Scholars have investigated statements by Azhari ʿulamāʾ (religious scholars) about the legality of protest in Egypt in 2011 and 2013 and their use of fiqh al-wāqiʿ, a jurisprudential method by which jurists consider social and political realities when issuing legal opinions. These studies focus on Islamic legal theory but do not examine the social implications of the legal. Based on textual analysis of televised statements by ʿulamāʾ and interviews with young Muslim Egyptians, I argue that, although some jurists discouraged the laity from joining the 2011 protests, religious youth were not deterred from protesting. Additionally, laypeople who are not well-versed in Islamic law grew suspicious of the shifting opinions of ʿulamāʾ on the legal status of protest, as happened in 2013. In the aftermath of the 2011 and 2013 movements, the moral capital of several Azhari scholars decreased as did the moral-legal purchase of the fatwās they issued.
In ruling T-1022/01, the Colombian Constitutional Court responded to a claim brought by a member of the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia against the Yanacona Indigenous Council. The claimants alleged the violation of their rights to freedom of conscience, worship, and dissemination of thought based on two facts: (a) the refusal of their petition to carry out a “Spiritual Renewal Day” in the main square of the indigenous reservation of Caquiona, and (b) the interruption of the religious gatherings of the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia, as well as the prohibition of their pastors entering the indigenous reservation territory. The Court found no violation of the rights alleged. The purpose of this comment is to explore the understanding by the Colombian Constitutional Court of the right to cultural identity of indigenous communities, focusing particularly on whether it encompasses the right to be free from religious proselytism.
To say that the issue of Islamic legal reform is on the minds of most scholars and students (Muslim or otherwise) of Islamic law is hardly an exaggeration. But what does reform look like? Rumee Ahmed engages the issue in his recent book, Sharia Compliant: A User’s Guide to Hacking Islamic Law. Intended for a broad audience and aimed at catalyzing legal change from the bottom up, Sharia Compliant attempts to demystify Islamic jurisprudence and provide a blueprint for lawmaking, or “hacking” Islamic law, through reverse-engineering. In the process of his critique of Islamic law, Ahmed revises its history and method. This review argues that in lieu of reform, Ahmed argues for re-forming Islamic law. The hyphen is meant to indicate that Ahmed’s proposal amounts to a transmutation of fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh: Islamic law is not interpreted, but arbitrarily willed; its sources (the Qur’an and Sunna), ornaments of this will, are instrumentalized to serve any desired end. In the end, Ahmed’s re-formed system undermines his hope for a democratic process of lawmaking.
Digital humanities has a venerable pedigree, stretching back to the middle of the twentieth century, but despite noteworthy pioneering contributions it has not become a mainstream practice in Islamic Studies. This essay applies humanities computing to the study of Islamic law. We analyze a representative corpus of works of Islamic substantive law (furūʿ al-fiqh) from the beginnings of Islamic legal jurisprudence to the early modern period (2nd/8th-13th/19th c.) using several computational tools and methods: text-reuse network analysis based on plain-text annotations and html tags, clustered frequency-based analysis, word clouds, and topic modeling. Applying machine-guided distant reading to Islamic legal texts over the longue-dureé, we study (1) the role of the Qurʾān, (2) patterns of normative qualifications (aḥkām), and (3) the distribution of topics in our corpus. In certain instances the analysis confirms claims made in the scholarly literature on Islamic law, in other instances it corrects such claims.
In 1979, General Zia ul-Haq promulgated the Hudood Ordinances to provide Islamic punishments for several offenses, but the prosecution for extra-marital sex (zinā) has been disproportionately higher. Based on the analysis of reported judgments, I argue that the higher rate of prosecutions for zinā was a direct result of new laws. Despite carrying the name “Hudood”, these Ordinances specified several taʿzīr offenses with the objective of ensuring prosecutions. By incorporating ḥadd and taʿzīr offenses for zinā, the Zina Ordinance blurred the distinction between consensual sex and rape, and thus exposed victim women, who reported rape, to prosecution for consensual sex. The Qazf Ordinance, which might have curbed the filing of false accusations of zinā, encouraged them by providing the complainants the defense of good faith. The number of zinā cases has decreased after the reform of the Zina Ordinance and the Qazf Ordinance under the Protection of Women Act, 2006.
