ILSP Visiting Fellows

Scholars and practitioners from around the world are selected by ILSP in a formal competition each year to spend the following academic year or one term pursuing an innovative research project of their own at Harvard Law School. ILSP is a residential program. Our visiting fellows are housed in offices on the mezzanine level of Austin Hall or in Langdell Hall in the HLS Library.

Visiting Fellows 2014–2015

M. Shahab Ahmed (Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Harvard University, with a joint appointment between the Committee on the Study of Religion and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
Research topic: "Freedom of Expression and Ottoman Islam"

Dörthe Engelcke (D.Phil. candidate in Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, and Lecturer in Middle East Politics, Hertford College, University of Oxford)
Research topic: "Family Law Reform Processes in Morocco and Jordan: Legal and Societal Change and Continuity in Authoritarian Monarchies"

Meagan Froemming (J.D., New York University School of Law, M.A., Harvard University)
Research topic: "The Promise of Culturally-Specific Development: Using Islamic Finance to Grow Rule of Law in

Visiting Fellows 2013–2014

ILSP had the pleasure of hosting six visiting fellows during the 2013–2014 academic year. Fellows hailed from Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia, and worked on a wide variety of research topics. Each fellow also gave a public lecture at Harvard Law School on the topic of his or her research. 

Read on for a list of fellows, their institutional affiliations at the time they arrived at ILSP, and lecture summaries by each scholar.

Fachrizal Halim (Ph.D., Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Canada) delivered a talk on November 18, 2014 on “The Islamic School of Law in the Digital Age: Reformulating Legal Authority, Doctrines, and Ijtihād among Contemporary Shāfiʿites.”

Author’s summary: This lecture examines the networks and activities of transnational Shāfiʿite scholars in reconfiguring the madhhab and reviving the legal tradition of the Shāfiʿī school of law for contemporary Muslims. It follows up recent debates in two overlapping fields; the first is the sociological analysis that new modern communications media and technology have massively fragmented and pluralized the authority relationship in Islamic law; the second is the assumption of the devolution of the madhhab as a result of common rejection of the authority of medieval jurists and the call for a new ijtihād based on direct reference to the Qur’ān and the teachings of the Prophet. It then argues that the same new media technology also provides a rationale and instruments that enable Muslims to reformulate legal doctrines and revive the structure of legal authority as integrated in the school of law. It discusses the socio-political background and the anatomy of the Shāfiʿite movement, elaborate how Shāfiʿite scholars reinterpret and present the school’s doctrines to the contemporary Muslim cyber environment, and analyze the issues of rupture and continuity with regard to the institution of the madhhab. Finally, this lecture argues that the language of ijtihād is utilized not only as a way to find new solutions to modern problems but also as a medium to re-anchor legal authority in ʿulamāʾ as figures representing the madhhab.

Serena Tolino (Post-doctoral fellow, University of Zurich, Switzerland) delivered a talk on January 27, 2014 on “The Eunuchs in Islamic Legal Discourse: Reflections on the Gender of Castrated Men.”

Author’s summary: Through the medieval era, eunuchs held a central position in the Middle Eastern courts, especially under the Abbasid and the Fatimid dynasties. Yet, among the marginal groups in Islamic history, the role of eunuchs is nearly neglected. Eunuchs were much more than simply harem guardians: by way of having access to both feminine and masculine worlds, they had an important key to power. Though, it is important to take into consideration that virility was counted a fundamental aspect of masculinity: their being emasculated seems to have changed somehow their gender definition. For some aspects they were not considered totally as men. Otherwise, they could not have access to the harem. But, in other contexts, they were fully considered as such. In my lecture, I’ll try to show how eunuchs were represented in Islamic legal discourse. In order to do that, I will focus on the sunni jurists’ approach with regard to eunuchs, with a special focus on the gender component.

Ayman Shabana (Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Georgetown University) delivered a talk on March 12, 2014 on the “Legitimization of Technology or Secularization of Law: Islamic Lineage Regulations in the Age of Biomedical and Genetic Technologies.”

