Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Arab and Islamic Studies

Abstract

The term Islamic Law covers both the law as it is (and has been) practised in Muslim countries and communities, as well as the ideal system of rules and regulations which Muslims have thought should be practised. This proposed network aims to bring together UK-based scholars and legal practitioners working with these different conceptions of Islamic Law - both in their historical manifestations, but also in the contemporary period. Academic scholars and practitioners of Islamic Law rarely have the opportunity to share research, exchange ideas and explore possible collaborative research. This network aims to bring these scholars and practitioners together for four network sessions. Each session will consist of research papers, reflections on legal practice and opportunities for discussion concerning future activity. The academic theme of each session will concentrate on the experience of a particular 'school' of Islamic Law. In the premodern period, most legal activity (be it teaching, writing or judging) in the Muslim world involved adherence to a particular tradition of legal interpretation (summed up in the Arabic term madhhab). The different madhhabs had divergent opinions on fundamental legal questions. These differences were due to differences in interpretation of the sources, as well as the personal views of the madhhabs' founders (whose opinions were always viewed as central to a madhhab's distinct character). There are four Sunni schools of Islamic law (Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafii, all named after their founders), but there are also Shiite schools (the two most vibrant being the Zaydi and Twelver) and the Ibadi school. There have also existed schools in the past which periodically have enjoyed resurgances in popularity. In the modern period, the madhhabs appear to have lost some of their intellectual power, as legislators and judges attempted to modernise the law in Muslim countries under the influence of Western European models. However, the decline of the madhhab has not been uniform. In some parts of the world, both in Muslim majority and minority contexts, the madhhab has retained its importance, or morphed to take on the challenges of a rapidly modernising society. The various madhhabs, dominent as they are in different parts of the Muslim world, are convenient themes with which to bring together legal scholars from different academic disciplines, as well as practitioners (such as lawyers, rights activists, legislators) to share their research and experiences. Each of the four network sessions will examine two schools over a two day period, with scholars examining the madhhab's formation, history and contemporary experience.

Once assembled, the participants in the network will explore potential collaborative research, and the possibility of developing a subject association for UK-based researchers on Islamic law. There already exists the International Society for Islamic Legal Studies, but it has few members in the UK and very limited resources. There is also the Association of Muslim Lawyers (UK), which primarily serves the Muslim community. Both organisations will participate in the network sessions, and contribute to the design of any future British learned society (tentatively named the British Association for the Study of Islamic law, or BASIL), which could offer a distinctly British and cross-confessional perspective on the history and future development of Islamic law.

The network sessions will take place at the University of Exeter between 2007 and 2009, bringing in participants from across the UK HE sector as well the legal profession. In addition, international experts, including academics and practitioners from the Muslim world will contribute to the discussions. Of the greatest importance is the inclusion of emerging researchers and practitioners, and hence doctoral and postdoctoral researchers will be recruited to both present their research and participate in the discussions.

Publications

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Description Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law was a grant which ended its period of funding in 2009, and report was submitted and evaluated then. Below represents a general summary of the project - full details can be found in that report.

The aim of the Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law was to create a network whereby knowledge about Islamic law might be more easily shared between those working in the field in academia and those practicing law. To this end, a series of 6 workshops were organised in Exeter and London. It was not a research project as such, but a networks grant, and hence had no specific research findings.

A report has already been submitted to the AHRC in 2010 and evaluated by AHRC internal processes.

One concrete result of the network being established was the subsequent AHRC-NWO joint project THE SHARIA PROJECT between Exeter and Leiden university. This project, which held similar workshops in Leiden and Exeter, built upon the network, increasing the involvement of practitioners.

One of the findings of the Network was that legal practitioners require focussed and specific information about particular cases - whilst academics have a more diverse and general interest. The Network provided opportunities for the individuals to meet - and share their knowledge, but the real result was in the contacts subsequent to the workshops. We know of 15 different cases in which academics were employed as expert witnesses or expert consultants which began as contacts made in the Network meetings. There are likely to be many more - which leads to another finding of the Network - the need to develop more clear and precise mechanisms for recording impact contacts. This has, of course, moved on significantly in the 5 years since the project was completed.
Exploitation Route The Network - which ended in 2009 - has continued to exist through the Sharia Project (Exeter and Leiden), AHRC-NWO funded - and through Gleave's subsequent projects LIVIT and Islamic Reformulations. There is, certainly, a continued need for a increased contact between practitioners and academics working in the area of Islamic law. Numerous legal professional associations have begin to take Islamic law more seriously, and this is in part due to the profile raised by the Network and its workshops.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Description Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law was a grant which ended its period of funding in 2009, and report was submitted and evaluated then. Below represents a general summary of the project - full details can be found in that report. The aim of the Network of British Researchers and Practitioners of Islamic Law was to create a network whereby knowledge about Islamic law might be more easily shared between those working in the field in academia and those practicing law. To this end, a series of 6 workshops were organised in Exeter and London. It was not a research project as such, but a networks grant, and hence had no specific research findings. A report has already been submitted to the AHRC in 2010 and evaluated by AHRC internal processes. One concrete result of the network being established was the subsequent AHRC-NWO joint project THE SHARIA PROJECT between Exeter and Leiden university. This project, which held similar workshops in Leiden and Exeter, built upon the network, increasing the involvement of practitioners. One of the findings of the Network was that legal practitioners require focussed and specific information about particular cases - whilst academics have a more diverse and general interest. The Network provided opportunities for the individuals to meet - and share their knowledge, but the real result was in the contacts subsequent to the workshops. We know of 15 different cases in which academics were employed as expert witnesses or expert consultants which began as contacts made in the Network meetings. There are likely to be many more - which leads to another finding of the Network - the need to develop more clear and precise mechanisms for recording impact contacts. This has, of course, moved on significantly in the 5 years since the project was completed.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal