The term “shariʿa” has come to great prominence in common discourse, yet it remains subject to a myriad of unchecked definitions and connotations. This course examines shariʿa—what Muslims generally believe to be God’s blueprint for humanity, often translated as "Islamic law"—as it exists in the twenty-first century. With so many conflicting definitions and characterizations about shariʿa (and the Islamic tradition, more generally), how can we know what is “truly” part of shariʿa? Who gets to determine what is licit (ḥalāl) or illicit (ḥarām) according to shariʿa in the first place, and how? How can the centuries-old tradition of shariʿa continue to exist in a world of fast political, social, and technological transformation?

In this course, we will build a foundation for answering these questions and cultivate more precise forms of asking them in the first place. It approaches shariʿa not as a definable law, but as a set of ideas, texts, and practices that have continuously developed over time and space during its history. Rather than simply learning what is licit or illicit according to shariʿa—a question whose very premise we also will critique—we look at a chronology of approaches to Islamic legal thought and practice (with particular, though not exclusive, attention to women, gender, and the body). This historically-grounded approach will give us new perspectives to the challenges of articulating this centuries-old tradition in the contemporary world.

All readings are provided in advance via PDF.

Instructor: Ari Schriber (PhD Candidate, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), schriber@g.harvard.edu

Meeting Dates (6-8 PM, location: TBD) Mon. 1/08, Wed. 1/10, Thurs. 1/11; Tues. 1/16, Wed. 1/17, Thurs. 1/18

*This course assumes no prior knowledge and is open to everyone who registers!

Enroll HERE.