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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Theology and Ethics

Postgraduate Course: Islam, Law and Human Rights (THET11052)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThere are a variety of ways of conceptualizing the relationship between Islamic law and the discourses and practices of international human rights. While some have pointed to considerable divergences in the way human rights are perceived in these two discursive traditions, others have argued that there is fact considerable identity of thought and practice between the two. This course introduces students to these conflicting perspectives in two ways. First, by equipping students with a basic introduction to the Islamic legal tradition and then by introducing them to the various ways in which this tradition has conceived of the notion of human rights. Second, by the study of the ways in which Muslim countries in the modern period have engaged with the substantive laws that have been formulated to uphold a global regime of human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, major conventions on civil and political rights as well as social rights and conventions on the rights of women and children.
Course description Academic Description

This course surveys the variety of ways in which Islam and the Islamic legal tradition have conceived of human rights and the various responses by Muslim thinkers and Muslim states to contemporary discourses on human rights and to the normative framework of international human rights protection. After a brief overview of the Islamic legal tradition, its sources and its distinctive features, the course delves into a survey of the ways in which historical and contemporary Islamic legal discourse has conceived of human rights. It then surveys a variety of Islamic state practice which shows the multiplicity of ways in which Islamic states have acceded to international instruments of human rights protection or incorporated international human rights norms within their domestic legal orders.

Syllabus and Outline Content

The course begins by providing an introduction to the origins and development of Islamic law as well as the theoretical structure of the legal system in its developed, classical formulation. Topics considered will include the sources of Islamic law and their relative hierarchy, the role played by considerations of human welfare in creating Islamic legal norms and the theories of law and state that have been formulated in the Islamic legal tradition. The second part of the course will examine the theoretical underpinnings of international human rights discourse and compare these with the ways in which Muslim legal theorists, traditional and progressive, have conceived of human rights and created a discourse of human welfare and its advancement by the law. The third and final part of the course will consist of individual case studies of the ways in which Muslim states in the modern period have negotiated with the international regime of human rights norms, displaying a variety of responses on issues such as freedom of religion and expression, blasphemy, the rights of women and children and notions of political and social justice.

Student Learning Experience Information:

Students will study a selection of textual and visual primary and secondary sources on a relevant topic each week. Classes will be used for discussions on the sources, to raise questions and engage in deeper reflection on the topic and sources. Assessment will be through a long essay, a legal case study and class participation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting Students welcome
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire an understanding of the origins and development of Islamic law and international human rights law.
  2. Display an awareness of the multivalence of the Islamic legal tradition and human rights discourse, drawing on multiple and conflicting voices within each of these traditions as well as the ways in which law, politics, culture and religion play a formative role in each of these traditions.
  3. Critically engage with primary and secondary legal sources from with the Islamic legal tradition as well as international human rights treaties, conventions and other legal instruments and identify the relevant international instruments relevant to providing a meaningful account of the relationship between international human rights and Islamic law.
  4. Analyze discussions on Islam and human rights in a critical and informed manner, recognizing the variety of ways in which the discourses of Islamic law and international human rights engage with each other and also how this relationship is conceptualized by politicians, media, and academics in Western societies and within Muslim countries.
  5. Develop transferable skills in constructing reasoned arguments, oral and written, based on critical reading of texts.
Reading List
Indicative Bibliography

Akbarzadeh, Shahram, and Benjamin MacQueen, eds. Islam and Human Rights in Practice: Perspectives across the Ummah. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

Ali, Shaheen S. Gender and Human Rights in Islam and International Law: Equal before Allah, Unequal before Man? The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2000.

Ali, Shaheen S. ¿The Conceptual Foundations of Human Rights: A Comparative Perspective.¿ European Public Law 3.2 (1997): 261¿282.

Baderin, Mashood. International Human Rights and Islamic Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Binderup, Lans & Tim Jensen (eds.), Human Rights, Democracy and Religion, Copenhagen: Institute of Philosophy, Education and the Study of Religions, 2005.

