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Islamic Law and Politics in Asia (LAWS70105)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70105
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Islam does not, in theory, recognise a distinction between religion and law because for Muslims both are derived from their god‘s revealed message. The result is the inevitable tension between Islamic beliefs and the modern (secular) nation state that lies at the heart of the politics of Islam in South-East Asia. It has become the subject of major global controversies and conflicts in recent decades, as religious and political leaders compete with, and – in most cases – accommodate, each other. This tension, and the legal, political and social controversies that result from it, are the focus of this subject, which is based on selected comparative case studies of efforts to achieve legal Islamisation from a range of countries in Australia’s region. Teaching is led by a scholar who has conducted extensive fieldwork across South-East Asia and worked closely with Islamic legal institutions in the region. He is supported by guest lecturers specialising on South-East Asia, who will bring their own perspectives to class discussions.

This subject examines the relationship between the modern nation state and Islam in Asia, focusing on the 240 million Muslims in Australia’s South-East Asian neighbourhood.

Principal topics include:

  • How the original Arabic-derived legal thought has been adapted in new Asian homelands
  • The essential position of Islamic legal traditions as an alternative authority to the contemporary nation state
  • Current political and religious controversies arising in South-East Asia. These will be selected from a range that may include:
    • Islamic legal codes and laws for Muslims
    • The Qadi, Islamic judicial traditions and courts for Muslims
    • Islamic criminal punishment
    • Interest-free banking, ‘Islamic economics’ and commercial law
    • Islamic approaches to the status of women (fiqh Al-Nisa)
    • Zakat and other forms of philanthropy
    • Education and the role of madrasa and pesantren
    • The introduction of revivalist Islamic codes
    • Islamic radicalism and terrorist groups in South-East Asia, including Darul Islam, Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the history and development of Islamic legal traditions and jurisprudence (fiqh) in South-East Asia, and key legal institutions of Islamic tradition, such as the Qadi, the mufti and ulama councils
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess these legal traditions and institutions, and, in particular, the tensions between Islamic scholarship, law and religious belief on the one hand and, on the other, the notion of the secular nation state
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as the status of Muslim women in Islamic family law, the operation of Islamic banking, and the application of traditional Islamic criminal law, especially the hudud rule, among others
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the how Muslim communities influence contemporary law and politics, with a focus on state-sanctioned legal institutions for Muslims in the South-East Asian region
  • Have an advanced understanding of recent efforts at legal Islamisation in South-East Asia, including the role of state-sponsored codification
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating the implementation of Islamic principles in modern contexts in in South-East Asia
  • Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a researcher and learner in the field of Islamic legal traditions.

Last updated: 11 November 2018