A new look at the Agency of Qāīs: Israeli sharīa courts as a case study

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In the literature on Islamic law, qāīs are usually depicted as lower-level jurists, who are marginalized by other actors in the Sharīa field (such as muftīs, author-jurists and legislators) and therefore have no significant impact on the development of Islamic law. The article calls for a reevaluation of this assessment, arguing that modern qāīs actually possess far-reaching agency for transforming Islamic law. A case study of the Sharīa courts in Israel serves as illustration for the argument. It is shown that qāīs in Israel employ a broad range of judicial and extra-judicial mechanisms for the purpose of introducing innovations into applied Islamic law in their courts. In particular, the article dwells on judicial tools for reforms such as procedural reforms, innovations in evidence rules, and several types of material reforms (takhayyur, hybridization of Islamic and non-Islamic principles, and the continuous operationalization of Islamic concepts).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-98
Number of pages29
JournalDie Welt des Islams
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An early version of this article was presented at the conference “Rethinking Islam at the Turn of the 21st Century: Liberal Trends, Agents of Change and the Reassessment of Islamic Traditions”, Ben Gurion University, June 6, 2017. I am thankful for the participants at the conference for their useful suggestions. I am also grateful to Ursula Wokoeck, Ron Shaham, Rainer Brunner, Daniel Sentance, and the anonymous reviewers of WI for their helpful comments. This research was supported by The Israeli Science Foundation (Grant No. 607/17).

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019


  • Agency
  • Islamic law
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • Qādīs
  • Reforms
  • Sharī'a courts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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