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Introduction to Islamic law

Module information>

Academic Direction
Laws Consortium
Modes of Study

The module offers an overview of Islamic law covering its religious historical and contemporary dimensions.

The module addresses first the religious and historical foundations of Islamic law before going on to address its application in contemporary jurisdictions.

Topics covered

Part I

  • Introduction. Islamic law in the modern age. Influence and extent. Importance as a source of law. Meaning of Shari ‘a.
  • Historical basis. Pre-Islamic Arabia. Tribal law. The life of Muhammed and his family and tribe (the Quraysh). The Arrashidun caliphs. The Ummayyads and the Abbasids. The ahl-ra’y and the ahl alhadith.
  • The sources of Islamic law. The Quran as a law text. The Sunna of the Prophet. Hadith material. The controversy of authentication (Schacht’s and Coulson’s approach). Subsidiary sources or methods of law: ijma, qiyas, istihsan, istislah, istishab, ra’y.
  • The development of the schools of law. Sunni versus Shi’i. The Shi’i schools: Ithna Ashari’s, Ismaili’s, Zaydi’s. The Sunni Schools: Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali, Shafi’i.
  • The courts and procedure. The Qadi’s court and Islamic rules of procedure and evidence. The oaths and witnesses.
  • Criminal law. The Hadd offences. The Ta’azir offences. The Qisas offences - Homicide: the blood feud and blood money. Pakistan’s Huddood Ordinances.
  • International law. Rules on laws of war. Treatment of prisoners. Treaty making powers. Dealings with non-Muslims (Dimmi’s).
  • Civil law. Contracts, Islamic Law of Finance, Tort.

Part II

  • Family law. Marriage. Guardianship. Legitimacy. Custody. Maintenance. Dissolution of marriage in traditional and modern law.
  • Succession.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the module successfully you should be able to:

  • Describe the origins, sources, methods and principles of Islamic law
  • Describe the history of Islamic law and appreciate its role in the contemporary world
  • Explain the main features of the administration of Islamic justice including: the role and function of Islamic courts, role of judges, evidence and proof
  • Compare and contrast the operation of Islamic law in relation to matters concerning crime, contract, tort, family and succession
  • Critically evaluate questions on Islamic law producing reasoned and evidenced responses
  • Employ accurate legal terminology relevant to this area of law.


4hr 15 mins unseen examination.

Essential reading

  • Coulson, N. A history of Islamic law. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994, reprinted 2007) [ISBN 9780748605149].
  • Kamali, M.H. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2003) 3rd edition [ISBN 9780946621828].
  • Baderin, M.A. Islamic law: a very short introduction. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021) [ISBN 9780199665594].
  • Abd al Ati, H. The Family Structure in Islam. (The American Trust Publications, 1995) 4th edition [ISBN 9780892590049].