Ellis, Mark S., Anver M. Emon, and Benjamin Glahn, eds. Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law: Searching for Common Ground? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Falk, Richard. ¿False Universalism and the Geopolitics of Exclusion: the Case of Islam.¿ Third World Quarterly18, no. 1 (1997): 7¿23.

Ferrari, Silvio, ¿Law and Religion in a Secular World: A European Perspective¿ 14 Ecc LJ (2012) 335-370.

Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila, et al. Does God Believe in Human Rights? Essays on Religion and Human Rights. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007.

Hallaq, Wael B. Shar¿¿a: Theory, Practice, Transformations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Hjärpe, Jan, ¿Islamic Legitimation of Democracy and Human Rights: Some Trends and Tendencies in the Muslim Debate,¿ in Binderup, Lans & Tim Jensen (eds.), Human Rights, Democracy and Religion.

Johnston, David L. ¿Maq¿¿id al-Shar¿¿a: Epistemology and Hermeneutics of Muslim Theologies of Human Rights.¿ Die Welt des Islams. New Series 47.2 (2007): 149¿187.

Kamali, Mohammad H. Shariah Law: An Introduction. Oxford: Oneworld, 2008.

March, Andrew, and Modirzadeh, Naz K. ¿Ambivalent Universalism? Jus ad Bellum in Modern Islamic Legal Discourse.¿ The European Journal of International Law 24, no. 1 (2013): 367¿389.

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. 5th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2012.

Moosa, Ebrahim. ¿The Dilemma of Islamic Rights Schemes.¿ Journal of Law and Religion15.1¿2 (2000¿2001): 185¿215.

An-Na¿im, Abdullahi A. Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1990.

Saeed, Abdullah, ed. Islam and Human Rights. Vol. 1, Key Issues in the Debates. Human Rights Law Series. Cheltenham, UK: Elgar, 2012.

Saeed, Abdullah, ed. Islam and Human Rights. Vol. 2, Contentious Rights and Case Studies. Human Rights Law Series. Cheltenham, UK: Elgar, 2012.

Saeed, Abdullah. ¿Pre-modern Islamic Legal Restrictions on Freedom of Religion, with Particular Reference to Apostasy and Its Punishment.¿ In Islamic Law and International Human Rights: Searching for Common Ground? Eds. Anver M. Emon, Mark Ellis, and Benjamin Glahn, 226¿246. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Scott, Joan W. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Spectorsky, Susan. Women in Classical Islamic Law: A Survey of the Sources. (Boston: Brill, 2014).

Sullivan, Winifred F. The Impossibility of Religious Freedom. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Thomas, Elaine R. ¿Keeping Identity at a distance: Explaining
France's new legal restrictions on the Islamic headscarf,¿ Ethnic and Racial Studies, (2006) 29:2. 237-259.

Weil, Patrick, ¿¿Why the French Laicité is Liberal¿ Cardozo Law Review, 30.6. (2004) 2699-2714.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills ¿ Increased knowledge and literacy in the area of Islamic law and international human rights, alongside the ability to use this knowledge to construct effective arguments and counter-arguments on the relationship between law, religion and human rights.
¿ Critical assessment of legal codes, both within the Islamic legal tradition and modern Muslim countries as well as in the domain of international human rights law, to be able to account for the distinction between legal theory and legal practice
¿ Research and critical enquiry to select relevant sources for final essays.
¿ Effective verbal and written communication based on distinguishing sound from unsound interpretations of sources and making a convincing case for one¿s own understanding and interpretation of those sources that adequately addresses the existence of alternative interpretations.
KeywordsIslam,Law,Human Rights,Politics
Course organiserDr Abdul Rahman Mustafa
Tel: (0131 6)50 8959
Course secretaryMs Roisin O'Fee
Tel: (0131 6)50 8921
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