit your questions in advance, through this Form. Lunch will be provided.”

ILSS: Dilyara Agisheva

On Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at 12:00-1:00PM US EST via ZoomDillyara Agisheva (Harvard Law School) will present “The Entangled Legal Formations and the Russian annexation of Crimea in the 18th century” as part of our Islamic Law Speaker Series. Based on Agisheva’s dissertation research, the presentation examines the legal structures in the Crimean Peninsula after its annexation by the Russian Empire in 1783. Her research relies on two primary sources: the Crimean Sharīʿa sicils (Islamic court records) and the court records of Russian legal venues introduced in Crimea after the annexation. Using the methodological approaches found in the studies of entangled histories, law and empire, and colonialism, Agisheva suggests a conceptual framework she calls “entangled legal formations” to explain legal transformations in Crimea at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

ILSS: Elizabeth Lhost

On Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at 12:00-1:00PM US EST via ZoomElizabeth Lhost (Dartmouth College) will give a book talk on her recent publication Everyday Islamic Law and the Making of Modern South Asia (University of North Carolina Press 2022). In this book, Lhost addresses how histories of Islamic law and legal practice in British-ruled India tend to focus on the evolution and administration of Muslim personal law through British-governed courts, often centering the colonial state and its approach to defining Islam and law. She argues that these histories miss the vibrant debates, exchanges, and investment in legal problem-solving that took place outside the courts, through unofficial correspondence with jurists, in private exchanges with judges, and through registers, files, postcards, and telegrams. Lhost highlights how Islamic law operated in and through these unofficial, ephemeral, and everyday spaces. In her talk, she will discuss how judges and jurists asserted, negotiated, and employed the modicum of official privilege and prestige the state awarded them as they made the case for their continued relevance and utility amid rapid and dramatic social and political change. Lhost will conclude by outlining potential directions for future research and offer some reflections on how large-scale collaborative digital projects might achieve these aims. Dilyara Agisheva (Harvard Law School) will moderate the talk.

Critical Perspectives in the Development and Dynamics of Islam in Africa Lecture Series

Islam in Africa has become an important and increasingly vibrant sub-field in Islamic Studies, attracting numerous extremely talented students who are conducting fine studies that have great impact in all fields in the humanities and social sciences. Dozens of books are published yearly including through major university presses, and so the goal of Critical Perspectives in the Development and Dynamics of Islam in Africa lecture series is to provide a platform for the discussion of cutting edge research in the field of Islam in Africa and to tap into the best of such new work for Africanists and Islamicists at all schools at Harvard. Every academic year, the Islam in Africa lecture series brings authors of newly published books and advanced Ph.D students to campus to discuss their work.

This event is organized by Professor Ousmane Kane (Harvard University) and co-sponsored by the Program in Islamic Law, Harvard Divinity School, the Department of African and African American Studies, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, and the Center for African Studies. 


ILSS: Haroun Rahimi

Join us on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 12:00-1:00PM US EST via Zoom, where Haroun Rahimi (The American University of Afghanistan) will present “Taliban and Modernity” as part of our Islamic Law Speaker Series. The presentation will explore the Taliban’s approaches to law, rights, governance, education, and the public and private spheres, examining what they can tell us about the problems of modernity within these contexts. The presentation will also assess how to address these problems from within the Islamic tradition if we adopt the paradagim of multitude of modernities. In particular, the presentation focuses on possible re-understandings of premodern conceptions of separation of power in the Muslim tradition as a way to counter theocratic authoritarianism in the Muslim context. Dilyara Agisheva (Harvard Law School) will moderate the talk.

SHARIAsource Lab: Hackathon: Arabic OCR Community Scribes

On Saturday March 4, 2023 at 11:00AM-4:00PM US EST at the Program in Islamic Law’s office in Austin Hall, our SHARIAsource Lab will lead a Hackathon: Arabic OCR Community Scribes event (registration ends February 27th by midnight EST). Join us for a chance to help write the next chapter in the history of the Arabic script where we bring our efforts together to finally develop a dependable program that will allow texts using Arabic script to be machine readable. This work in checking and reviewing documents will allow scholars to access, search and explore historical and contemporary documents like never before. No knowledge of coding or programming is needed but knowledge of Arabic script is a must to train the machine learning program to recognize them. Lunch will be provided for those who RSVP. Drop by for however long you can to meet, chat, and transcribe!