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The Islamic Legal and Cultural Influences on Britain’s Shari’a Councils

Citation: Shahin, Shahwiqar (2023) The Islamic Legal and Cultural Influences on Britain’s Shari’a Councils. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Shahwiqar Shahin PhD [December 2023] .pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

My study investigates the Islamic legal and cultural influences on Britain's shari'a councils. These councils emerged from within Britain’s diverse Muslim communities, providing informal Islamic family legal services and mediating matrimonial disputes in accordance with Sunni jurisprudence. While existing literature on this subject offers anthropological, feminist, and English legal perspectives and examines the implications of these councils for women’s rights, my study contributes to the field by providing detailed insights from the 'ulamā (Islamic scholars) who serve on these councils. It delves into the Islamic epistemologies employed by the ‘ulamā and explores the complex challenges they face in their intellectual efforts (ijtihād) to address the spiritual and societal needs of British Muslim families. Using Informed Grounded Theory methods, this study offers new insights and refines existing theories and concepts presented in the literature. The analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data presented in this study revealed that the ‘ulamā of these councils, contrary to presumptions of their adherence to the Hanafi legal tradition, employ the Islamic legal principle of takhayyur, which involves selecting the most suitable (munāsib) ruling from among the four popular Sunni legal traditions: the Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence. My research also reveals how the steadfast adherence (taqlīd) of many of Britain's Muslims to Sunni orthodoxy lies at the heart of the British Islamic legal framework, creating favourable conditions for the establishment of shari’a councils but also perpetuates androcentric power dynamics within these institutions. The study also examines how the religious and cultural illiteracy of British family solicitors often leads to misguided legal advice, which can complicate and endanger the lives of British Muslim women. To address these deficiencies within the British civil services and to mitigate the androcentric power dynamics within shari’a councils, this study recommends the strategic inclusion of female legal experts, whose presence can augment women’s agency in both the Islamic and British judicial systems. This study also proffers how the 'ulamā of these councils are uniquely positioned to assess the efficacy of classic Sunni legal rulings for Muslims who choose to live as minorities in a diverse and secular society.

Creators: Shahin, Shahwiqar and
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Ahl ul-Hadith, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Barelvi, biradari, British Muslims, dar ul-ifta, dar ul-qaza, Deobandi, fatwa, gushti, ijtihad, Islamic divorce, Islamic family law, fiqh al-aqaliyyat, Salafi, sharia councils, Sunni, ‘ulama, Zaki Badawi. Abul Kalam Azad, taqlīd
Divisions: ?? HEY ??
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 18 December 2023 (submitted)
  • 31 December 2023 (completed)


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