Wael Hallaq has called shariʿa an “episteme” that suffered a “structural death” in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a result of westernization, nationalization, codification, and secularization (2009: 15-16). Yet shariʿa (Islamic law and ethics) appears resurgent across a number of jurisdictional fault-lines, whether in Muslim majority nations in the post-“Arab Spring” Middle East and Southeast Asia (e.g., Brunei) or in Muslim-minority societies in western Europe and North America whose models of multiculturalism are being tested by responses to current immigration and war refugees from the Middle East.  Across these jurisdictions, which are context-specific each with their own histories and trajectories, the relationship between shariʿa and state law is central. The key debates cover a range of issues, such as the jurisdiction of shariʿa councils and religious tribunals that resolve disputes over family law, the different nature of rights held by women under shariʿa and state law, Muslims property arrangements that challenge state systems of governance, and whether and how constitutional orders can accommodate religious law.

This workshop features scholars, from diverse disciplines including law, anthropology, and Islamic studies, working in both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority contexts, to assess the extent to which current paradigms of “law and society” or “socio-legal studies” can illuminate the problem of shariʿa/state law intersections. For instance, law and society scholars have developed the notion of “legal pluralism” to understand the co-existence of multiple systems or orders of “law” in the same social field. Legal pluralism has, at the same time, not been without its detractors. Across the globe, Muslims are engaged in a wide variety of intellectual, educational, commercial, personal, and pious projects through institution-building, network-formation, textual hermeneutics, civil society advocacy, legal improvisation, and construction of public spheres and histories that both diverge from and intersect with those of the “secular” state. How can law and society approaches be brought to bear on these dynamics? In turn, how can empirical accounts challenge conventional knowledge about law and society?

The workshop will feature six scholars who will each present a work in progress. Drafts will be circulated before hand. Sessions will feature a pair of papers, organized by common theme, approach, or problem. Scholars will briefly introduce their work and provide any necessary context. A respondent will then discuss the papers in a wider socio-legal frame that will provide a basis for group discussion and stimulate broader discussion about socio-legal approaches to Islamic law and society.


  • Asifa Quraishi-Landes (University of Wisconsin Law School)
  • Prakash Shah (Queen Mary University of London School of Law)
  • Robert Gleave (University of Exeter Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies)
  • Sham Qayyum (SOAS, University of London School of Law)
  • Matthew Erie (University of Oxford Oriental Institute)
  • Morgan Clarke (Anthropology, Oxford)
  • Michael Feener (Islamic Studies, Oxford)