Anthropology and Islamic Law

John R. Bowen

in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law

ISBN: 9780199679010
Published online October 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191758331 | DOI:
Anthropology and Islamic Law

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The anthropology of Islamic law is concerned centrally with observing and analyzing practices governed by explicit norms that are given Islamic justification, from commercial transactions to marriage and divorce to rituals of worship. This article traces the work of anthropologists in courtrooms and in informal social settings, and the process of developing collaborative relationships with text-based scholars. It highlights two recurrent tensions: one between “law” and the Islamic categories of shari’a/fiqh/hukm, the other between emphasizing cultural distinctiveness and emphasizing cross-societal processes of interpreting and applying Islamic texts and tradition. Included in the treatment are shari’a councils, fatwa bodies, mahr and marriage contracts, medical ethics, and realms of ʽibadat.

Keywords: anthropology; Islamic law; shari’a; Islam; culture; marriage contracts; Islamic councils; ethics; salat; ʽibadat

Article.  7104 words. 

Subjects: History of Law ; Law and Society ; Family Law

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