Fall 2018

Dr. Nahed Samour, currently an Early Career Fellow at Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Göttingen Institute for Advance Study, presented on September 24th her current work on the professionalization of judges in early Islamic courts at SHARIAsource’s first lunch talk of the academic year. Using Western theories of professionalizatition, Samour is assessing how jurists in early Islamic court established power and authority. The event was livetweeted and may also be found directly on our Twitter under #samourlunchtalk.

Spring 2018

On April 10th ILSP: SHARIAsource Policy Fellow Ebrahim Afsah discussed his current research on a structured comparison between waqf and the Western institution of landed trust and the implications for Islamic administrative and public law. He examined universities and how Western landed trusts and waqfhistorically influenced these institutions’ development, and continue to do so. Quotes from the event can be found on the SHARIAsource twitter .

SHARIAsource Visiting Fellow Mansurah Izzul Mohamed presented her current research to a group of twenty-one students and scholars during her April 24th ILSP: SHARIAsource Lunch Talk entitled “A Southeast Asian Model of Sharīʿa Law? The Evolution and Possibility in Southeast Asian Countries.” Using the example of Brunei, Mohamed’s discussion outlined how a Southeast Asian Model of Islamic law could be designed and why. This event was livetweeted .

SHARIAsource Visiting Fellow Rodrigo Adem presented to a group of eight students and scholars on “Early Islamic Political Theory Between Legal Discourse and Political Anthropology” during his April 26thILSP: SHARIAsource Lunch Talk. Adem’s research not only pushed back against the idea of Sunnis and Shīʿites or caliphs and imams, but also against the very idea of a scholarly class. He challenged these concepts in order to dissect imāma, the idea of authority, and its source. This event was livetweeted .

SHARIAsource guest lecturer Amir Toft presented to a group of twelve students and scholars on “A Gentleman and a Scholar: Profile of an Ottoman Judge in the Late Sixteenth Century” during the May 1stILSP: SHARIAsource Lunch Talk. Toft is a 2017-2018 Research Fellow in the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School and Ph.D. candidate in Islamic Thought in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Using a court register from the late sixteenth century case about a homicide case, Toft compelled the audience to consider the non-explicit elements of the record—in particular the judge. His discussion spanned historiography and legal history, and guided the audience into considering questions about social and judicial structures in the Ottoman Empire, and what texts recorded then explicitly and implicitly reveal. This event was livetweeted .

SHARIAsource Editor and Iran Project Coordinator at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Mohammad Sagha presented to a group of seven students and scholars on “Apocalypticism and the Mahdi in Early Islam” during his May 3rd ILSP: SHARIAsource Lunch Talk. Sagha took a close look at a newly published manuscript of Ibn al-Munādī, copied in 1855 and written in the 4 th /10 th century. In this manuscript Ibn al-Munādī pondered on who the Mahdī is, and what purpose he served. Sagha took care to note that Ibn al-Munādī was an independent scholar whose work took care to consider the political realities of the Abbasid period. In doing so, he successfully presented the manuscript as a rich text of great value to those studying sectarianism within Islam. This event was livetweeted .

Aron Zysow  (Harvard JD & PhD, 1984), the eminent scholar of Islamic law and theology, turns 70 this year. To celebrate his intellectual generosity and his immense contributions to Islamic studies, a group of his long-time friends gathered at Harvard Law School on May 6 for a one-day symposium on a topic close to Aron’s heart: books. Participants presented and discussed interesting works of Islamic scholarship spanning the seventh to twentieth centuries.  Joseph Lowry  (University of Pennsylvania) analyzed the position of legal verses in the longest chapter of the Quran;  Joseph Witztum  (Hebrew University) demonstrated an early Muslim exegete’s method of integrating Christian and Jewish prophetic lore;  Ahmed El Shamsy  (University of Chicago) sketched the ninth-century textual genealogy of Islamic legal theory;  Peri Bearman  (retired from the Islamic Legal Studies Program) presented a tenth-century Central Asian text on law and later mutations of its use as a popular religious manual;  Kevin Reinhart (Dartmouth) discussed the influence of philosophical terminology on fifteenth-century Ottoman legal thought;  Himmet Taskomur  (Harvard University) outlined debates regarding cash endowments in sixteenth-century Ottoman law and the role of custom in these debates; and  Brinkley Messick (Columbia University) presented evidence of the usage of legal decisions by Zaydi Imams as precedent in Yemeni courts. The event was cosponsored by the Islamic Legal Studies Program: SHARIAsource, the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. Read more.