This article is part of the Special Issue “Parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa: A Struggle for Relevance”. Because the politics of citizenship is felt at all stages of the parliamentary process, the very question of parliamentary relevance itself cannot be answered without reference to the citizenry. That Jordan’s citizenship regime influences and impedes parliamentary politics is explored through two cases. The first being decentralization, understood as a relocating of tasks, decision-making and mandates from a centralized location to different, more localized levels. The second study focuses on the uprisings occurring from May 30, 2018 against the draft domestic tax law introduced to parliament by the government of then-Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki. Both cases are implicated in the Kingdom’s parliamentary politics, and their selection is a conscious move away from election analysis. Taken together they elucidate how citizenship is a key battleground on which any future emancipation/development of parliament will be fought.
This article contributes to the Special Issue “Parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa: A Struggle for Relevance”. In the Euro-Mediterranean region, several international parliamentary initiatives are engaged in parliamentary diplomacy and cooperation. Aside from the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean (pa-UfM) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (pam) cross the shores. In addition, a number of national European parliaments, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations, cooperate with Arab parliaments in a bilateral manner.
Based on the author’s own research in Brussels, Amman, Cairo, Rabat, Tunis, and Valletta, the article analyzes cross-Mediterranean parliamentary relations and argues that parliamentary cooperation could facilitate an increase in Arab parliaments’ overall relevance, eventually leading to advanced democratization; however, the authoritarian regimes still in place in most Arab countries still successfully prevent a meaningful strengthening of national legislatures. International support offers thus require broader transformations in their partner countries before yielding success.
Since the 2016 introduction of a proportional open-list voting system to Jordan’s parliamentary elections, the Jordanian government has faced ongoing demands for reform. In response, the government has continually pointed to the many liberal democracies in Europe that use similar electoral systems. However, the issue is not that an undemocratic system is in place but rather that the system is unconducive to democratic reform given Jordan’s broader socio-political environment. This legal comment will explore the key facets of Jordan’s 2016 election law, discussing how the system – which could be effective in other contexts – impedes political change in Jordan and thus maintains the same patronage-fueled electoral dynamics that have prevailed since the reintroduction of parliamentary life in Jordan three decades ago.
Part of a special issue devoted to the role of parliaments in contemporary Arab politics, this article gives an oversight of the evolution of the constitutional rules governing the status and powers of Arab parliamentary assemblies following the “Arab spring” and during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Parliaments have traditionally played a marginal role in Arab constitutional theory and practice. Although the strengthening of the role and powers of parliaments and a rebalancing of the executive-legislative relations in favour of the latter featured prominently in the reform agendas emerging from the protest movements of the “Arab spring,” these movements proved unable to produce lasting change. The reforms have either been rolled back by oppressive governments or given way to a political pactice of renewed presidential dominance which diverges considerably from the initial aspirations of the reformers. The highly unfavourable conditions existing in most Arab countries – with internally divided democratic reform movements, entrenched military, and political elites determined to resist genuine democratic change with all means available and powerful external actors supporting the domestic status quo – are likely to ensure that parliaments will remain confined to a largely ornamental role in Arab politics in the foreseeable future.
This article is part of the Special Issue “Parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa: A Struggle for Relevance.” Tunisia’s parliament has undergone a remarkable internal transformation process since 2011, from a formerly mostly irrelevant institution to an influential locus of policy-making. This successful progress notwithstanding, the parliament’s transformation to a democratic assembly has not been fully concluded yet. A main challenge is that the legislature still shows a number of characteristics of an “authoritarian parliament”: besides a lack of staff and financial resources, the continuous dominance of personal kinship over institutionalized power structures remains particularly problematic.
While private networks of individual decision-makers were perceived as crucial for Tunisia’s stability during the turbulent post-revolution years, they concomitantly contain the risk for a resurrection of former authoritarian structures. The article thus traces the Tunisian parliament’s major transformation steps from a former irrelevant legislature to a consolidated, influential assembly, and points out the still existing challenges.