by TAMIR MOUSTAFA for LAW AND SOCIAL INQUIRY, 2012 on MARCH 27, 2012:
Drawing on original survey research, this study examines how lay Muslims in Malaysia understand foundational concepts in Islamic law. The survey finds a substantial disjuncture between popular legal consciousness and core epistemological commitments in Islamic legal theory. In its classic form, Islamic legal theory was marked by its commitment to pluralism and the centrality of human agency in Islamic jurisprudence. Yet in contemporary Malaysia, lay Muslims tend to understand Islamic law as being purely divine, with a single “correct” answer to any given question.
The practical implications of these findings are demonstrated through examples of efforts by women’s rights activists to reform family law provisions in Malaysia. The examples illustrate how popular misconceptions of Islamic law hinder the efforts of those working to reform family law codes while strengthening the hand of conservative actors wishing to maintain the status quo. MORE
Tamir Moustafa is Associate Professor and Stephen Jarislowsky Chair at Simon Fraser University (B.C., Canada). His research stands at the intersection of comparative law and courts, religion and politics, and state-society relations, all with a regional focus on the Middle East. Moustafa’s current project explores the public debates that are generated as a result of dual constitutional commitments to Islamic law and liberal rights in Egypt and Malaysia.