Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law
‘Religion’ is faith in a non-material force of some kind, and something we consider internal to the human soul. ‘Law’, on the other hand, is external to us, established by society in order to regulate the material needs of the community. The contrast between ‘religion’ and ‘law’ has been continuous throughout Muslim history. Islamic law has always existed in a tension between these two forces: God, who gave the law, and the state – the ‘sultan’ – representing society and implementing the law. This tension and dynamic have created a very particular history for the law – in how it was formulated and by whom, in its theoretical basis and its actual rules, and in how it was practised in historical reality from the time of its formation till today.
That is the main theme of the book. Knut S. Vikor aims in this book to introduce the development and practice of Islamic law to a wide readership: students, lawyers and the growing number of those interested in Islamic civilisation. He summarises the main concepts of Islamic jurisprudence, discusses debates concerning the historicity of Islamic sources of dogma and the dating of early Islamic law; describes the classic practice of the law, in the formulation of legal rules and practice in the courts; and sets out various substantive legal rules, on such vital matters as the family and economic activity.