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Interpreting the Qur'an and the Constitution: Similarities in the Use of Text, Tradition, and Reason in Islamic and American Jurisprudence


Asifa Quraishi-Landes


University of Wisconsin Law School

February 2007

Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 28, p. 67, 2006
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1036

Abstract:     
This article identifies parallels in interpretive theories within Islamic and American jurisprudence. It explains how, although they operate against very different cultures and legal institutions, jurists of both Islamic and American law have adopted a similar range of approaches to interpreting their founding texts, the Qur'an and the Constitution, respectively. This article traces these methodological threads by studying, side by side, Muslim and American advocates of: (1) plain meaning literalism, (2) historical understanding originalism, and (3) reference to underlying purpose and spirit. Seen in this comparative context, it becomes clear that jurists of these different legal cultures often have more in common with each other than with their fellow jurists adhering to opposing methodologies within their own system. These similarities stand as a counterpoint to the stark polarities often drawn between "Islam" and the "West." This article thus fills an empty space in the comparative law literature by identifying phenomena that have been unrecognized so far, largely because the greater Muslim and American legal communities have themselves been talking past each other for so long.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 56

Keywords: Constitution, constitutional law, constitutional interpretation, interpretive theory, originalism, living constitution, textualism, historical meaning, original intent, original understanding, constitutional purpose, literalism, plain meaning, legal theory, jurisprudence, Islam, Muslim, Islamic law,

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Date posted: February 14, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Quraishi-Landes, Asifa, Interpreting the Qur'an and the Constitution: Similarities in the Use of Text, Tradition, and Reason in Islamic and American Jurisprudence (February 2007). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 28, p. 67, 2006; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1036. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=963142 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.963142

Contact Information

Asifa Quraishi-Landes (Contact Author)
University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
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