Author’s summary: Islamic lineage regulations are rooted in Islam’s scriptural sources. They constitute the foundation of the Islamic family law system as they define and delineate the boundaries of familial relationships, and therefore multiple obligations and entitlements. Recent advances in genetic and biomedical technologies such as DNA analysis and assisted reproduction challenge the established notions of family and lineage. This presentation examines the impact of these technologies on the reconstruction of Islamic lineage regulations, particularly on the definition of both paternity and maternity. It surveys the classical Islamic lineage structure and explores some of the important debates surrounding the influence of modern technology on this structure. It investigates the dual effect of both the inherited framework of Islamic lineage regulations and the modern technology on the process of reconstructing the Islamic definition of paternity and maternity in the modern period. The main question that drives this investigation is whether this process tilts more towards enforcing an Islamic normative vision and therefore legitimizes these technologies, or towards severing the relationship between family law and sharia and therefore completes the process of legal secularization in the Muslim world.

Tahsin Özcan (Professor of Islamic History, Head of Turkish History Branch, Marmara University, Theology Faculty, Islamic History Department) delivered a talk on March 26, 2014 on “Waqf and Civil Society: Management of Foundations from Ottomans to the Republic of Turkey.”

Author’s summary: Waqfs were important institutions in Islamic countries throughout history. In Ottoman society they were non-profit organizations, which organized and maintained philanthropic activities and social services such as education, religious and cultural services, health services, and infrastructure of the cities etc. They were supported by individuals and state officials for charitable purposes. Ottoman society developed a unique waqf system, which led some historians call the Ottoman era “a Waqf Civilization.” Waqf properties amounted to 12%–50% of the total financial system, hence, together with the public and the private sectors, waqfs constituted a third sector. The considerable size and important roles of waqfs in the Ottoman society call for a detailed analysis of the management of waqfs to shed a light on the social dynamics of even today’s world. This lecture will analyse the evolution of the management of waqfs from the classical Ottoman era to the Republican period, and will highlight the changes that took place from a historical perspective. Through the analyses of the historical evolution of the management of waqfs, this study will highlight the various characteristics of different management eras, and provide suggestions on creating a more effective system for managing waqfs in order to improve and maintain the participation of civic society in democratic processes.

Shariq Nisar (Director, Research and Operations, Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions, India) delivered a talk on April 7, 2014 on “Legal Obstacles to Islamic Banking and Finance in India.”

Author’s summary: Islamic banking and finance, also recognised by names like ethical banking, shari‘a-compliant banking, interest-free banking, PLS banking or as special finance, has reached the shores of more than 75 countries of the world. The nations who have taken keen interest in promoting this concept also include many secular and developed nations. Surprisingly, India, with one of the largest Muslim population in the world, is yet to allow Islamic banking in the country. Committees established by the Indian government have found Muslims to be the most financially excluded community. This lecture will focus on the legal obstacles to Islamic banking and finance in India and how this challenge of financial exclusion can be addressed—through the introduction of Islamic banking and finance.

Lu’ayy Al-Rimawi (Director of Studies, Doctoral Programme, London School of Commerce, UK; Co-Director, MA Programme (LLM) in Islamic Financial & Business Law, BPP University, UK) delivered a talk on April 23, 2014 on “Mandatory Securities Disclosure under Shari’a & Comparative Aspects of Prospectus Liability for Fraudulent and/or Negligent Misstatements.”

Author’s summary: The presentation looks at what is meant by mandatory disclosure in securities regulation. It briefly looks at its historical justification under the Common Law through the concept of caveat emptor. It contrasts the position of Shari‘a regarding this concept as there is a full duty of disclosure under Islamic contracts. The presentation then looks at whether or not securities disclosure is equally needed under Shari‘a and for what reasons. It finally looks at the question of liability for fraudulent misstatements in the prospectus under Shari‘a and its application in an Arab civil code which is based in Shari‘a—i.e., in terms of what shareholders need to do in order to establish liability. In the process the presentation addresses the conceptual confusion which the case-study civil code has fallen into regarding strict and non-strict liability, and it accounts for the reasons for such confusion.