Wael Hallaq

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Wael B. Hallaq
Wael b. Hallaq in his office @ Columbia Uni. Nov. 22, 2016.jpg
Hallaq at Columbia University in 2016

Wael B. Hallaq is a scholar of Islamic law and Islamic intellectual history. He is currently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the Columbia University 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.


Hallaq is considered to be a leading scholar in the field of Islamic legal studies.[1][2][3] His work has been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Persian, and Turkish.[4] In 2009 Hallaq was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.[5]

Hallaq first became known for his work challenging the notion of closing of the gate of ijtihad, i.e., the abandonment of independent reasoning in search of a legal opinion, which had been posited by historians such as Joseph Schacht to have occurred in Islam around 900 C.E.[5][6] 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.

Hallaq’s interests and activities also extend into the world of art; in the past two decades he has produced numerous paintings and drawings. All of these works appear to combine aesthetics with notions of moral and existential philosophies. With regard to the former, a strong interest in cubism and surrealism is evident. Most apparent in terms of philosophies—and perhaps at the very heart of Hallaq’s work, artistic and academic—is a penetrative exploration of the antinomy of the modern human condition, with all the paradoxes, contradictions and destructive tensions that this condition entails. Wael Hallaq edited this page himself.


Authored volumes[citation needed]
  • The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).
  • An introduction to Islamic law (Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
  • Shari'a: theory, practice, transformations (Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
  • The origins and evolution of Islamic law (Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  • Was the Gate of Ijtihad Closed? The Early Essays on the History of Islamic Legal Theories by Wael B. Hallaq / ed. and trans. Atsushi Okuda (Tokyo: Keio University Press, 2003; in Japanese, containing translations of a number of the below articles).
  • Authority, continuity, and change in Islamic law (Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  • A history of Islamic legal theories : an introduction to Sunnī uṣūl al-fiqh (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
  • Law and legal theory in classical and medieval Islam (Aldershot, UK; Brookfield, VT: Variorum, 1995; containing reprints of twelve articles published between 1984 and 1993).
  • Ibn Taymiyya against the Greek logicians / translated with an introduction and notes by Wael B. Hallaq (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993; a translation of Jahd al-qarīḥah fī tajrīd al-Naṣīḥah, an abridgement by al-Suyūṭī of Ibn Taymīyah's work Naṣīḥat ahl al-bayān fī al-radd ʻalá manṭiq al-Yūnān).
Series editor[citation needed]
  • Themes in Islamic Law, 7 vols. (Cambridge University Press; two volumes published to date).
Edited anthologies
  • The formation of Islamic law (Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate/Variorum, 2004).
  • Islamic studies presented to Charles J. Adams / edited by Wael B. Hallaq and Donald P. Little. (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1991).
  • Tradition, Modernity, and Postmodernity in Arabic Literature : Essays in Honor of Professor Issa J. Boullata, edited by Kamal Abdel-Malek and Wael Hallaq (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000).
  • "Qur'anic Constitutionalism and Moral Governmentality: Further Notes on the Founding Principles of Islamic Society and Polity," Comparative Islamic Studies, 8, 1-2 (2012): 1-51.
  • "Groundwork of the Moral Law: A New Look at the Qur'ān and the Genesis of Sharī'a," Islamic Law and Society, vol.16 (2009): 239-79.
  • "Islamic Law: History and Transformation," The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 4, ed. R. Irwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 142-83.
  • "What is Sharia?" Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, 2005–2006, vol. 12 (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2007): 151-80.
