Islamic Law and the Challenge of Modernity

  • Published in Law

Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Barbara Freyer Stowasser, eds., Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2004. 264 pages.

This book includes eight articles on various aspects of Islamic law in the modern world, as well as an introduction by the two editors. The articles grew out of a symposium held at Georgetown University in 2001 under the title of “Arab Legal Systems in Transition.” Despite the book’s title, however, it deals exclusively with the Arab world. That said, the articles are generally very interesting and, in some cases, provocative. Wael Hallaq’s article is the most provocative, for he suggests that because the traditional socioeconomic infrastructure that supported the Shari`ah as a social institution in the pre-modern world has vanished in the face of the centralized state, the Shari`ah cannot be restored without revolutionary institutional changes in the Arab state that would, at a minimum, give religious scholars the institutional independence to formulate a legitimate vision of Islamic law.

Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible

The Muslim diaspora, which has become established as a significant area of publishing in the past 2 to 3 decades, is being charted by a number of books and journals. This edited collection is a valuable addition to the literature, although specialists in the field will notice some degree of overlap with existing sources. The book is divided into three sections exploring the Muslim experience in America (seven chapters), Europe (three chapters covering France, Germany, and Norway), and areas of European settlement (five chapters covering Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Caribbean).

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