Monday, May 23, 2011

"In the Shadow of Shari’ah"

New from Columbia University Press: In the Shadow of Shari’ah: Islam, Islamic Law, and Democracy in Pakistan by Matthew J. Nelson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the Shadow of Shari'ah sets out to prove that Islam and the democratic ethos are neither compatible nor incompatible in any permanent or specific sense. Rather, the two work more or less in concert in relation to the historically embedded choices of individual Muslims and their specific approaches to Islamic law.

Studies of shari'ah, or Islamic law, are at the heart of several important debates, yet carefully researched scholarship on the terms of Islamic law is rare. Matthew J. Nelson launches a historically embedded analysis of shari'ah in Pakistan's largest and most influential province, Punjab, to highlight the relationships among Islam, Islamic law, and democracy and the ways in which different cultural and historical contexts transform each entity. Nelson begins with colonial and postcolonial efforts to introduce shari'ah into an environment tied to "tribal" custom. He then examines the way in which electoral accountability came to privilege those who could simultaneously sustain Islamic law "in theory" and customary law "in practice." Drawing attention to the interaction of formal and informal legal and political institutions over time, Nelson argues that a deeper understanding of the relationship between Islam and democracy requires a more sophisticated appreciation of the complex legal strategies adopted by individual Muslims.