Islamic Law and Ethics

Course content

This course provides an accessible, systematic and interreligious introduction to the study of Islamic law.
Students will obtain a comprehensive overview of the historical development, methodological approaches and substantive scope of this normative system. Attention is given to areas of commonality and divergence with other pre-modern legal systems, especially Cannon law and Talmudic law.
Particular importance is given to the differences with modern bureaucratic legal systems with which most (law) students will be more familiar.


Reflecting its traditional strengths in private law, this course focuses on Islamic family, commercial and contract law, as well as the relatively underdeveloped but important Islamic public law. These also happen to be those areas most relevant to legal practitioners, as courts in Western legal systems often have to resolve private law matters with reference to Islamic legal principles.


This course examines the nature and development of Islamic law from three distinct but related angles:
- as dogma centred around the interpretation of authoritative texts;
- as practice centred around the observation of the way its norms are actually observed by human beings;
- as contingency centred around the recognition of the diverse historical, social and cultural forms it can take.
All three angles will be contrasted to the experience of other major religious and legal traditions.
In line with the course design of the Master’s programme in ”Interreligious Islamic Studies” offered by TEO, this course teaches its subject matter as comparative law (not as a sui generis deontology) and from an interreligious perspective.


Learning outcome

- Know the basic contours of the historical development of Islamic law;
- Know the main protagonists;
- Know major points of agreement and divergence with the other Abrahamic traditions;
- Know major characteristics of the orthodox Legal Schools;
- Know key substantive norms and reforms of family law;
- Know key substantive norms of commercial law ;
- Know key substantive norms of procedural law ;                                                                                     

- Read translations of key doctrinal texts;
- Identify major dogmatic debates, both historical and contemporary;
- Identify key differences with other religious traditions;
- Identify social pressures for legal change;
- Carry out independent interdisciplinary research;
- Communicate academic findings to an interdisciplinary audience;
- Analyse the role of law in complex socio-political phenomena in current events ;
- Conduct independent interdisciplinary research.


- Critically examine the validity and reliability of dogmatic claims;
- Disaggregate complex phenomena in the Islamic world;
- Give basic legal advice on Islamic private law;
- Distinguish legal from related argumentation;
- Critically assess claims about cultural and legal immutability

We follow the Socratic method and will thus rely heavily on student participation and informed discussions, as opposed to lectures. This means that students will have to do some reading and come prepared.

The teaching will be live-streamed.

Further information about the syllabus will appear on Absalon.


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

This course can be, and has in the past been, taken by students from a very broad range of backgrounds, both disciplinary, geographical and at both BA and MA level. We deliberately avoid jargon and welcome general law and theology students, but also from political science, cross-cultural/area studies, sociology, history, and related disciplines.

By choice and necessity, this course will be interdisciplinary and has no prerequisites. No knowledge of Arabic or other oriental languages is assumed; neither is previous familiarity with the study of religion in general and Islamic beliefs in particular. Previous knowledge of family, commercial, constitutional, international or administrative law is welcome but not a prerequisite. Students from beyond the law faculty are explicitly encouraged to join, and we will make reasonable accommodation to make the legal exegesis accessible. Rather than assuming a common frame of reference, it is expected that students’ diverse disciplinary backgrounds will complement each other. A sufficient command of English is necessary.

This course forms a mandatory part of the newly created inter-faculty Master in Interreligious Islamic Studies (IRIS), run by Prof. Thomas Hoffmann at TEO and Prof. Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen at TORS. This course has already been taught jointly by Prof. Skovgaard-Petersen and myself in 2018 at KU, and has been offered almost every semester 2018-2021 as a mandatory part of the ’Special Curriculum in Islamic Law and Society’ offered by the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Home assignment
Type of assessment details
Project exam (including group projects)

Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Hand-in date: TBA



Hand-in date: TBA

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching time
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Ebrahim Afsah   (13-726f7f6e75767a3b6e73806e754d77827f3b78823b7178)
Saved on the 01-05-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students