Debating the crisis of the Shari’a at Georgetown University

Press release
Published March 29th, 2016 - 06:29 GMT
Dr. Ahmad Atif Ahma
Dr. Ahmad Atif Ahma

Dr. Ahmad Atif Ahmad, professor of religious studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, will be discussing “Crisis of the Shari’a” at a public lecture at Georgetown University in Qatar on March 29, 2016 from 6:00 PM - 07:00 PM, followed by a second lecture on March 30 at the same time titled “Islamic Law Today.”

Increasingly, scholars have engaged in intense debate regarding the 'end' or 'crisis' of the Shari'a. However, this is not an entirely new debate as it can be traced to the 11th century, where scholars first defined the Shari'a as being owned by traditionally trained jurists, and thus argued that the 'death' of the legal scholars marks the fatigue of the Sharia.

In his lecture, Dr. Ahmad will map the classical contours of this debate as they unfolded in jurisprudential and theological centuries between the 11th and 13th centuries. It will end by revisiting the modern question of the fatigue and crisis of the Shari'a to see in what ways the classical discussion can illuminate the modern discourse.

Dr. Ahmad's second public lecture will map the development and evolution of Islamic law in modern nation state systems. Most evaluations of Modern Islamic law take an idealistic perspective, leaving us without any good description of how an uneven presence of Islamic law in today’s world can be approached.  It also tends to underestimate the impact of premodern governments in Muslim societies and the multiple changes the sharia underwent and its geographic diversity before modernity.  This lecture will take a realistic approach that looks at both the possibilities and tensions of Islamic law in the Modern world.

Dr. Ahmad previously served as Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of MidEast Studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia & Associate Director of the University of California Washington Center in Washington, DC. He is the author of 'Pitfalls of Scholarship,' 'The Fatigue of the Sharia,' and 'Islam, Modernity, Violence, and Everyday Life'--all from Palgrave Macmillan & 'Structural Interrelations of Theory and Practice in Islamic Law' (Brill).

More information about the public lecture is available on the university’s website.

Background Information

Georgetown University in Qatar

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is an additional location of Georgetown University, based in Education City in Doha. The University offers a four year undergraduate program in international affairs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree. Students have the opportunity to select one of four majors, a minor, and one of three certificates.

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