The Beginnings of Islamic Law: Late Antique Islamicate Legal Traditions

Lecture | September 5 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 340 Stephens Hall

 Lena Salaymeh, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University

 Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Like artists who use a combination of recycled and new materials, Muslim jurists crafted their legal opinions by fusing ancient norms, scripture, Prophetic precedents, local practice, and contemporaneous needs in unexpected ways. The craft of legal recycling produced works whose component parts are not easily identifiable or classifiable. Much law was simultaneously Islamic, tribal, Jewish, or customary. Rather than labeling a law's presumed "identity," this book illustrates instead the recycled art of Islamic jurisprudence. The Beginnings of Islamic Law questions dominant disciplinary methodologies, identifies ideology in scholarly production, and resists the limits of modern terms and concepts. These critical techniques minimize both anachronistic and problematic distortions of Islamic law, revealing that Islamic jurisprudence - like any legal system - is always in a dialogical relationship with contemporaneous and predecessor legal traditions.

Lena Salaymeh, Associate Professor at Tel Aviv Law, is on leave at Princeton's Davis Center during the 2018-2019 academic year. She researches and teaches Islamic and Jewish jurisprudence in both historical and contemporary legal systems. Her book, The Beginnings of Islamic Law: Late Antique Islamicate Legal Traditions (Cambridge University Press, 2016) explores how critical historiography can illuminate Islamic legal beginnings and was awarded the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, Textual Studies. She has published in Law and History Review, Law & Social Inquiry, Islamic Law & Society, Journal of Legal Education, and The Immanent Frame. Her forthcoming publications use critical feminist theory and critical secularism studies to examine contemporary controversies about law and religion. She earned her PhD in Legal and Middle Eastern History from UC Berkeley and her JD from Harvard Law School; she is a member of the California Bar.

 cmes@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8208