Muslim Everyday Practice and Islamic Legal Dogma

November 05, 2018

On 9 and 10 November a conference entitled “Law, Islam and Anthropology” will be held at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Social anthropologists, legal experts, and Islamic scholars will discuss the role of Islamic legal understanding and moral expectations in the everyday life of Muslim believers; presentations will draw on empirical studies on topics such as conflict regulation, family law, and credit financing. Additionally, participants will examine how various interest groups have interpreted traditional Islamic rules, resulting in differentiation and transformation. The conference will be held in English.

Sharia law is not homogenous
A common misperception about Muslim life is that it is strictly regulated down to the smallest details of daily life: authorities vigilantly watch over the interpretation of religious norms and the correct realization of these norms, and there is little flexibility in how Muslims may practice their faith. “However, this perception of Islamic prescription of religious life does not necessarily correspond to the actual daily lives of Muslims,” explains Dr. Hatem Elliesie of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. “For in many parts of the world, Islam and what is understood under the term ‘Islamic law’ are also shaped by the everyday practices of Muslim believers, who must find a way to balance religious rules with the demands of work or family life, for example.” The conference “Law, Islam and Anthropology” is jointly organized by the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ of the MPI, the German Association for Arabic and Islamic Law (Gesellschaft für Arabisches und Islamisches Recht, GAIR), and the Dutch Association for the Study of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (Vereniging tot bestudering van het recht van de Islam en het Midden Oosten, RIMO).

Islamic rules and daily life in modern societies
In recent years many European countries have seen the emergence of highly charged debates about the influence of Islamic culture and Sharia, the religious and legal system of norms in Islam. “Our aim with this conference, in which we present empirical studies on the development of Islamic law, is to provide a more fact-based and less emotional contribution to this discussion,” says Elliesie. “We are particularly interested in how Muslims live in societies in which a variety of regulations, systems of order and sources of law and legal frameworks exist at the same time, whether side-by-side or on top of each other. For our society is changing and these questions will be of great importance in Germany – and other places as well – in the years to come.”

Studying global social change
The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the world’s leading centres for research in socio-cultural anthropology. It was established in 1999 by Chris Hann and Günther Schlee, and moved to its permanent buildings at Advokatenweg 36 in Halle/Saale in 2001. Marie-Claire Foblets joined the Institute as Director of the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ in 2012.
Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political topicality. Fieldwork is an essential part of almost all projects. Some 175 researchers from over 30 countries currently work at the Institute. In addition, the Institute also hosts countless guest researchers who join in the scholarly discussions.

Conference programme

Information on the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’

Information on the research project “Scharia in genuin europäischen Settings: Konnex muslimischer Lebenspraxis zu islamischer Normativität”

Contact for this press release
Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Foblets
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Department ‘Law & Anthropology’
Advokatenweg 36, 06114 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: 0345 2927-301

Dr. Hatem Elliesie
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Head of Research Groups
“Conflict Regulation in Germany’s Plural Society” and “Sharia in Genuinely European Settings: Connectivity of Muslim life practices to Islamic normativity”
Advokatenweg 36, 06114 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: 0345 2927-316

PR contact
Stefan Schwendtner
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Advokatenweg 36, 06114 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: 0345 2927-425

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