Islam, Law and the Modern State: (Re)imagining Liberal Theory in Muslim Contexts, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Islam, Law and the Modern State

(Re)imagining Liberal Theory in Muslim Contexts, 1st Edition

By Arif A. Jamal


150 pages

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pub: 2018-03-26
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Within the global phenomenon of the (re)emergence of religion into issues of public debate, one of the most salient issues confronting contemporary Muslim societies is how to relate the legal and political heritage that developed in pre-modern Islamic polities to the political order of the modern states in which Muslims now live. This work seeks to develop a framework for addressing this issue. The central argument is that liberal theory, and in particular justice as discourse, can be normatively useful in Muslim contexts for relating religion, law and state. Just as Muslim contexts have developed historically, and continue to develop today, the same is the case with the requisites of liberal theory, and this may allow for liberal choices to be made in a manner that is not a renunciation of Muslim heritage.


'This path-breaking study on comparative public law confirms that the globalisation of debates about the relationship of law and religion allows today a profound, sensible re-assessment of plurality-conscious ‘justice as discourse’. Truly liberal theories of justice can indeed be reformulated and contextually applied to include Muslim concepts. An argumentative masterpiece!'

Prof. Emeritus Werner Menski, SOAS University of London, UK

'In a time of political Islamic reductionism, when the plural experience of Islam is at risk of being reduced to a dogmatic monolith, Jamal’s book invites Muslims to engage with liberal theories of justice not as the passive recipients of Western ideas, but as the active innovators of the local and global polity.'

Professor Marco Ventura, University of Siena, Italy

'This is a highly commendable and fresh contribution to the debates on the relationship between Islam and the Modern State; proposing a much needed third way apart from a theocracy or an anti-religious secular state. A well researched and highly recommended read.'

Professor Mashood A. Baderin, SOAS University of London, UK

Table of Contents


i. The challenge

ii. The structure

iii. The approach

iv. The contribution and the argument

Chapter 1: Developing the concept of ‘justice as discourse’

1.1 The challenge of diversity: liberal theory’s normative commitment

1.2 Alternatives to Rawls’ theory

1.3 Constructing a theory: justice as discourse

1.4 Justice as discourse versus some alternatives

1.5 Conclusion

Chapter 2: Justice as discourse in application

2.1 Justice as discourse and classical liberal theory

2.2 Justice as discourse and the Secular

2.3 Implementing justice as discourse: the axes of state, law, civil society and politics

2.4 Conclusion

Chapter 3: Muslim Contexts I: History and heritage

3.1 Why use the term ‘Muslim contexts’?

3.2 What is the same, and what is different, about Muslim contexts?

3.3 The politico-legal legacy

3.4 Conclusion and lessons from the heritage

Chapter 4: Muslim Contexts II: Contemporary contexts

4.1 Re- working the law: replacement, codifications and ‘etatization’

4.2 The nexus of Din, Dunya and Dawla: religion, politics and the state – divided?

4.3 Contemporary opinions in Muslim populations

4.4 Prospects for democracy?

4.5 Conclusion

Chapter 5: Terms of engagement: (re)imagining religion, law, state and society for Muslim contexts

5.1 Challenges to the uses of liberal theory

5.2 Defining a practical political model

5.3 The bridge from politics to law: Menski’s kite

5.4 The overall argument and conclusion


About the Author

Arif A. Jamal is Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law where he teaches comparative law, legal theory, law and religion, and Islamic law. He has studied and researched in law, politics and Islamic studies in Canada, the UK and the USA, and writes on issues of law and religion, comparative law and law in Muslim contexts.

About the Series

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community ( The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Comparative
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Public
LAW / Government / State, Provincial & Municipal
RELIGION / Islam / General
RELIGION / Islam / Law