Shifting perspectives in the study of shariʿa courts: methodologies and paradigms

Iris Agmon, Ido Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this essay, we aim at placing the articles included in this theme issue in the wider context of the field by examining two general questions: First, why has the shari'a court and its associated socio-legal arena received little scholarly attention until the 1990s? Second, why has this situation changed in the last decade? Until recently, most scholars working in Islamic legal history, social history and legal anthropology were hardly interested in the courts and their legal practices. We argue that this omission was caused by the academic traditions that shaped these three sub-disciplines and that established a division of labor between and among them. In addition, we argue that the recent spike in interest in shari'a courts in all three sub-disciplines is a result of internal criticism within each field and of broad methodological and epistemological changes in the humanities and social sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Although the workshop was designed to encompass all courts of law in Muslim societies, most of the contributions dealt with shariʿa courts. Of the eighteen papers presented at the workshop, twelve focused on past and present shariʿa courts; one dealt with the Ottoman Nizamiye courts; another with contemporary civil courts in Istanbul; and four focused on legal notions or research methodologies rather than specific courts. e workshop was supported by the Helene Soref Foundation and by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. See main.asp?page=previous_workshops


  • Historiography
  • Legal anthropology
  • Legal history
  • Methodology
  • Shari'a courts
  • Sijill
  • Social history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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