Book Title: The Politics of Islamic Law: Local Elites, Colonial Ascendancy, and the Making of Muslim State
Authored by Iza R. Hussin
Publishers: University of Chicago Press; Illustrated edition
Year of Publication: 2016
The Politics of Islamic Law: Local Elites, Colonial Ascendancy, is a great source to understand the history of Islamic law and its transformation by Britain and other European and Asian ascendant entities. It gives an insight into the history and keeps its readers incentivized to read more about the impact of colonization and British alteration of Islamic Laws on Muslim lives. Islamic principles and Islamic laws have been established on the substratum of Muslims’ Holy book Quran, which avails the individuals to better understand the Sharia and guides them the right way to live a life. The author defined these Islamic laws “as a contingent and constructed political space”. Thus, for every single issue, the Muslims depend on Quran and resolve their matters accordingly. The Holy Book contains the set of rules and principles regarding humanity, ethics, veracity, politics, relationships, rights, and others that is consequential. Thus, the Muslim world is governed on the substructure of cognations between God and man, between Muslims and non-Muslims, Individuals and society, and other things that are a component of Allah’s engendering.
Thus, the author resplendently highlighted how the Islamic principles and laws brought tranquility in the society and engendered civilized nations, who were vigilant of humanity, ethics, rights, sustainability, and other gregarious is consequential. Even it worked as great guidance in economics is consequential, which further gave the concept of GDP, revenue, and other financial regulations. Thus, these laws became a magnetization for the British colonialism in Malaya, Egypt, and India, who then struggled hard to break the Muslims and alter the Islamic principles. The book is a great interdisciplinary research of colonial and postcolonial Islamic law and gives an insight into analytical categories to understand the politics of Islamic Laws.
The field of Islamic studies is not incipient; instead, it has been tardy in the state of a renaissance. Thus, the scholars’ interest to study several subfields of Islamic studies is found to be very high. The adolescent philomaths prefer to emerge in virtual subfields, such as Islamic laws and lifestyle of Muslims in past and present. The same is the case with the author, who wants to study the Muslim world’s past and present with reverence to the study of Islamic laws and history. The study of Islamic law, politics, art, history, and anthropology is additionally of great consequential to better understand the key to prosperity or the issues in the political system to evaluate how these practices were prevalent and why the vicissitudes were implemented in different scenarios.
This book discusses different Islamic law-associated matters in a single book, including politics, art, history, and anthropology, with reference to Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State. The study presented a comparison of the political and legal systems of the Islamic States with Malaya, Egypt, and India. Though the language of the book is challenging due to the usage of socio-political and anthro-political jargon, however, the author adopted the pluralistic analysis of the law with an indication of the unity of thought in arguments. However, the book structure is fascinated with the reflection of treaties and jurisdictional issues before the implications of Islamic laws in institutions.
The author adopted the comparative work with a brilliant analysis of transmarine and marginalization of Muslim life in the colonized states with those in Muslim states under Islamic laws. This makes it clear that legal and constitutional development in the Malaya, Egypt, and India is remarkable but actually it is more based on alteration of Islamic principles. The colonized states not only renamed and transformed the Islamic laws but also changed the language and terminologies, which contributed to severe challenges to the Muslim life in such regions. Specifically, this led to emotional torture for the Muslims, as they had an emotional attachment to their religion and family matters.
The study did not only derive the comparison based on laws, but also it worked on the political and institutional roles of the selected countries; Malaya, Egypt, and India. The major purpose of this comparison was to evaluate how Islamic laws worked as best principles to establish peace in Muslim lives, which after alteration brought great challenges to them. Postcolonial studies also reveal the violence with jurispathic and jurisgenerative approaches, which simply means the destruction of old principles with the introduction of new meanings of law. As stated, “Islamic law was marginalized during the colonial period and, at the same time, Islam and Islamic law became central components of the power of both state and social actors”. Thus, changing the language, terminologies, and alteration in principles worked as great destruction to the Muslim Laws, which also worked as a great source of emotional grief to the Muslims and affected their lives afterward.
The author did not only work on general rules; instead, she derived an in-depth analysis of some specific Islamic Laws to evaluate how the British involvement affected Muslim lives. For this purpose, the author discussed and analyzed the remarkable Anglo-Muhammad law, which was an amalgamation of the British common law principles. The purpose of Anglo-Muhammad Law was to analyze the cases in detail and make decisions on the basis of guidance provided by Muhammad (PBUH) and the Islamic book, Quran. However, this led to several British disputes because they were not satisfied with Islamic implications, and thus in 1875; it was repealed and replaced by British law. As stated; “As we attempt to make sense of Muslim politics in the world today, closer attention to colonial processes and the meanings Muslims make of them, and through them, will no doubt continue to be of critical importance”.
