Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Shariah and Legal Globalisation Conference

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Shariah and Legal Globalisation Conference

Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


The Conference

By hosting this conference, the Group seeks to build connections between experts working in two transnational legal systems – the Anglophone community working in international law, international trade, comparative constitutionalism and human rights, and the Arabic speaking community working in Shariah. Over the three days of the conference we will deal with Shariah and Human Rights, Shariah and International Business, and Shariah and Constitutionalism. A host of eminent scholars from Britain and the Islamic world will offer their academic views on the issues in question.

Applied Study of Law and Religion Group

The Group takes a legal perspective on how law and religion interact, focussing on the individual believer, the religious organisation, and the State. Our work includes:

  • the national law of the United Kingdom (e.g. Edge & Cumper, "First amongst equals: The English State and the Anglican Church in the 21st Century?", 83 University of Detroit Mercy Law Review 601-623)
  • the law of the European Union (e.g. Vickers, Religon and belief discrimination in employment: The EU Law, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2007)
  • the international and comparative law (e.g. Edge, Religion and Law: An Introduction, Ashgate, 2006)

We provide a home for visiting scholars and also provide support for doctoral projects. We welcome applications to join the Group as a doctoral student, and can offer supervision across a broad range of topics concerning law and religion. We are particularly keen to receive applications in the areas of:

  • comparative law
  • international law
  • Islamic law
  • law concerning new religious movements

Conference findings

Shariah is a global legal phenomenon in two senses. Firstly, Muslims influenced by Shariah live not only in jurisdictions that self-identify as influenced by, or even implementing, Shariah, but also in jurisdictions that have not historically sought a relationship with Shariah. As majority Muslim states engage with the legal globalisation of international law, so Muslim minority communities in other states are increasingly engaging with the interaction between national law and Shariah. The latter is also of increasing interest to the majority populations, as we can see in the well-known 2008 speech where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, suggested that adopting some aspects of Shariah law in England, mainly to resolve marital or business disputes, may be “unavoidable”. Secondly, Shariah is itself a transnational legal system of global reach. Shariah lays down rules governing the rights of individuals regardless of their nationality, the regulation of relationships across national borders, and the lawful relationships between states. It also underpins the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the second largest inter-governmental organization, which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The interaction between transnational Shariah, and other transnational legal systems, is moving up the academic agenda (for instance with the formation of the International Law Association Committee on Islamic Law and International Law).

In June 2010 the Applied Study of Law and Religion Group, with the generous support of Oxford Brookes University, hosted a three day conference exploring Shariah and Legal Globalisation. Bringing scholars working in English and Arabic together in the Buckley Building, together we explored a wide range of current legal issues. As well as formal papers in both languages, we sought to begin a lively dialogue over the interaction of Shariah and other globally significant legal systems.

Professor Peter Edge

Chairman of the Conference

Director of Research, School of Law and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

Professor Peter Edge, Conference Chair, looked at The establishment of an Anglican Islam. He argued that UK counter-terrorism policy, in particular measures aimed at preventing radicalisation of Muslims in the UK and abroad, risked creating an excessive entanglement of state and religion. In particular, state measures to support particular theological strands in Islam was moving towards the creation of a particular, national, form of Islam within the UK.

Professor Shahhat al Jundi

Head Of the Supreme Council for Shariah, Arab Republic of Egypt

Dr al Jundi considered Shariah and the International Economic Crisis. He made reference to some of the goals that are pursued by Islamic financial system, remarking that this system is devised to produce reform within the human communities in areas where human failures in calculation resulted by greed and other deficiencies may cause a great deal of pain. He further added that the Islamic economy has human development at its heart and it pursues this through implementation of full accountability as well as disciplining and proper prosecution measures. He ended with a call for reconsideration of the gold standard as underpinning currencies.

Professor Jasim al Shamsi

Head of the Law College, United Arab Emirates University, UAE

Professor Al Shamsi considered Human Entitlement and Perception in Islamic law. He made it clear that under the law of the United Arab Emirates all are equal in their entitlement to enjoy rights. However he argued that this enjoyment is not complete as far as for the foetus is concerned, and is problematic in relation to children. He also referred to the dispute over the level of entitlement based on religion, gender, and ethnicity explained the distinctive set of criteria for entitlement under Shariah.

Professor Javaid Rehman

Head of the Law Department, Brunel University, UK

Professor Rehman considered Religion and human rights law: Complexities in applying Shariah in modern state practices. He offered the view that application of Shariah in modern legal systems, particularly, Western ones is not as simple as is sometimes being suggested. He emphasised that it could create a stalemate if the courts or other legal authorities embarked on incorporating Shariah into their deliberations. He illustrated these complexities with the example of a marriage case in which the father of a mentally incompetent Muslim young person had entered into a marriage contract on his behalf with a woman outside the UK.

Professor Kamal al Hattabab

Department of Islamic Economy, Yarmuk University, Jordan

Professor Hattab, working within a tight time limit, explored key ideas regarding International commercial ties in the light of Shariah. He sought in his paper to shed light on the foundations of the Islamic finance and economy that could be applied and function efficiently in the modern world. He contrasted the Islamic system with the global financial system that caused the recent global crisis in economy, and offered alternatives that would guarantee the security of the economy as well as proper consideration of vital issues such as environment. He offered key sources from the Islamic legal heritage as well as historical examples to illustrate his point. He indicated that work is needed to bring the Islamic economic system onto the global level.

