'We the Jurists': Islamic Constitutionalism in Iraq

Intisar A. Rabb

Harvard Law School

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 10, No. 3, p. 527, March 2008
Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 08-48

This article examines the implications of incorporating Islamic law in a modern democratic constitutional context. The new Iraqi constitution's designation of Islamic law as "a source of law" placed the issue of Islamic law's role in new democracies at the forefront of the debates on "Islamic constitutionalism" - governing structures characterized by written constitutions that incorporate Islamic law. With its incorporation of both Islamic law and democratic/human rights provisions, the Iraqi constitution establishes a scenario where the government must legislate or adjudicate with respect to a set of dual norms. What challenges does the government face in attempts to legislate and adjudicate vis-a-vis an ostensibly religious legal system? Must it delineate a relationship between its traditional three branches and Islamic law's traditional interpreters (the jurists)? This article takes up these questions, positing that the role of Islamic law in an Islamic constitutional regime revolves around issues of interpretation and the institutional relationship between the government and the jurists. Taking the debates about family law reforms as a case study, the article assesses ways in which sentiments about Islamic law play out in discussions of popular sovereignty ("we the people"), juristic input ("we the jurists"), and legal reform. By comparing Iraq to existing models for Islamic constitutionalism, the article shows how the prospects for progressive laws and legal reform in Iraq depend on the form of Islamic constitutionalism adopted. More generally, the article offers insights in the areas of Islamic law and legislation in contemporary contexts of democracy - building, legal reform, and rule-of-law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: Islamic law, Islamic constitutionalism, democracy, legislation, religion

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Date posted: September 30, 2008 ; Last revised: July 6, 2011

Suggested Citation

Rabb, Intisar A., 'We the Jurists': Islamic Constitutionalism in Iraq. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 10, No. 3, p. 527, March 2008; Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 08-48. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1263354

Contact Information

Intisar A. Rabb (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1525 Massachusetts Ave.
Griswold Hall 450
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/index.html?id=1054

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