The universality of shari‘a is a topic of intense debate in the contemporary world. Some assume the universality of shari‘a as they outline the necessity of its reform. Other writers regard its universal aspirations as a “threat” to “Western” values. Still others remain skeptical that the shari‘a was ever meant to be universal. Without answering the question of whether it is, was, or should be “universal,” this writing course investigates the debates that the question has inspired. How do different writers perceive the universality of shari‘a? What are the political, ethical, or other stakes of arguments about shari‘a’s universality? Readings connect theoretical approaches to individual case studies in milieus as diverse as shari‘a courts in Ottoman Turkey, fatwa councils in contemporary Egypt, and divorce proceedings in Iran. Through creative and critical writing assignments, students explore the contexts, motives, and forms of evidence brought to bear by authors who contribute to ongoing debates about the ways we understand shari‘a today.
Dr. Andrew Bush