The Politics of Islamic Law: Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State: A Book Review

LUMS Law Journal, Forthcoming

5 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Muhammad Wajid Munir

Muhammad Wajid Munir

International Islamic University, Islamabad - Department of Law

Date Written: November 6, 2019


Iza R. Hussin is a lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), the University of Cambridge. Her areas of research include religion, Islamic law, comparative politics, and society. Her book, The Politics of Islamic Law investigates the process of transformation of Islamic law by the British colonial administrators in India, Egypt, and Malaysia. The main argument of the book is about the process by which Islamic law was made, unmade and remade in colonized states as a result of interactions and negotiations between the British colonizers and the local political elites. She argues that the remaking and transformation of Islamic law produced a new version of Islamic law which was more state-centered and patriarchal than pre-colonial Islamic law, which was diverse, instance-based and judge-centric. She observes that Islamic law was marginalized through this process of transformation and confined to the limited domain of personal law and religious endowments (awqaf).

Chapter I of the book focuses on the methodology and overall contour of the book. Subsequently, Chapter II discusses the radical transformation of Islamic law in terms of lawmaking and state-building processes in the colonial India, Egypt, and Malaysia. Chapter III of the book analyses the issue of the jurisdiction. The colonial administration assumed the jurisdiction over the matters of the religion through treaties like the Allahabad treaty, the Victorian Proclamation, the Hastings Plan, and the Pangkor Treaty. Chapter IV deals with the application of Islamic law in the trials. It discusses the four important trials namely the trial of Warren Hastings, the trial of Bahadur Shah, the trial of Perak chiefs of Malaysia, and the trial of Ahmed ‘Urabi of Egypt. After analysis of the trials in the colonized states, Chapter V addresses how colonizers remade the Muslim states through the institutionalization of Islamic law by the local elites. The central theme of this chapter is the struggle of the Muslim intellectuals and religious scholars to counter the marginalization of Islamic law. It also discusses how the state incorporated new discourses and institutions into Islamic law. The last two chapters of the book analyses postcolonial consequences of privatization, secularization and marginalization of Islamic law. Chapter VI discusses the colonial politics of Islamic law by focusing on secularism, Islamic law and the Muslim modernity. It also discusses legal formalism, legal pluralism and legal realism in the modern context. The last chapter addresses the contemporary politics of Islamic law. This chapter analyses the postcolonial problematics of centralization of Islamic law by referring to two Malaysian court cases (Lina Joy and Nyonya Tahir ) on the issue of apostasy.

Keywords: Islamic Law, Muslim Personal Law, Family Law, Transformation of Islamic Law

Suggested Citation

Munir, Muhammad Wajid, The Politics of Islamic Law: Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State: A Book Review (November 6, 2019). LUMS Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Muhammad Wajid Munir (Contact Author)

International Islamic University, Islamabad - Department of Law ( email )

Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory 44000

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