Two approaches to Islamic law reform dominate the modern debate. Islamic "liberalists" seek to reinterpret sacred texts in the modern context, while Islamic "utilitarian's" pick and choose among the preexisting rules within the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. While the liberal approach is often promoted as a path to a more progressive Islamic law, there is danger in adopting it as the "authentically Islamic" form of legal reform. In comparison with the alternative utilitarian approach, the liberal position offers a much wider scope for policy choice, in both progressive and reactionary directions. In a context of increasing conservatism, the extra freedom of interpretation inherent in the liberal approach threatens to legitimize radical rulings contrary to progressive goals. Recent interpretations of Islamic humanitarian law by extremist Islamists illustrate the negative consequences of a legitimized liberal approach.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Amr Shalakany

Committee Member 1

Tanya Monforte

Committee Member 2

Ann Lesch

Document Type



iv, 26 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Public law (Islamic law)

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Islamic law

Library of Congress Subject Heading 3

Hare, David,;Wannūs, Saʻd Allāh,


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Call Number

Thesis 2007/59



Included in

Law Commons