Fall 2017

Book Panel :: Law, Religion, and Health in the United States (27 Sep 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Intisar Rabb will moderate a panel of scholars, will discuss a recently published book on the intersection of law, religion, and health. Sponsored by the HLS Library. Details .

Book Panel :: The Futility of Law and Development (3 Oct 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Intisar Rabb and other scholars will discuss Jed Kroncke’s recent book on law and development, with its implications for Chinese law, Islamic law, and global legal history. Sponsored by the East Asian Legal Studies Program.Details.

ILSP Film Screening :: A Separation (16 Oct 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Come see the film screening of the 2011 movie A Separation —about marriage, divorce, crime, and regret—directed by Oscar Award-winning director Asghar Farhadi ( For the Salesman , 2017). A Separation won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, becoming the first Iranian film to do so. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Sponsored by ILSP: SHARIAsource. Dinner and refreshments provided. Details and RSVP.

ILSP Lunch Talk :: Mapping Islam in Constitutions (20 Oct 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Dawood Ahmed will discuss his work on comparative Islamic constitutionalism. Details.

ILSP Lunch Talk :: Resurrecting the Ancient Jurists in Print (23 Oct 2017 | Cambridge, MA). ILSP: SHARIAsource Visiting Fellow Ahmed El Shamsy will be discussing the influence of print on Islamic legal thought. Details.

Comparative & International law Workshop :: Designing Constitutions from Divided Societies: Lessons from Afghanistan (7 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Clark Lombardi will be discussing his work on Afghai constitutional design. Details.

ILSP Lunch Talk :: The M Word: Legal Constructions of Muslim Identity in the U.S. (13 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Seval Yildirim,  Visiting Researcher, ILSP: SHARIAsource, Harvard Law School will discuss her work-in-progress exploring the legal construction of Muslim identity through a study of U.S. court cases dating back to the 19th century. The paper identifies three distinct typologies of how courts have defined Muslim identity and the broader political and normative implications of legal construction of minority identities in the United States. Details.

Comparative & International law Workshop :: Against Militant Democracy (14 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Seval Yildirim, Visiting Researcher, ILSP: SHARIAsource, Harvard Law School will discuss her work on militant democracies and their development around the world. Details .

Harvard Law School Faculty Book Talk :: Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts (28 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Intisar Rabb , Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Abigail Krasner Balbale, Assistant Professor of the Cultural History of the Islamic World at Bard Graduate Center, will discuss their soon-to-be released book Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts . Details.

SHARIAsource Book Release :: Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts (Nov 2017). ILSP: SHARIAsource’s book has released the next book in the Harvard Series on Islamic law. Edited by Intisar A. Rabb and Abigail Krasner Balbale , this book presents an in-depth exploration of the administration of justice during Islam’s founding period, 632–1250 CE. Inspired by the scholarship of Roy Parviz Mottahedeh and composed in his honor, this volume brings together ten leading scholars of Islamic law to examine the history of early Islamic courts. The book is available through Harvard University Press .

ILSP Lunch Talk :: A History Without Gaps: Legal Maxims and the Evolution of Islamic Law (16 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Mariam Sheibani,  PhD Candidate, University of Chicago will survey the terminological and conceptual evolution of maxims in Shāfiʿī legal literature from the founding of the school in the ninth century to the emergence of maxim treatises in the fourteenth century. Examining this evolution not only provides a history of maxims without gaps, but it also offers unexpected insights about the significant role of maxims in negotiating jurists’ competing visions of the law. Details.

Middle East Librarians Association Annual Meeting: “SHARIAsource: The Online Portal for Academic Content and Context on Islamic Law” (16 Nov 2017 | Washington, DC). Aslihan Bulut , Library Editor at SHARIAsource and Sharon Tai , Deputy Editor of SHARIAsource, will discuss the information management of SHARIAsource. Details.

Institute for Advanced Study Digital Scholarship Conversations :: Digital Islamic Law: Prospects and Pitfalls (17 Nov 2017 | Princeton, NJ). Intisar Rabb and Sharon Tai will discuss the development of SHARIAsource and its place within the field of Islamic law. Details .

