Fiqh and Canons: Reflections on Islamic and Christian Jurisprudence

29 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2010

See all articles by Mark Movsesian

Mark Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2010


This essay, a contribution to a symposium on Religious Legal Theory, compares Islamic and Christian conceptions of law and suggests implications for contemporary debates about religious dispute settlement. Both Islam and Christianity begin with faith, but they express that faith differently – and the difference relates to law. In Islam, a comprehensive body of law, fiqh, sacralizes daily life and connects believers to God. In Christianity, by contrast, law serves an auxiliary function; it is facilitative, not constitutive, of believers’ relationship to God. Moreover, unlike classical fiqh, canon law has a limited scope and is not exegetical. This essay explores these differences and shows how they influence the ways in which Muslims and Christians view religious tribunals today, as evidenced by recent controversies over Islamic family and commercial law arbitration in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark, Fiqh and Canons: Reflections on Islamic and Christian Jurisprudence (August 1, 2010). Seton Hall Law Review, Forthcoming, St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-185, Available at SSRN:

Mark Movsesian (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

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