Hosted our last ever event today under the HEA-UKCLE banner, a rather poignant moment after 12 years of supporting learning and teaching law. I’m pleased to say it was a good event to share with our community, particularly on a topic of growing importance. The main event was a presentation by Professor Mashood Baderin of SOAS looking at the teaching and learning of Islamic Law in UK universities. It was an immensely engaging and quite provocative presentation that sought to deal with both conceptual and practical aspects of building an Islamic Law curriculum in the UK. Mashood’s core contention was the need to treat Islamic Law as ‘Law properly so-called’ rather than ‘a different kind of law’ or even as a marginalised or inferior subject of comparative analysis. This would require us to take, he suggested, in Western jurisprudential terms, a positivist and realist perspective on Islamic Law (and note, Islamic Law, not just Islamic jurisprudence). The presentation also emphasised the need for UK legal education to provide more than a general introduction to or education in Islamic Law, but to develop a cadre of ‘home-trained’ lawyers with a good knowledge and understanding of Islamic Law. This would require us to go beyond a kind of ‘hot topics’ approach to the subject – what Robert Gleave has criticised as a “service industry” approach to Islamic Studies moregenerally – to developing something more sustained and fundamental. To this end Mashood shared his thoughts on what a four-year combined honours degree in Common Law and Islamic Law could look like. Needless to say, a lively discussion followed which ranged across issues of pluralism and the secularisation of Islam (and whether we should perhaps be talking about Muslim rather than Islamic Law as a way of acknowledging the place and function of the state), of traditional and modern approaches to teaching Islamic Law and legal methods, and discussion of appropriate sources.
The issue of sources led us neatly into the second presentation of the day, by Jonathan Ercanbrack (also SOAS) explaining what was happening on the UKCLE-funded Law of Islamic Finance Bibliography Project. Jonathan’s presentation took us through some of the particular resource problems for Islamic Law studies and the limitations of conventional bibliographies and bibliographic tools. This project by contrast, is developing what will ultimately be a public resource, using the new multi-lingual functionality being built-in to the web-based (open source) Zotero bibliographic application. Speaking personally, Zotero has rapidly become my app of choice for building my own reference libraries, and it was great to see it’s functionality being used in this way.
Finally, we had a group discussion about the next steps for this Special Interest Group, post-UKCLE. It was encouraging to see the level of support from colleagues, and I feel confident that we have created something that will have an independent future. Plans for a steering group are being put in place, and hopefully a conference in 2012. Watch this space!