[Report] UTCP Lecture on Understanding Islam #11 "Islamic Law and Modern Law"

23 June, 2010 ABE Naofumi, Understanding Islam

On June 16, 2010, UTCP held the eleventh lecture on Understanding Islam on the Komaba campus of the University of Tokyo.

This time, we invited Dr. Satoe HORII (J. F. Oberlin University), and she gave a lecture titled “Islamic Law and Modern Law”. Islamic law is one of the clues to have an overview of the Islam.


Dr. Horii, originally a specialist in classical Islamic law, is now working on the relation between traditional Islamic law and modern law and on the modernization of law in Arab countries. She published an introductory work in Japanese, Islam-hō tsūshi [A General History of Islamic Law] (Tokyo, 2004).


In the first part of the lecture, she gave us an overview of Islamic law. Dr. Horii pointed out its three characteristics.
1. Islamic law is unwritten and is composed of various legal theories of Islamic jurists “ulama”.
2. Islamic legal theories are disunited even within the same school.
3. Islamic law contains various basic layers, for example, custom laws in Arabian Peninsula, Roman law, etc.

After explaining basic facts of Islamic law, she moved to problems in the modernization of law in Egypt. She emphasized the transformation of Islamic law through the codification. As she explained, early Islamic law is unwritten and disunited in nature. Even though it seems that some articles of the civil code are influenced by Islamic law, the idea of codification is unfamiliar to Islamic law. So we should recognize there is a great discontinuity between Islamic law and civil codes in Arab countries.


After the lecture, we talked about many topics, for example, the comparison between Islamic jurists and canonists in Christianity and the relation between Islamic law and modern criminal codes in Arab countries. Also we compared the natures of Islamic law and Western modern law.

In this lecture, we had many participants including not only UTCP members but also many students and scholars, and had a good discussion. Last we would like to appreciate Dr. Horii for her stimulating lecture on the essence of Islamic law.

Naofumi ABE (UTCP Research Fellow)

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