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Delivered by Professor Wael B. Hallaq [Columbia University, USA]

Date: Saturday 16th January 2016 Time: 9am – 6pm

Venue: Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX

The seminar is open to all but spaces are limited. Entry is through prior registration only. Prayer room facilities nearby to venue and due to venue restrictions, no refreshments will be supplied by organisers but can be purchased at the cafe in the venue or nearby.

  • Costs: Unless the course is cancelled, there are no refunds for non-attendance
  • Online payment – Student/Unemployed:£30 or £40 for those employed within deadline date
  • After deadline date, online prices increase to £40(students/unemployed) and £50(employed)
  • Cash on the day – door entry: £50

SPECIAL OFFER BOOKING DEADLINE: THURSDAY 31st DECEMBER 2015 after which prices increase – this is to ensure serious commitment to learning, attendance and having a mature and professional outlook as the presenter has spent considerable time for preparation

As one of the most highly discussed topics, we are honoured and privileged to have one of world’s leading academic authority on Islamic Law and Islamic intellectual history, Professor Wael Hallaq (Columbia University, USA) to deliver a one day intensive course based around his celebrated book ‘The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament’ (Columbia University Press, 2012).

He boldly argues that the “Islamic state,” judged by any standard definition of what the modern state represents, is both impossible and inherently self-contradictory. Comparing the legal, political, moral, and constitutional histories of premodern Islam and Euro-America, he finds the adoption and practice of the modern state to be highly problematic for modern Muslims. He also critiques more expansively modernity’s moral predicament, which renders impossible any project resting solely on ethical foundations. The modern state not only suffers from serious legal, political, and constitutional issues, Hallaq argues, but also, by its very nature, fashions a subject inconsistent with what it means to be, or to live as, a Muslim. By Islamic standards, the state’s technologies of the self are severely lacking in moral substance, and today’s Islamic state, as Hallaq shows, has done little to advance an acceptable form of genuine Shari’a governance. The Islamists’ constitutional battles in Egypt and Pakistan, the Islamic legal and political failures of the Iranian Revolution, and similar disappointments underscore this fact. Nevertheless, the state remains the favored template of the Islamists and the ulama (Muslim clergymen). Providing Muslims with a path toward realizing the good life, Hallaq turns to the rich moral resources of Islamic history. Along the way, he proves political and other “crises of Islam” are not unique to the Islamic world nor to the Muslim religion. These crises are integral to the modern condition of both East and West, and by acknowledging these parallels, Muslims can engage more productively with their Western counterparts.


The course will cover the following in detail:

  • Premises and Modern State and Separation of Powers & Shariah
  • Legal, Political and Moral
  • The emergence and nature of the modern state in the West
  • Political subject and moral technologies of the self
  • Undermining of the pre-modern societal shariah arrangement
  • Globalization, Moral Economy and Centrality of the Moral
  • Muslim thoughts on dealing with the challenge of the modern state and coherence
  • Extensive Q & A sessions

Professor Wael B. Hallaq [Columbia University, USA]

Professor Wael B. Hallaq is one of the world’s leading academics on Islamic law and Islamic intellectual history. His work has been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Turkish. He is currently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. After a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, he joined The McGill University Institute of Islamic Studies in 1985, to become an assistant professor in Islamic law. In 1994, he earned full professorship, and in 2005 became a James McGill Professor in Islamic law.

His teaching and research deal with the problematic epistemic ruptures generated by the onset of modernity and the socio-politico-historical forces subsumed by it; with the intellectual history of Orientalism and the repercussions of Orientalist paradigms in later scholarship and in Islamic legal studies as a whole; and with the synchronic and diachronic development of Islamic traditions of logic, legal theory, and substantive law and the interdependent systems within these traditions.

Hallaq’s writings have explored the structural dynamics of legal change in pre-modern law, and have recently been examining the centrality of moral theory to understanding the history of Islamic law and modern political movements.

He is the author of more than sixty scholarly articles, and his books include Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians (Oxford, 1993); A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction to Sunni Usul al-fiqh (Cambridge, 1997); Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge, 2001); Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge, 2005); and An Introduction to Islamic Law (Cambridge, 2009). His Shari’a: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge, 2009) examines the doctrines and practices of Islamic law within the context of its history, from its beginnings in seventh-century Arabia, down to the present. His latest work, The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament (Columbia University Press, 2013), has won Columbia University Press’s Distinguished Book Award for 2013-2015. For more information about him and publications, please visit:

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