Harvard Law School Faculty Book Talk :: Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts (28 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Intisar Rabb , Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Abigail Krasner Balbale , Assistant Professor of the Cultural History of the Islamic World at Bard Graduate Center, will discuss their soon-to-be released book Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts . Details.

ILSP Lunch Talk :: Research Methods: Studying Court Narratives through Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (27 Nov 2017 | Cambridge, MA). Sharon Tai , SHARIAsource Deputy Editor and Ali Hashmi , former MIT Media Lab Fellow, use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning techniques to build a taxonomy of entities for SHARIAsource’s collection of cases of Islamic law in U.S. Courts, including cases of family law and religious accommodation. From there, comparison of state courts with overall federal courts using computational text analysis methods allows for insights into whether there is consistency of themes and considerations between lower and upper court decisions. This can allow researchers to identify spots of bias, sentiment, and missing considerations that become future questions about the narrative created by U.S. Courts in dealing with Islamic law.

Spring 2017

Gibb Lecture :: Scholars and Rulers in Al-Andalus: Averroes’ Disgrace in Context, Maribel Fierro, Senior Research Fellow, ILSP; Visiting Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Harvard University; Director, El Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (CSIC) in Madrid, Spain. Tuesday, March 7 | 4.00-6.00p | CGIS South 020, Belfer Case Study Room

Fellow’s Lecture :: The Trial of a Heretic (Muslim Toledo, 11th Century): Judicial Procedure and Political Context, Maribel Fierro, Senior Research Fellow, ILSP; Visiting Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Harvard University; Director, El Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (CSIC) in Madrid, Spain. Mon, March 27 | 12.00-1.00p | WCC 5052. Join a lunch discussion with Professor Maribel Fierro. The Andalusi Ibn Sahl (d. 486/1070) started his judicial career as secretary of the judge of Toledo. There, in 457/1064, a man called Ibn Hatim al-Tulaytuli was accused of being a heretic and condemned to the death penalty, although the consulting jurists concluded that he was first to be granted the possibility of challenging the witnesses (al-i`dhar). The judge of Toledo recorded the testimonies, the legal opinions and his judgment in a document (sijill) of which a number of copies were made. In the meantime, the accused had fled Toledo taking refuge in the neighbouring reign of Badajoz. A zealous Toledan, Ibn Labid al-Murabit, availed himself of a copy of the judicial document and visited a number of distinguished scholars in different Andalusi reigns asking them for their legal opinion regarding Ibn Hatim’s case. My paper will try to reconstruct the social and political context in which this long and complicated trial took place.

Fellow’s Lecture :: Shah Waliullah Dehlavi and His Neglected Views on Islamic Law, Mubasher Hussain, ILSP: SHARIAsource Fellow; Head, Sirah Unit, Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Tues, April 17 | 12.00-1.00p | WCC 3016. Join a lunch discussion with Dr. Hussain. Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Rahim, popularly known as Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1114-1176/1703-1762), one of the greatest thinkers produced by Muslim South Asia, was a prolific writer of his age who contributed to almost every branch of Islamic knowledge and inspired almost all religious circles through his thought-provoking ideas. He has been looked into in terms of his educational and socio-political ideas as well as his mystical approaches while his views on Islamic law (and his attempt to reconcile interpretive differences in Islamic law and jurisprudence) have been ignored, from within as well as from without. To reconstruct his legal ideas, I intend to revisit the various sources in order to trace trajectories of the discourse that led to the silencing of this part of Waliullah´s writings.

Fellow’s Lecture :: The Transformation of Anglo-Muhammadan Law: Muslims on British Benches, Sohaira Siddiqui, Policy Fellow, SHARIAsource; Assistant Professor of Theology and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar. Mon, Apr 25 | 12.00-1.00p | WCC 3007. Join a lunch discussion with Professor Siddiqui who will talk about the rise and implementation of Anglo-Muhammadan law in British India. Most characterizations of Anglo-Muhammadan law depict it as a colonial legal project that displaced Islamic law and its institutions of authority. While this is largely accurate, the dynamics between Islamic law, Anglo-Muhammadan Law and British law were altered with the appointment of Indian Muslims as High Court judges. This talk will look at these shifting dynamics after the appointment of Justice Syed Mahmood, the first Muslim to be appointed as a High Court judge.