  • "Juristic Authority vs. State Power: The Legal Crises of Modern Islam," Journal of Law and Religion, 19, 2 (2003–04), 101-116.
  • "Can the Shari'a be Restored?" in Yvonne Y. Haddad and Barbara F. Stowasser, eds., Islamic Law and the Challenges of Modernity (Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004), 21-53.
  • "'Muslim Rage' and Islamic Law," Hastings Law Journal, 54 (August, 2003), 1-17.
  • "The Quest for Origins or Doctrine? Islamic Legal Studies as Colonialist Discourse," UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law, 2, 1 (2002–03), 1-31.
  • "A Prelude to Ottoman Reform: Ibn 'Abidîn on Custom and Legal Change," Histories of the Modern Middle East: New Directions, eds. I. Gershoni et al. (Boulder & London: Lynne Rienner, 2002), 37-61.
  • "Takhrij and the Construction of Juristic Authority," Studies in Islamic Legal Theory, ed. Bernard G. Weiss (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 317-35.
  • "On Dating Mâlik's Muwatta'," UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law, 1, 1 (2001–02), 47-65.
  • "From Geographical to Personal Schools?: A Reevaluation," Islamic Law and Society, 8,1 (2001), 1-26.
  • "The Author-Jurist and Legal Change in Traditional Islamic Law," RIMO (Maastricht), 18 (2000), 31-75.
  • "The Authenticity of Prophetic Hâdith: A Pseudo-Problem," Studia Islamica 89 (1999), 75-90.
  • "Qadis Communicating: Legal Change and the Law of Documentary Evidence," al-Qantara, XX (1999), 437-66.
  • "The Qadi's Diwan (Sijill) before the Ottomans," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 61, 3 (1998), 415-36.
  • "Introduction: Issues and Problems," (as Guest Editor) Islamic Law and Society, 3, 2 (1996), 127-36.
  • "Ifta' and Ijtihad in Sunni Legal Theory: A Developmental Account," in Kh. Masud, Brink Messick, and David Powers, eds., Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftîs and their Fatwas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 33-43.
  • "Model Shurut Works and the Dialectic of Doctrine and Practice," Islamic Law and Society, 2, 2 (1995), 109-34.
  • "Murder in Cordoba: Ijtihad, Ifta' and the Evolution of Substantive Law in Medieval Islam" Acta Orientalia (Oslo), 55 (1994), 55-83.
  • "From Fatwas to Furu': Growth and Change in Islamic Substantive Law" Islamic Law and Society, 1 (February 1994), 17-56.
  • Co-author. Symposium on Religious Law: Roman Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish Treatment of Familial Issues, Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal, 1, 16 (1993), 41f, 53f, 79f.
  • "Was al-Shafi'i the Master Architect of Islamic Jurisprudence?," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 4 (November 1993), 587-605.
  • "Usul al-Fiqh: Beyond Tradition," Journal of Islamic Studies, 3, 2 (1992), 172-202.
  • "Ibn Taymiyya on the Existence of God," Acta Orientalia (Copenhagen), 52 (1991), 49-69. (Translated into Turkish by Bilal Kuspinar, "Ibn Teymiyye'ye Göre Allah'in Varligi," Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi 3 (April, 1993), 135-153).
  • "The Primacy of the Qur'an in Shatibi's Legal Theory," in Wael B. Hallaq and D. Little, eds., Islamic Studies Presented to Charles J. Adams (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991), 65-86.
  • "On Inductive Corroboration, Probability and Certainty in Sunni Legal Thought," in Nicholas L. Heer, ed., Islamic Law and Jurisprudence: Studies in Honor of Farhat J. Ziadeh (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 3-31.
  • "Logic, Formal Arguments and Formalization of Arguments in Sunni Jurisprudence," Arabica, 37, 3 (1990), 315-358.
  • "The Use and Abuse of Evidence: The Question of Provincial and Roman Influences on Early Islamic Law," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 110, 1 (1990), 79-91.
  • "Non-Analogical Arguments in Sunni Juridical Qiyas," Arabica, 36, 3 (1989), 286-306.
  • "Notes on the Term Qarina in Islamic Legal Discourse," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 108, 3 (1988), 475-80.
  • "A Tenth-Eleventh Century Treatise on Juridical Dialectic," Muslim World, 77, 2-3 (1987), 198-227.
