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Wael B. Hallaq

Wael B. Hallaq

Sector : Academic Figures , Professors

Personal Info

  • Country of residence : United States
  • Gender : Male
  • Born in : 1955
  • Age : 61
  • Curriculum vitae :

Information

Wael B. Hallaq is a scholar of Islamic law and Islamic intellectual history. He is currently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. After a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, he joined The McGill University Institute of Islamic Studies in 1985, to become an assistant professor in Islamic law. In 1994, he earned full professorship, and in 2005 became a James McGill Professor in Islamic law.
A prolific author and lecturer, he is a world-renowned scholar of Islam, with numerous contributions to the field of Islamic legal studies. His work has been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Turkish. In 2009, and despite his non-Muslim background, Hallaq was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. His recent work explores the paradigmatic structures of Islamic political and ethical thought, which he uses as a foundation for a thorough critique of modern ethico-political paradigms that, he argues, are dominant since the Enlightenment (The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament (Columbia University Press, 2012).
Hallaq’s publications, lectures and course offerings reveal several dominant areas of interest and expertise. Primary among these have been: 1) a concern with the markedly problematic (yet often overlooked) epistemic institutional ruptures generated by the onset of modernity and the many socio-politico-historical forces subsumed by it (including Colonialism and its many projects), especially in the overlapping areas of law and morality; 2) a related concern with intellectual history and the development of Orientalism, and the many repercussions of Orientalist paradigms in later scholarship and in Islamic legal studies as a whole; and 3) a thorough explication of the synchronic and diachronic development of Islamic traditions of logic, legal theory, and substantive law along with an elucidation of the particulars of interdependent systems within these traditions.
Hallaq’s writings have laid bare the structural dynamics of legal change in pre-modern law, and have more recently asserted the central role of moral theory for understanding the history of Islamic law. His most exhaustive work to date -- Shari‘a: Theory, Practice, Transformations (2009) -- has been well-received, and represents a pioneering attempt at introducing theory into the field of Islamic legal studies.
Such concerns are brought to the fore, however, in Hallaq's most recent work -- The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament (Columbia University Press, 2012) -- which has been described by a publisher as follows:
"Wael B. Hallaq boldly argues that the 'Islamic state,' judged by any standard definition of what the modern state represents, is both an impossible and inherently self-contradictory concept. Comparing the legal, political, moral, and constitutional histories of pre-modern Islam and Euro-America, he finds the adoption and practice of the modern state to be highly problematic for modern Muslims. He then conducts a more expansive critique of modernity's moral predicament, which renders impossible any project resting solely on ethical foundations.The modern state not only suffers from serious legal, political, and constitutional problems, Hallaq argues, but it also, by its very nature, fashions a subject inconsistent with what it means to be, or to live as, a Muslim. By Islamic standards, the state's technologies of the self are severely lacking in moral substance, and the Muslim state, as Hallaq shows, has done little to advance an acceptable form of genuine Shari'a governance. Hallaq turns to the rich moral resources of Islamic history, along the way showing that political and other 'crises of Islam' are not unique to the Islamic world nor to the Muslim religion. These crises are integral to the modern condition of both East and West, and recognizing such parallels enables Muslims to engage more productively with their Western counterparts."



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