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Islamic Law


Admission requirements

No previous background in Arabic or Islamic studies is required for this course. A basis working knowledge of Islam is recommended.


What do we mean when we talk about sharia? Both Muslims and non-Muslims tend to give widely different meanings to this term. Like other existing legal systems, sharia (or Islamic law) has its own processes of developing and identifying religious and legal norms. Moreover, since the 19th century, but also recently in light of the Arab Spring, traditional Islamic law as jurists’ law has been transformed considerably. This course introduces Bachelor students to Islamic law by offering them a firm understanding in the broad range of views on “living according to God’s Will” that Muslims have developed over the course of more than 1400 years in different parts of the world.
The semester will open with an introduction to the origins of Islamic law through its sources, terminologies, methodologies, as well as the formation of the classical schools of law. It aims at acquainting students with a critical overview of the principles and practices of Islamic law and jurisprudence, from a predominately historical and sociological perspective. The course will cover anthropological, sociological, political, islamological and comparative law approaches to the study of Islamic law. The scientific possibilities and limitations of these different approaches will be addressed during the lectures.

In examining the evolution of Islamic law, the normative views of authoritative Muslim scholars and jurists, which can be found in legal texts, will be used as a starting point. Special attention will also be paid to the everyday practice of “ordinary Muslims”, as well as the place of Islamic legal norms in the legislation and case-law of modern states.
The course also focuses on some of the challenges that Islamic law faces in relation to Western legal systems, especially in the areas of constitutional law, family and personal status law, criminal law, Islamic finance, and European and international law. Student are encouraged to engage in current legal discourses and explore the diverse strategies that Muslims use for adapting religious laws to their needs. Although the bulk of the course material deals with classical Sunni Islamic law, it will also take into consideration issues of contemporary concern, such as human rights, gender equality, and minority rights, including Islamic law (fiqh) for minorities in the West. Where possible, the course will also deal with various cases where Islamic law has been debated within the Dutch legal system.

Course objectives

  • Students will acquire knowledge of and insight into the main outlines of the history of Islamic law, its methodologies, major concepts, and different manifestations.

  • Students will acquire knowledge of and insight into selected areas of the Islamic legal system, such as family law, criminal law and Islamic finance.

  • Students will acquire skills to read, discuss, reflect critically and formulate their personal views on issues raised in the selected literature about Islamic law in a well-founded and coherent manner.

Students from humanities or social sciences should be willing to familiarise themselves with the outlines of law, whereas law students should be willing to engage in subjects beyond the rules of black letter law.


Timetable Religiewetenschappen
Timetable BA MOS
Timetable minor Islam: Religion and Society

Mode of instruction

Number of lectures/seminars: 13 (see syllabus)
Number of papers: 1 (see syllabus)
Preparation and activate participation are required during the seminars.
Attendance is also required in order to participate in the final written exam.

Course Load

Assessment method

Grading of the course is based on the paper and class participation (30%) and the written exam (70%). The student can only do a retake of the written exam if the overall grade is lower than 5,5.

Reading list

  • Hallaq, Wael B. (2009). An Introduction to Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Vikor, Knut S. (2005). Between God and the Sultan. A History of Islamic Law. London: Hurst & Company.

  • Selected articles (see: syllabus and Blackboard).
    The syllabus for this course will be made available (first week of September) via Blackboard.


See website Leiden University, or Blackboard.


Mr. M.A. Muradin