Islam, Sharia and the Entrenchment of Modernity

Topic for MES4560 spring 2018

Course content

Modern Islamic movements, Islamic law and legal studies, as well as Islamic economics, are often portrayed as organic developments within postcolonial Muslim societies. This uncontested view is, however, based on certain predicaments of modernity, including its socioeconomic and political contestations. By critiquing the European colonial project – as a militarily, political, economic, and cultural exploitation in the MENA region – this course interrogates the notion and history of colonialism and the impact of the modern nation-state formation in the Middle East, Africa and South (East) Asia. It further analyzes basic Islamic tenants such as sharī‘a, akhlāq, iqtiṣād in the modern context, including Islamists’ call for an Islamic state and society. Because of the subsequent emergence of Islamization of knowledge process, including Islamic economics and Islamic law as a modern construct, we will ask questions such as “what were the epistemological ruptures in Islamic law and society during the colonial period”; “who speaks in the name of sharī‘a”; “is a modern Islamic state feasible”; and “how Islamic is Islamic economics”. Course readings will include the writings of Muslim revivalists such as Muhammad Abduh, Sayid Qutb, Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and others, as well scholars of Islam such as Fazlur Rahman, Basam Tibi, Armando Salvatore, Wael Hallaq, Syed Farid Alatas, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Saba Mahmood, Talal Asad, etc.

Learning outcome

By the end of this course, students will be equipped to critically engage in a dialogue about Islam, sharī‘a, and modernity, as well develop an understanding of the relevance and applicability of sharī‘a as a legal, theological, and moral institution in the modern world vis-à-vis the modern nation-state. They will have obtained a comprehension of the historical trajectories that contributed to the epistemological shift that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, and of modern negotiations with conceptualizations of Islam, Islamic, legal, political, and moral, in the context of several intellectual movements and schools of thought. In addition, they will have learned categories of legal, theological, and epistemological thinking in the Islamic intellectual tradition, which will enable them to critically engage with advanced literature on those topics, and to participate in a well-informed conversation about the multifaceted understanding of Islam and sharī‘a in the modern world and across regions.

Participants will have learned to read extensively, and to analyze sources relevant for the study of Islam as an academic discipline. They will learn to work in a team, in order to discuss, produce, and present academic knowledge in oral and written forms.

The course is based on the reading, analysis and discussion of sources in English and, whenever possible, in a Middle Eastern language. Training in methodology, teamwork, essay writing and oral presentation is an integral part of this course.

Assessment Information

During the course, students are expected to ask critical questions, actively engage in class discussions, and to give a short oral presentation on the selected topic, in consultation with the instructor. For the final examination, students are required to write a 4,000-5,000 word essay (1.5 spaced) on an agreed topic.



Class 1: Introduction

As an exception, the introductory class will take place on Thursday, January 25 or Friday 26. Please confirm your participation with the instructor.

Introduction to the course, methodology, learning outcomes, presentation schedule, literature, and assessment

Class 2: The Origins – Islam and Sharī‘a

Wael Hallaq, "Groundwork of the Moral Law: A New Look at the Qurʾān and the Genesis of Sharīʿa," Islamic Law and Society, Vol. 16, No. 3/4 (2009), pp. 239-279

Ahmed Shahab, What is Islam, ch. 2 (113-175)

Class 3: The Question of Modern Nation State and Islamic Governance

Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State, ch. 2 and 3 (19-73)

Wael Hallaq, Sharī‘a, ch. 13 (357-370)

Knut Vikør, Between God and Sultan, ch. 12 (222-253)


Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im, Islam and the Secular State, ch. 2

Class 4: India and Southeast Asia

Hallaq, Sharī‘a, ch. 14 (371-395)

Iza Hussin, The Politics of Islamic Law, ch. 5 (149-208)

Mawdudi, Islamic law and Constitution, ch. 1 (1-33)


Mawdudi, Mubādia’ al-Islām (in Arabic)

Vali Reza, Islamic Leviathan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ch. 4, 5, and 6

Class 5: Interrogating Colonialism and Modernity

Wael Hallaq, Sharī‘a, ch. 15 (396-442)

Iza Hussin, The Politics of Islamic Law, ch. 6. (209-235)

Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity, 43-83

Muhammad Khalid Masud, Armando Salvatore, Martin van Bruinessen (eds.), Islam and Modernity, ch. 2 (36-56)

Class 6: Technologies of the Moral Self and the Secular

Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State, ch. 4 and 5 (74-138)

Talal Asad, Formation of the Secular, ch. 1 and 6 (1-21, 181-200)

Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety, 1-40


Abdolkarim Soroush, Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam, ch. 4

Class 7: Trends of Islamism and Islamic state

Hallaq, Sharī‘a, ch. 16 (443-499)

Knut Vikør, Between God and Sultan, ch. 13 (254-278)

Armando Salvatore, Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity, ch. 11 (197-218)


Henri Lauziere, The Making of Salafim, ch. 3

Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism,”

Class 8: Islamization of knowledge and Politicization of Islam – Nativism and Indigenization?

Syed Alatas, “The Sacralization of the Social Sciences: A Critique of an Emerging Theme in Academic Discourse”. Arch. De SC. Soc. Des Rel, 91 (1995): 89-111

Bassam Tibi, Islam between Culture and Politics, ch. 5, 6, and 7 (116-166)

Class 9: Islamic law and the Economic Thought  

Charles Tripp, Islam and the Moral Economy, ch. 4 (103-149)

Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State, ch. 6 (139-154)

Sayid Baqir al-Sadr, Iqtiṣādunā, 393-400

Class 10: Sharī‘a and Democracy – applicability and contestations

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im, Islam and the Secular State, ch. 1 and 7 (1-44, 267-294)

Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State, ch. 7 (155-170)

Abdolkarim Soroush, Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam, ch. 9 (131-155)

Publisert 30. nov. 2016 09:43 - Sist endret 20. des. 2017 15:14