Other Lectures and Events

Qur’anists in al-Andalus? ( 5 Apr 2017 | Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ )

ILSP/SHARIAsource and CMES senior fellow Maribel Fierro will be speaking as part of the Institute for Advanced Study’s Near/Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Lecture Series 2016/2017. She explores the production of religious and political authority sharing her study of how prophets accepted by Islam are represented. See full details. 

Launch of “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: A Digital Portal.” (11 Apr 2017 | New York, New York). The Institute of Advanced Study’s launch event of “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: A Digital Portal” will be on April 11, 2017 at the residence of the German Ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

Forum at HKS :: A Conversation with Khizr Khan Khizr Khan. (15 Feb 2017). Intisar Rabb, Moderator; Founding Editor, SHARIAsource; Professor of Law, HLS. Co-sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Law School, Veteran’s Impact Day

Lunch Discussion :: Prosecuting Radicalization Professor Amna Akbar. (17 Feb 2017). Amna Akbar, Assistant Professor of Law, The Ohio State University. Sponsored by ILSP: SHARIAsource at Harvard Law School. Co-sponsored by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School

PANEL DISCUSSION ::  “Is There Room in the U.S. Legal System for Halacha and Sharia? Family Law, Public Accommodations, Antitrust, and Arbitration” (06 Jan 2017 | San Francisco, CA). Professors Asifa Quaraishi-Landes University of Wisconsin Law School and a SHARIAsource senior scholar, Haider Hamoudi of University of Pittsburgh Law School and a SHARIAsource contributor, and other scholars of Islamic law and Jewish law will discuss whether and how the U.S. legal system can accommodate Halacha and sharīʿa. They will look at Soleiman v. Soleiman and Garcia v. Church of Scientology, among other cases. This session is one of three  on Islamic law at the AALS Annual Meeting this year, and is jointly sponsored by the Sections on Jewish Law and Islamic Law. Read more.


ROUNDTABLE ::  Islamic Law Teaching in the 21st Century Global Law School (06 Jan 2017 | San Francisco, CA). Professors Intisar Rabb of Harvard Law School, Shaheen Sardar Ali of the University of Warwick School of Law, Mark Cammack of Southwestern Law School, Haider Hamoudi of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and Seval Yildirim of Whittier Law School will discuss recent developments in Islamic legal studies in American law schools with an eye to assessing challenges and opportunities for that field in a modern, global law school. This session is one of three  on Islamic law at the AALS Annual Meeting this year, sponsored by the Section on Islamic law, and co-sponsored by the Sections on Comparative Law and Law and South Asian Studies.

PANEL DISCUSSION ::  Comparative Constitutional Law in South Asia: Sources, Methods, and Applications (American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting  (06 Jan 2017 | San Francisco, CA). This session explores the study of comparative constitutional law in South Asia through presentations that draw on a diverse range of sources, methodologies, and approaches in the field. Building on the joint session on Islamic law pedagogy immediately before this session, scholars will address the range of substantive and methodological problems that arise in connection with comparative law teaching and scholarship, including issues on Islamic law in South Asia where they arise. This session is one of three  on Islamic law at the AALS Annual Meeting this year, and is jointly sponsored by the Sections on Law and South Asian Studies and Islamic Law. Read more.

Fall 2016

(In chronological order)

All post-event summaries.

Workshop Talk ::  Constitutional Design without Constitutional Moments: Lessons from Religiously-Divided Societies . Asli Bâli, UCLA School of Law and Center for Near Eastern Studies. Oct 5: Presented at the International and Comparative Law Workshop, convened by Professors Intisar Rabb and William Alford. 

Workshop Talk ::  The Other Pakistan: Special Laws, Diminished Citizenship, and the Gathering Storm. Osama Siddique, Harvard Law School, Law and Policy Research Network. Sep 30: Presented at the International and Comparative Law Workshop, convened by Professors Intisar Rabb and William Alford. Read more.

Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University: Power and Participation in the Networked Public Sphere. Sep 27. Read more.

SHARIAsource Open House. Sep 21. Read more.

Lunch Discussion: “From Big Law to Public Service in the White House” with Raheemah Abdulaleem, Associate General Counsel in the Executive Office of the President, Office of Administration, the White House. Sep 16. Read more.