Professor Mohammad Abdu-Salam

Head of Department of Arabic Studies, Ayn Shams University, Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

Dr Abdu Salam considered Shariah Concerns about Justice and Human Rights. He offered definitions for justice elicited from the Quran and expanded on key concepts such as inclusivity of justice and its nature. He detailed the application of the Islamic understanding of justice in contemporary and historical judiciaries of the Islamic world, and explained the necessity of understanding human rights within the Islamic law and justice notions.

Dr Fathyyia Esmaiil

AlAzhar Uiversity, Cairo, Egypt

Dr Esmaiil was unable to attend the conference in person, but her paper on The international financial crisis and Shariah remedies was read on her behalf. The paper explored the causes of the recent economic crises and endeavoured to illustrate a picture of what is envisaged by Islam to constitute a healthy economy including elimination of usury and tougher governmental monitoring in order to address the failures of the free market.

Dr Nicholas HD Foster

School of African and Oriental Studies, London, UK

Dr Foster gave a paper entitled Fact and Fiction in the Law of Islamic Finance. He considered the present state of the English-language literature in the field. He pointed out that coverage is poor, with various specialist books on Islamic Finance, but only one book and one extensive encyclopedia entry on the Islamic law of contracts and no book on commercial law; the general level of the literature is, with some very honourable exceptions and some promising signs among younger scholars, quite low, with a particular deficiency being the tendency to present a distorted, rosy view (‘fictional’ rather than ‘factual’), marketing the field generally rather than studying it. He concluded that considerable progress needs to be made and that, given the depth and breadth of knowledge and skill necessary (in Western law, the shari’a, comparative law, legal history, the Arabic and English languages and perhaps others), this will take a considerable time.

Dr Mohammad Badar

Law Department, Brunel University, London

Dr Badr considered International law in the jurisprudence of International Courts and Tribunals. He stressed that Islamic law is not being adequately considered by international courts including the ICJ and the ECHR. He referred to cases that have arisen as a result of war situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia and pointed out that in none of these cases have international courts successfully considered Shariah law as informing their judicial deliberations and proceedings in a manner that would have been conducive to their work.

Dr Javad Gohari

Coordinator of the Conference, Law Department, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Javad Gohari, Conference Coordinator, considered The right to life under the ECHR and in Shariah. He argued that this area constitutes a launching pad for comparative legal studies bringing into focus convergences and divergences between Western state legal systems and mainly religiously based codes of law. He also argued for strategies of possible reconciliation and harmonious interaction between the ECHR and Shariah law, using examples drawn from capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion and loss of life in armed conflicts.

Dr Pritam Singh

Business School, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Dr Pritam Singh explored Shariah and the eurocentricity of development paradigms. Dr Singh, offering examples from a range of non-European legal codes, argued that non-European philosophies and cultures, including legal cultures, could offer a valuable critique to European models, and a valuable corrective to eurocentricity. Shariah could function as a valuable resource for future legal development, alongside a range of others, including traditional sources of European thinking.

Professor Tafiq el Ghalbzouri

Department of Islamic Jurisprudence, Qaraweiin University, Kingdom of Morocco

The conference was closed by Professor Ghalabzouri, who considered Shariah characteristics of Moroccan laws. He offered a historical illustration of how Shariah law has been observed and applied in Morocco throughout various dynasties pointing out the significance of Maliki school of legal thinking in all these periods. He made special reference to the changes introduced to Shariah-based system as a result of Spanish and later French colonization of the country that brought about an introduction of legal secularity. He alluded to the jurisprudential struggle that ensued and the dominance of secular legal system leaving Shariah only as a point of reference in affairs such as marriages and divorces. He expanded on the current situation of Shariah law and what is being envisaged by the legalists in Morocco.

A number of overarching themes emerged from the conference

Firstly, legal globalisation can be seen not simply as a merging of the world’s legal systems, but rather as a hegemonic project of the European legal systems, and their inheritors, particularly the Anglophone legal traditions. A Eurocentric approach to legal globalisation can usefully be subjected to a range of critiques, of which Shariah law is one. We need, however, to exercise caution in seeing a simple opposition between European legal thinking and Shariah – not only does this risk invisibilising European Muslims, but it also ignores the rich history of cultural contact at key moments of European history, not least through international trade.

Secondly, and continuing the importance of international trade and commerce, this critique can be found particularly strongly in relation to international finance. The charging of interest, and the consequent financial structures, and it’s role in the global financial crisis was subject to sustained Shariah critique. Here we saw drawn an important distinction between a call for Islamic sensitivities to be accommodated in the global financial situation – an accommodation of religion claim – and a suggestion that the developed body of Islamic Financial law could provide a valuable resource for a critical reevaluation of global finance.

Thirdly, the position of Muslims as minorities in non-Muslim communities could be evaluated not only from the context of secular national and international law, but also from the Shariah perspective. The Shariah position on non-muslims living in states seeking to implement Shariah is, if not uncontested, widely known. Shariah law on the obligations and rights of Muslim minorities, however, is relatively unconsidered in these debates.

We hope to build on this exciting conference with future events, and joint projects between UK scholars of law and religion, and the Shariah law specialists who made it such a unique event.