The study also included the scholarly analysis of several other authors to evaluate how the colonized system has contributed to the transformation of Islamic laws and its impact on the Muslims’ lives. The book highlighted that colonial attempts to alter the Islamic Laws created both; opportunities and challenges for the Muslims. Though the opportunities are minor analysis of some specific studies makes it clear that colonized principles did not aim to destruct the Islamic practices; instead, they wanted to bring some advancement in the system. Thus, the Deoband in India, Qadri Pasha and Muhammad Abduh in Egypt, and some other ulema took these changes as an opportunity. This helped them to generate a concept of ‘Muslim Private Life’ through which they guided Muslims about how to transform their personal lives as per the guidance of Muhammad (PBUH) and the Holy Book Quran. They presented the vision of women in Muslim society, through which they encouraged the females to participate well in the construction of society and convinced them to prove their worth as Muslim daughters.
The author did not only focus on the impact of Islamic Laws on politics; instead, she also worked on the Muslim Personal Law to reference the family relationships. The book reflects the analysis of how the Muslim Laws kept their major focus on family relationships and ethics, which contributed well to the establishment and development of a better society. The greatest example of such laws is Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla’s Principles, based on the life of Prophet Muhammad and the guidance from the Quran. These principles did not only provide benefits to the communities but also the scholars studied them to establish new legal frameworks and provide benefits to the communities in the future. These principles were also published in a book in 1905, through which these frameworks gained widespread popularity amongst researchers. As Mulla wrote it in the legal statute, this worked as original source of Islamic law and it is still used to study the main objectives of Muslim Personal Law and its impact on Muslim lives.
However, the author could have worked more to enhance the credibility of the book, as a reference to a limited number of cases remained a major shortcoming. The credibility of the resource is highly based on its citations and references to the case laws, which adds more value and depth to the discussed content and enhances authenticity. In some places, the author used authentic resources to defend her arguments. For example, when highlighting Lina Joy and Nyonya Tahir’s issues due to colonial alteration in Muslim Laws worked well to elaborate why the situation occur and what were the circumstances. It helps the reader to further understand the problems faced by Muslim People and get more data from the references if required. On the other hand, some points are left incomplete, such as the discussion of how the British version of Islamic Law worked against the interests of Muslim women. Though the author highlighted how British Law brought several problems for Muslim women no citation or elaboration is being used to explain how British alteration was conservative and patriarchal against the interests of Muslim women.
Also, Hussin failed to completely elaborate the term ‘Muslim Personal Law’ and defend it with proper citations. The author only focused to discuss this term to highlight how colonized alterations brought challenges for the Muslims, but she contributed to severe confusion in jurisdictions of courts of India, Egypt, and Malaya. When analyzing the term ‘Muslim Personal Law’ from a jurisdictional point of view, it has two definitions. The first meaning conceptualizes Muslim Personal Law as the divine law for Muslims, governing their responsibilities from their social and religious perspectives. On the other hand, the second meaning of the term is extremely applicable to the religious Muslim Community of Pakistan which states “the personal law of each sect of Muslims based on the interpretation of Quran and Sunnah by the sect.”
Conclusively, the author has beautifully highlighted how the Islamic principles and laws brought peace in the society and generated civilized nations, who were aware of humanity, ethics, rights, sustainability, and other social matters. She adopted the comparative work with a brilliant analysis of transmarine and marginalization of Muslim life in the colonized states with those in Muslim states under Islamic laws. This makes it clear that legal and constitutional development in the Malaya, Egypt, and India is remarkable but actually it is more based on alteration of Islamic principles. However, the book highlighted that colonial attempts to alter the Islamic Laws created both; opportunities and challenges for the Muslims. The Deoband in India, Qadri Pasha and Muhammad Abduh in Egypt, and some other ulema took these changes as an opportunity. This helped them to generate a concept of ‘Muslim Private Life’ through which they guided Muslims about how to transform their personal lives as per the guidance of Muhammad and the Holy Book Quran. However, the author failed to completely elaborate the term ‘Muslim Personal Law’ and defend it with proper citations. Thus further research to check the credibility and expansion of concepts will work as great contributions to the readers. Else, the researchers can study the Muslim Personal Law with a proper definition of the term and compare it with the post-colonized British Law to check how alterations occurred and why it affected the Muslim lives. Overall, the study has worked as a great source of knowledge to understand the impact of colonization and British alteration of Islamic Laws on Muslim lives.