Islamic Law: A Very Short Introduction
By Mashood A. Baderin
Published in May 3 2021
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
One of the things that has consistently fascinated me about Islam is that it isn’t a purely spiritual religion, in the sense that Christianity is. Christianity does not deal with matters of state. At best, the old testament has a few passages cautioning rulers against certain types of behavior and warning about government overreach.
Islam is different. Islam is a complete political and legal system that has spiritual elements. The Bible is a collection of short stories and tales about important figures in Christian history. By contrast, the Quran is a bullet-point style list of rules and prohibitions.
As a result of the particular nature of Islam, interpreting Islam’s semi-legal or legal rulings is a very important field called “Islamic Law.” Today, Islamic Law governs more than one billion people - along with Common Law and Civil Law, it is the third great legal tradition of our day.
Islamic Law is a fascinating topic, but this book does it a dis-service. Very little emphasis is placed on making the topic interesting. Instead of focusing on telling great anecdotal stories to illustrate points, the book instead lists different positions. As a result, the information is not memorable.
Writing about law is very difficult. The best authors know how to use case law to entertain the reader and illustrate various points. This book, by contrast, falls very flat.
This book was a slog. Several times I considered not finishing it and writing it off as a waste of time. However, because it was so short, I plowed through it. The only redeeming quality is its brevity.
I did learn a few things; notably how Islamic Law is applied today by various governments. One surprising example is the prohibition against usury (riba) was waived so that the Egyptian government could borrow money to build freeways. The conclusion always seems to goes one way: sacrifice principal and tradition for the sake of political expediency.
I don’t recommend this book. Its boring. There is no reason to read it. Maybe if you are a law student, having a physical copy as a reference to study could be helpful - but there might be better sources.
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