The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law. Edited by RUDOLPH PETERS and PERI BEARMAN. Famham, Surrey, UK: ASHGATE, 2014. Pp. x + 345. $149.95, [pounds sterling]95.
The scope and vision of Wael Hallaq's comprehensive history of Islamic law, Shari[??]a: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009), has made it difficult to imagine the appearance of similarly broad narrative treatments of the topic anytime soon. That is in a way unfortunate because, for all the value of Hallaq's book, it presents the subject of Islamic law, no matter the period, through the prism of a Foucauldian-Saidian critique of colonialism, an approach that is simultaneously understandable and more than occasionally distracting. In the near and medium term, maybe what we should expect, then, are handbooks and surveys of the state of the field. The excellent volume under review offers just such a survey of the state of the academic study of Islamic law. The editors are to be congratulated--in a period characterized in this reviewer's opinion by too many handbooks and overviews--for fashioning a volume that provides overviews of a large number of discrete topics in ways that are efficient, accurate, intellectually satisfying, informative, and approachable.
The Ashgate Research Companion (ARC) has twenty-two chapters, including an introduction to the volume by the editors and an epilogue by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im. In their preface the editors explain that they aim to "present classical Islamic law through a historiographical introduction to and analysis of the Western scholarship and key debates that have formed the field and continue to provoke new ways of thinking about long-standing issues in this increasingly relevant and popular discipline" (p. ix). Except for the introductory first chapter, the articles that make up the volume are distributed across four sections--covering historical, substantive, modern, and contemporary aspects respectively.
In chapter one ("Introduction: The Nature of the Sharia"), the editors describe the volume's focus as being on the Sharia's "legal normativity" rather than a more expansive "normativity in the fields of ritual, morahty, and law" (p. 1). For purposes of this volume, a legal mle is one for which "compliance can be enforced by the judiciary or [...] executive" (p. 2), and Sharia is "the sum of enforceable legal norms dealing with obligations and rights between humans" (p. 5). This excludes ritual...