  • "The Development of Logical Structure in Islamic Legal Theory," Der Islam, 64, 1 (1987),42-67. Reprinted in Islamic Law and Legal Theory, ed. Ian Edge (The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, series editor Tom D. Campbell) (Hampshire: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1993).
  • "On the Origins of the Controversy about the Existence of Mujtahids and the Gate of Ijtihad," Studia Islamica, 63 (1986),129-41. Persian translation by A. Kazemi-Moussavi, "Rishaha-yi Bahth dar Bara-yi Vujud-i Mujtahid va Bab-i Ijtihad," Tahqiqat-i Islami, 5, 1-2 (1369/1990-1),123-34. Translated into Bahasa Indonesia by Nurul Agustini in Hikmat, 7 (1992), 43-54.
  • "On the Authoritativeness of Sunni Consensus," The International Journal of Middle East Studies, 18, 4 (1986),427-54.
  • "The Logic of Legal Reasoning in Religious and Non-Religious Cultures: The Case of Islamic Law and Common Law," The Cleveland State Law Review, 34, 1 (1985-6), 79-96. Reprinted in Comparative Legal Cultures, ed. Csaba Varga (The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, series editor T. D. Campbell) (Hampshire: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992), 401-418.
  • "Considerations on the Function and Character of Sunni Legal Theory," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 104, 4 (1984), 679-89.
  • "Caliphs, Jurists and the Saljuqs in the Political Thought of Juwayni," Muslim World, 74, 1 (1984), 26-41.
  • "Was the Gate of Ijtihad Closed?" International Journal of Middle East Studies, 16, 1 (1984), 3-41. Reprinted in Islamic Law and Legal Theory, ed. Ian Edge (The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, series editor Tom D. Campbell (Hampshire: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1993); Translated into Hebrew in Al-Jama'a, the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies, 8 (2001),118-68, with an introduction by Nimrod Hurvitz.
Encyclopedia entries
  • The Encyclopedia of the Qurân. (Leiden: E.J. Brill):
    • 1. "Apostasy," vol. I (2001), 119-22.
    • 2. "Contracts and Alliances," vol. I, 431-35.
    • 3. "Forbidden," vol. II (2002), 223-226.
    • 4. "Innovation," vol. II, 536-37.
    • 5. "Law and the Quran," vol. III (2003), 149-72.
  • "Gazali as Faqih," Encyclopædia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, vol. 10, facs. 4 (2000), 372-74.
  • The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. (Leiden: E.J. Brill):
    • 1. "Shart" (1997)
    • 2. "Talfik" (1997)
    • 3. "Zahir" (2002).
  • Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1996):
    • 1. "Fatwa," vol. II, 649.
    • 2. "Fiqh," vol. II, 666.
    • 3. "Hadith," vol. II, 752.
    • 4. "Hanafi Law School," vol. II, 771.
    • 5. "Hanbali Law School," vol. II, 772.
    • 6. "Maliki Law School," vol. III, 1157-58.
    • 7. "Shafi'i Law School," vol. IV, 1629.
    • 8. "Shari'a," vol. IV, 1638-39.
  • Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, 4 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995):
    • 1."Ahl al-Hall wal-'Aqd," vol. 1, 53-4.
    • 2."Consensus," vol. 1, 312-4.
    • 3."Faqih," vol. 2, 1.
    • 4."Ijtihad," vol. 2, 178-81.
  • "Al-Mantiq al-Usuli," ("Legal Logic"), al-Mawsu'a al-Falsafiyya al-'Arabiyya (The Arabic Encyclopaedia of Philosophy) (Beirut, 1988), vol. II, pt. ii, 1289-95.


  1. ^ Mohammad Hassan Khalil. Review of The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law by Wael B. Hallaq. Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 69, No. 1 (April 2010), p. 153. Quote: "Wael Hallaq is widely recognized as a leading scholar of Islamic law."
  2. ^ David S. Powers. Wael B. Hallaq on the Origins of Islamic Law: A Review Essay. Islamic Law and Society 17 (2010) p. 126. Quote: "Wael B. Hallaq is one of the most prominent, talented, prolific, and influential scholars in the field of Islamic studies, living or dead."
  3. ^ Anver M. Emon. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (review). University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 76, Number 1, Winter 2007. p. 343. Quote: "Having already established himself as one of the pre-eminent scholars of Islamic law..."
  4. ^ Columbia University Faculty Profile
  5. ^ a b The 500 most influential Muslims (2009) Eds., John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, p. 98.
  6. ^ Wael B. Hallaq. Was the gate of ijtihad closed? Int. J. Middle East Stud 16 (1984)