Islamic Law and Government

Seminar on Islamic Law & Government

Course Syllabus

Course Co-listing: College of Law Course #: 091:637 (LAW9722)Department of Religious Studies Course #: 32:225 (RELS6722); 19-Digit Course Title:  Islamic Law & Govt.

Instructor: Prof. AHMED SOUAIAIA

About the Course:

Islamic Law & Government is a graduate seminar designed for professional and graduate students with interest in the study of Islamic law and institutions. We will discuss the various theories explaining classical law and governance theories, examine key areas including contract law, homicide, procedure, personal Statutes (marriage, divorce, inheritance…), banking and financial, oversight, public trust, and bequests. We will learn about the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, sources of Islamic law, methods of deriving legal rulings, forms of Islamic government, and modern Islamic political thought. Additionally, students will be introduced to major legal and jurisprudential schools of thought including Sunnism, Shi`ism, and Ibadism and the sub-groups thereof. Finally, we will consider secular and Islamic law-based legal codes in key Muslim countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco…), political trends, and social movements.

As to the rationale, this seminar will meet the needs of graduate students in department of Religious Studies (most areas of concentrations within RS require students to take four graduate seminars), professional students in the College of Law, and graduate students from other departments including political science, anthropology, history, and other academic units. Students will engage in the critical analysis of the logic and context of the development of Islamic legal and political legacy from the formative period (7th century) until modern time.

Students must be prepared to read the assigned materials in time, lead class discussions, and write a substantive research paper about a relevant topic. All students must read the assigned books and chapters, however, each week, one or two students will be selected to summarize the week’s reading assignments, identify the main thesis of the work, determine the disciplinary approach (or approaches) employed by the authors; and moderate the ensuing discussion. In a sense, while this course is primarily a learning experience, it is also a training opportunity for future teachers and professionals.


  • Professional students may take the course with “writing credit” option, which entails submitting a minimum of 40-page paper--excluding footnotes and end-matter.
  • Undergraduate students may enroll in this course but must ask for Instructor’s permission before or during the first week of the semester.


In addition to the textbooks below, there will be additional reading materials to be made available to students online.



·         Reading Packet (Selection of book chapters and articles available on online on ICON)

·         The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, by A. Sachedina (ISBN: 0195326016; List Price: $25.00; Oxford University Press, USA; (2007))

·         The Justice of Islam: Comparative Perspectives on Islamic Law and Society, by Lawrence Rosen; (ISBN: 0198298854; List Price: $65.00; Oxford University Press, USA (2000))

·     Islamic government, by Ruhollah Khomeini (ISBN: 1452855854; List Price: $14.95; CreateSpace Press, (2004))



·         Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari’a, by A. An-Na`im (ISBN: 0674034562; List Price: $18.95; Harvard University Press (2009))

·         Law as Culture: An Invitation by Lawrence Rosen, (ISBN: 0691136440; List Price: $22.95; Princeton University Press (March 3, 2008)

·         New Issues in Islamic Finance and Economics: Progress and Challenges (Wiley Finance) by Hossein Askari; (ISBN: 0470822937; List Price: $150; Wiley (June 27, 2008))

·         Varieties of Muslim Experience: Encounters with Arab Political and Cultural Life by Lawrence Rosen; (ISBN: 0226726169; List Price: $35.00; University Of Chicago Press (June 1, 2008))

·         Islamic Natural Law Theories by Anver M. Emon; (ISBN: 0199579008; List Price: $100; Oxford University Press, USA (May 1, 2010))

...  More books about Politics and Religion in Islam


1. Class Participation: Each student will lead at least one class discussion.

2. Homework Assignments:  There will be weekly reading assignments. Students must read assigned materials before each class session in order to participate and benefit from the lecture presentations.

3. Research Papers: A final substantive research paper—topic, scope, and timeline to be decided in a meeting with Instructor. Every week, students must write a minimum of one-page review/summery of the reading assignments; this will serve as an outline for their participation in class, then they must turn it in at the end of each class session. There will be no quizzes and no exams. The final research paper must be typed, double-spaced, and with an average of 30 pages in length (Professional students taking the course with “writing credit” option must submit a minimum of 40 pages excluding footnotes and end-matter).


Grades will be based on the following distribution:

o                    Class participation and weekly book review papers: 60%

o                    Research Paper and Discussions 40%



Ø      Note about Writing Credit option (professional students):

Students taking this course with the “writing credit” option receive faculty comment on a penultimate draft before the final draft is submitted for grading and credit. Students are expected to hand in their drafts on time as indicated in the schedule to allow enough time for comments.


Ø      Note about Grades:

Although undergraduate students from CLAS may be allowed to take this course, CLAS grade distribution (appended below as required by the College) will not apply to graduate seminars with enrollment under 20 students; therefore the median will be 3.3 (a B+).

Instructors of this course will evaluate each student's work fairly and without bias and will assign grades based on valid academic criteria. Fairness to students also implies reasonably consistent grading among courses of the same level, other things being equal. For this course, the grades distribution—based on the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences historical data—will be roughly as follows:

Course’s Level




























Students final grade will reflect the plus/minus grading.

Reminders and Resources:

This is a graduate seminar: there is a substantive amount of readings and students are required to finish the readings before each class session.

A tentative schedule and assignments will be made available online, but changes may occur; students must check regularly for updates that will be reflected in the online version.

The University of Iowa relies on email system to disseminate information and reach students regarding academic matters; it is the student’s responsibility to establish an email account and check his/her email regularly for updates relevant to this course.

Please contact me during my office hours if you are one who has a disability which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made.

The Writing Center is available to any U of Iowa student, faculty, or staff for help with any kind of writing, academic, personal, or professional.  All writers can use feedback on their writing and someone to act as a sounding board for their ideas. Three programs are available: the Enrollment (twice a week program), the Evening and Friday appointment program, and E-mail tutoring through the web site at Tutors help you with any aspect of writing--from brainstorming an assignment to comma placement.

Please be advised of the university policy on plagiarism and cheating, as any such act will be dealt with as outlined therein.

Students who wish to complain about the course, the Teaching Assistants, and/or the Instructor may follow the College’s policy as summarized below:

§         The student should to resolve the matter with the person of concern first.

§         If the complaint is not resolved to the student's satisfaction, the student should discuss the matter further with the course supervisor (A. Souaiaia), the departmental executive officer, another faculty member designated to receive complaints if available.

§         If the matter remains unresolved, the student may submit a written complaint to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall (335-2633). (Graduate students should be directed to the offices of the Graduate College, 205 Gilmore Hall, 335-2137.)

Disability Statement:

"I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability which may require seating modifications or testing accommodations or accommodations of other class requirements, so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please contact me during my office hours."