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Islamic Law


Admission requirements

  • Students of the minor Islam: Religion and Society

  • Students of the BA programme Midden-Oostenstudies/Islamstudies

  • Seminar Midden-Oosten 1 (for BA Midden-Oostenstudies students)

No previous background in Arabic or Islamic studies is required for this course. A basic working knowledge of Islam is recommended.


Islamic law, or Shari'a, is subject to great controversy, among Muslims as well as non-Muslims. It developed as a legal science that allowed for multiple interpretations into what we call today 'law', that is, codifications of national law. But in addition to national Islamic laws, different forms of Shari'a are also being practiced on a local level in the world of today.
This course will guide the student through this complexity of rules, interpretations, and practices. Four distinct topics will be addressed:

  • 'classical law': this is Sharia as a legal science, where we will discuss its origins and evolution, the development of methodlogied and the emergence of schools of law. We will address topics like crimial law, marriage and divorce, and Islamic state. In this part of the course we will lay the groundwork of terminology and concepts that is needed to understand all further developments that we are witnessing today.

  • 'codified law': this is the parts of Sharia that have been turned into legal articles ('codification') and made part of the national law of a country. We will discuss the Islamic criminal law of Pakistan and Nigeria, and the Islamic family laws of Morocco and Egypt. We will also address the use of Sharia by non-state actors like Taliban, ISIS, and the like.

  • 'sharia in the West': this is the practices of Muslims living in the West, where they voluntarily try to live in accordance to the rules of Islam in the absence of any national Islamic laws or governments enforcing such laws. We will discuss issues like sharia courts and councils, the notion of the 'caged woman',) and the role of local authorities like imams.

  • 'comparative law': we will discuss Sharia in relation to human rights, minority rights, and the notion of legal pluralism.

The first six lectures, until the midterm, will be use primarily to feed the student with the knowledge necessary to come to an understanding of the basic concepts and mechanisms. This will be tested in the Midterm Exam. The second six lectures will be more about the ways that Sharia is being discussed and applied in today's world. Here, the student is expected to actively engage in the discussions that will be conducted about numerous topics. The combination of knowledge and insight/understanding can then be applied in the Final Exam, which is a take-home paper, where the student is supposed to critically engage with one of the topics that will be assigned during the course.

Course objectives

  • Acquiring knowledge of and insight into the main outlines of the history of Islamic law, its methodologies, major concepts and different manifestations.

  • Acquiring knowledge of and insight into selected areas of the Islamic legal system, in particular family law and criminal law.

  • Discussing, reflecting critically and formulating one’s personal views on issues raised in the lectures and selected literature on Islamic law in a well-founded and coherent manner.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions.
    Absence: The instructor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances). In these cases, it is up to the discretion of the instructor whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification or more than two times with notification can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Partial Assessment Weighing
Midterm Exam 40%
Final Exam (paper) 50%
Participation 10%


Only for the Final Exam, and only if a) the overall grade is less that 6,0 or b) the Final Exam is less than 5,5

Reading list

The reading list will be made available in due time on Brightspace


Students will be registered by the administration.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).