NEWS | 05 Dec 2016
Debt and Bankruptcy in Classical Islamic Law

Student editor Esther Agbaje (Harvard Law Schoolexplores classical Islamic law's basic conceptions of debt and bankruptcy. While the main Islamic texts, the Qur’ān and Sunna (records of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings), provide principles for fiscal  matters, these principles are not enough to establish systems as complex as those in modern finance with a guarantee of soundness in terms of Islamic law. As financial systems increase in complexity and number of actors, for better or worse, so too does the necessity of a clear set of sharīʿa-compliant  standards. Agbaje suggests starting with classical Islamic law, which explicitly summarizes the principles of finance into “four distinct areas: prohibition on earning interest (riba), the prohibition on speculation (maysir), the prohibition on illegal activities (haram), and the obligation of banks to give back to the community (zakat).” These principles naturally make for a financial model “based on partnership” that emphasizes both debt repayment and tolerance. “This tension between the obligation of a debtor to repay and the obligation of a creditor to forgive (or at least allow more time for repayment)” manifests as equal treatment for personal and commercial bankruptcy. How bankruptcy is practically dealt with, however, differs among schools of jurisprudence, as they diverge on how a creditor may humanely demand repayment. Read more. Image credit: Blog: Brave Organization Never Dies

LEGISLATION: Laws of Malaysia, Act 276: Islamic Banking Act 1983

When Malaysian officials established a centralized Islamic financial system with its 1983 Islamic Banking Act, they avoided issues of bankruptcy and debt. Instead, Malaysia handles bankruptcy according to banking principles familiar to its foreign investors, as evidenced in its Bankruptcy Act of 1967. U.S. editor Abed Awad explains that such moves occur because bankruptcy in classical Islamic law is “strongly analogous to the traditional civil and common law treatment of bankrupts prior to the enactment of Chapter 11,” when debt repayment was the goal, not preserving a business enterprise. Read more. Image credit: Channel News Asia

COMMENTARY: Is Sharīʿa Incompatible with the Modern Administrative State?

Anver Emon (Professor of Law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and SHARIAsource senior scholar) has a new paper on “Codification and Islamic Law” that challenges the now popular argument that Islamic law is near-impossible to formalize as state law. Treating Islamic law as “law” fails, he argues, when folks reduce definitions of sharīʿa and the state to fit a narrow idea of the state: the modern administrative state. Fitting Islamic law into a centralized bureaucratic institution loses the spirit of what is “law” and explains the assumed incompatibility. Read more. Image credit: The Library of Liberty and Law

Other News

Scholars in the News
The Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations at Boston University just published a review of its September workshop on Activism, Advocacy, and Scholarship on Islam in the Digital Realm, which featured the new tools being developed at SHARIAsource (presented by Intisar Rabb, Professor at Harvard Law School and founding editor-in-chief, and Paul Beran, executive director). The workshop further showcased different new media platforms that are changing how digital Islamic humanities is conducted and studied.  Read more.

As a discussant on International Law, Sovereignty and Subjecthood in the Late Ottoman Empire, Late Ottoman Empire editor Will Smiley (Professor of History at Reed College) continued a conversation he began at last year's MESA conference. The panel discussed questions of nationality, and how the subjects of the Ottoman Empire interacted with European international law and the latter's treaties and treatises. Read more.  

Policy Roundtable :: Understanding Sharia: Implications for Policy and Conflict Resolution (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.

Junior Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Department of Law and Anthropology (Apr 2017 | Halle, Germany). The Max Planck Institute is establishing a junior research group to investigate the bureaucratization of Islam and its socio-legal dimensions in Southeast Asia. There are three PhD positions open; the positions would be for three years. Applications are due 15 Dec 2016. Read more.

Law and Society Association's International Meeting on Law and Society ( 20-23 Jun | Mexico City, Mexico). Nominations for annual awards are open. The awards will be presented at the annual meeting. Nominations for the J. Willard Hurst Award, the Herbert Jacob Book Award, and the Ronald Pipkin Service Award close 2 Jan 2017. All others close 15 Jan 2017. Read more.

Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) 2017-2018 Fellowships (Sep 2017-May 2018 | Cairo, Egypt or Amman, Jordan). CASA offers advanced level training in Arabic language and culture to qualified American students at The American University in Cairo and Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman (pending the security and funding for each location). Applicants to the CASA programs must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and should have a minimum of 3 years of formal instruction in Arabic prior to joining CASA. Applications due 9 Jan 2017Read more.

Engagement Lab @ Emerson College: MA in Civic Media, Art, and Practice (Boston, MA). For those who have an interest in digital Islamic law/humanities, and want graduate training to better prepare for an academic or industry career in the field, the Engagement Lab is accepting applications for their graduate program. Read more.

Al-Qasimi Chair (Professor/Associate Professor) in Islamic Studies, IAIS, University of Exeter (Exeter, UK). The post holder will be a leading international figure with the ability to attract high quality researchers at doctoral and postdoctoral level to the Islamic Studies research group. Any area of Islamic Studies is an appropriate specialism including (but not limited to) history, theology, philosophy, literature, mysticism, law, jurisprudence, art and architecture, art history, anthropology and sociology, digital humanities, and any period of the study of Islam. Applications due 01 May 2017Read more.

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