Dr. Wael Hallaq Lecture Series “What is Sharia?” | CIS

HBKU’s CIS Hosts Public Lecture Series Featuring Dr. Wael Hallaq

18 Feb 2024

“What is Sharia?” explores aspects of Sharia that inform Islamic law and compares it with legal perspectives

Dr. Hallaq, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, discusses fundamental differences between Islamic law and contemporary legal thought.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) College of Islamic Studies (CIS) is hosting Dr. Wael Hallaq, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, for a special three-part public lecture series titled “What is Sharia?”, which explores the fields of knowledge and practice in law, ethics, governance, and politics, and draws comparative and critical insights to deepen our understanding of the Sharia system.

Dr. Hallaq gave the first talk of the series on February 5, in which he explored the relationship between Sharia law and ethics in Islam and offered insightful comparisons between the Islamic perspective and modern legal frameworks. He utilized dilemmas in moral philosophy and conceptual genealogy to highlight the fundamental differences between the fields of Islamic law and contemporary legal thought.

In the second lecture, which took place February 12, Dr. Hallaq analyzed the value of the human being in Islamic law in comparison to how the human is perceived in modern legal discourse. His talk revolved around the argument that modernity, as a whole, has lost sight of what the “human” is, and is instead instrumentalizing this concept for material and political ends. 

The third session on February 19, will introduce the main constitutional features of Islamic governance, map out the functioning of legislative, judicial, and executive powers within this system, and discuss their relationships to each other. Dr. Hallaq will also explore the roots of constitutional issues in liberal democracies as well as modern-day governments, and draw insights on the complexities of governance in our contemporary world.

The first two lectures can be found on the HBKU’s CIS’ YouTube channel. The registration for the third lecture can be found on the college website: cis.hbku.edu.qa. 

Dr. Hallaq is a distinguished academic who has authored eighty major scholarly articles and numerous books, including Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge and Reforming Modernity: Ethics and the New Human in the Philosophy of Abdurrahman Taha. His accolades include Columbia’s distinguished Book Award in 2015 for his book Impossible State, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s best book prize in 2007 for his work Origins and Evolution, and the 2021 TÜBA Prize, given by the Turkish Academy of Science in recognition of innovative and path-breaking scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Commenting on the lecture series, Dr. Recep Şentürk, Dean, CIS, said: “By collaborating with Dr. Hallaq, we have built a unique platform that adds considerable value to the intellectual debate and constructive dialogue surrounding Sharia and its influence in Islamic legal scholarship. His visit reinforces the College’s status as a hub for contemporary Islamic studies that fosters intellectual inquiry beyond curriculum-based teaching.” 

In line with HBKU and the college’s innate dedication to dialogue, CIS overcomes intellectual fault lines to facilitate expertise and build capacity in Qatar and beyond. The College’s research output is rooted in carefully designed research clusters that together promote interdisciplinary research agendas and inject new contributions to the world of global Islamic scholarship.