Activism, Advocacy, and Scholarship on Islam in the Digital Realm, Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. Sep 16Read more.

MLTalks Series: Intisar Rabb and Manal Omar in conversation with Ethan Zuckerman (19 Oct 2016) Ethan Zuckerman, head of the Lab’s MIT Center for Civic Media, will moderate a discussion with two people whose life and work focus on Islam and how it affects the roles and rights of women: Manal Omar, associate vice president at the US Institutes for Peace, and Intisar Rabb, professor of law at Harvard. Ethan, who is an advisor to Intisar’s SHARIAsource project, says her passion is in explaining what Islamic law is and is not. Manal is a writer and human rights advocate known for women-focused views of Islam.

Research Methods Talk :: Using Corpus Analysis to Study Media Discourse: Comparing Discussions of Islamic Marriage Reform in India and Pakistan (7 Nov | Cambridge, MA)
This talk focuses on using corpus analysis as a research method. Media discourse on legislative issues provides a rich source for deriving research questions. Sharon Tai, Research Editor, SHARIAsource and Ali Hashmi, SHARAIsource Editor/Data Scientist will ask for feedback on the development of a new corpus analysis tool that is being used to analyze and compare how contemporary media in India and Pakistan is shaping discourse about issues of marriage reform and Islamic law. Osama Siddique(Henry J. Steiner Visiting Professor in Human Rights, Harvard Law School) will serve as a respondent to the panel by giving feedback on how the tool could be used, improved, and further developed from his experience as a scholar, lawyer, and social scientist. Read more.

Workshop :: Digital Islamic Law and History: Resources and Methods (16 Nov | Cambridge, MA).This workshop will explore the methods for manipulating Islamic historical texts in Arabic through a collaborative platform called Open Arabic, and with tools for converting Arabic PDFs into OCR documents. Maxim Romanov, the architect of these systems, will lead participants through a hands-on exercise of marking and otherwise manipulating digitized Arabic texts to identify trends, build database, and produce data visualizations. Read more. 

Colloquium :: From Text to Map: Arabic Biographical Collections and Geospatial Analysis (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Thousands of fully-digitized texts of premodern Arabic sources have become available over the past decade or two. Computational methods of text analysis now offer us a key to the riches of extensive biographical collections. Mapped across time and space, tens of thousands of biographies may give us a novel and multifaceted perspective on Islamic history. Maxim Romanov‘s presentation will focus on major steps—moving from text to map—and highlight some results of such computational endeavors. Read more.

SHARIAsource Resource Sharing Workshop :: Comparing and Sharing Digital Archival Projects and Resources (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Led by Maxim Romanov  and Intisar Rabb, this discussion will showcase major tools and resources (online or digitized sources, CDs and hard drives, etc.) that can be used to research primary source documents in Arabic digitally. To participate, attendees need to submit at least one resource to share and showcase for (2-3 minutes): name of the source, where to locate it (URL or otherwise), its content and scope, examples of use, and pros and cons of use. Examples of these sources include, but are not limited to: the Islamic Texts Initiative, Turath Hard Drive, al-Maktaba al-Shamila, Warraq, Noor CDs, Qurʾānic Arabic Corpus, etc.  Read more.

SHARIAsource MESA Reception (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Join a reception to chat informally about your work on Islamic law, developments of SHARIAsource, and otherwise. Light refreshments will be served. Contact Ashley Fournier with any questions at afournier@law.harvard.edu.

Policy Roundtable Discussion :: Understandings of Sharīʿa (Islamic law) and U.S. Law and Policy Designed to Solve Conflicts (13 Dec 2016 | Washington, D.C.)  Intisar Rabb, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Founding Editor-In-Chief of SHARIAsource; Leila Mooney, Senior Program Officer, Center for Governance, Law and Society, USIP; Palwasha Karkar, Senior Program Officer, Religion and Inclusive Societies, USIP; and Manal Omar, Associate Vice President, Center for Middle East and Africa, USIP. The discussion will explore the contours of sharīʿa (Islamic law) in the development and critique of policies designed to solve conflicts. The program will consist of experts on Islamic law and foreign policy in discussion with a diverse range of policymakers and executors. The event is co-sponsored by the Islamic Legal Studies Program’s SHARIAsource at Harvard Law School and the United States Institute of Peace. More information to come. Read more.