On the Relevance of Islamic Law

This past decade has seen tumultuous political change reverberate throughout the Arab world, with profound consequences for every state in the region, including those whose political systems remain largely intact.

These political upheavals have brought about renewed demands for social change as well, from women’s movements, religious minorities, and others, seeking a reordering of sorts within Arab societies. The power of Islam as both a political and social force has reasserted itself within the Arab legal order, yet in a manner that does not so much restore the historic legal primacy of a transnational juristically defined shari’a so much as it domesticates the idea of shari’a into disparate national legal systems. Finally, of course, in connection with the foregoing, the opportunities
for political, social, and legal cross-fertilization of ideas have grown exponentially in recent times through the facilitation of technology, from satellite television to social media platforms.

All of these have led to important legal consequences and developments, including the rise of Islamic constitutionalism, the explosion of a transnational practice of Islamic finance centred largely in the states that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council, and renewed (if often rebuffed) calls for family and criminal law reform aimed squarely at upending traditional tribal and patriarchal hierarchies. There is no scholarly publication better placed than Brill’s journal Arab Law Quarterly to provide a forum for the dissemination of knowledge related to these and other developments in the Arab world.