Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law
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Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law

Ann Black, Hossein Esmaeili and Nadirsyah Hosen

This well-informed book explains, reflects on and analyses Islamic law, not only in the classical legal tradition of Sharia, but also its modern, contemporary context. The book explores the role of Islamic law in secular Western nations and reflects on the legal system of Islam in its classical context as applied in its traditional homeland of the Middle East and also in South East Asia. Written by three leading scholars from three different backgrounds: a Muslim in the Sunni tradition, a Muslim in the Shia tradition, and a non-Muslim woman – the book is not only unique, but also enriched by differing insights into Islamic law.
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Ann Black, Hossein Esmaeili and Nadirsyah Hosen


Throughout this book, the recurring message has been that Islamic law continues to be dynamic and evolving. Since the dawn of Islam, Muslim scholars have debated the nature of revelation, the Prophethood and the Islamic legal principles to be derived from two unassailable divine sources, the Quran and Sunna, and while there have been times of ebb and flow throughout 15 centuries of debate, the dialogue remains ongoing and vibrant today. For most of these centuries, scholars and jurists were custodians of the law authorized to give meaning to and apply the revelations. Such exclusivity has been challenged in modern times and ijtihad democratized so that mainstream Muslims can now use its tools, including applying their personal reasoning, in their social interactions. A feature of modern Islamic law is that, across the globe, there are literate, highly educated, globally interconnected Muslims, of both genders, who engage in ijtihad, many of whom live and work outside the heartland of the Middle East in pluralist societies like Malaysia and Indonesia, where 60 per cent of the world’s Muslims reside, or in the West. These challenges to the erstwhile monopoly over ijtihad have not always been welcomed in every quarter, but the dimension of human agency in different cultures and centuries has ensured that the dynamic nature of Islamic law remains at the fore. Scholars today continue the tradition of the early jurists who developed the principles of jurisprudence (usul al fiqh), as is shown to be true for both the public and private sphere.

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