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Islamic Constitutionalism: Not Secular. Not Theocratic. Not Impossible.

Asifa Quraishi-Landes will explain her current project, proposing a structure for Islamic constitutionalism that is inspired by Islamic jurisprudence and Muslim history, yet designed for contemporary realities. This structure is conceptually different from the typical “Islamic state” imagined by modern political Islam movements, as it is built upon the pre-colonial separation of Muslim lawmaking power: siyasa, made by rulers, and fiqh, articulated by religious legal scholars. She will argue that popular understandings of sharia fail to see the constitutional importance of these two legal realms, largely because global discourses about Islamic government are dominated by Eurocentric concepts of law (especially religious law). Quraishi-Landes will then present a proposal for Islamic constitutionalism that will demonstrate that—if we step outside the European nation-state paradigm to see sharia as an Islamic rule of law made up of both fiqh and siyasa—an Islamic constitutionalism that is not secular and not theocratic is not impossible.

Quraishi-Landes is a full Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, specializing in comparative Islamic and U.S. Constitutional law, with a current focus on modern Islamic constitutional theory.  She is a 2009 Carnegie Scholar and 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Her recent publications include “Rumors of the Sharia Threat are Greatly Exaggerated: What American Judges Really Do with Islamic Family Law in Their Courtrooms,” and “Legislating Morality and Other Illusions about Islamic Government.” Currently, she is working on a book manuscript titled “Islamic Re-constitutionalism,” in which she presents a non-theocratic and non-secular model of Islamic constitutionalism for today’s Muslim-majority countries.

Quraishi-Landes holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School and other degrees from Columbia Law School, the University of California, Davis, and the University of California,  Berkeley, and has served as law clerk in the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  She has served as a Public Delegate on the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and as advisor to the Pew Task Force on Religion & Public Life.  She currently serves on the governing board of the Section on Islamic Law for the Association of American Law Schools, on the Board of the Muslim Public Service Network, and is past President and Board Member of NAML (National Association of Muslim Lawyers) as well as of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. She is an affiliate of the Muslim Women’s League, a Fellow with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a member of the “Opinion Leaders Network” for the British Council’s “Our Shared Future” project.

Co-sponsored by the Muslim Law Students Association and the Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA) at Harvard Law School.