Jeff Redding (St. Louis/Bonn): The Rule and the Role of Islamic Law: Constituting secular law and governance in India


“Islamic law’s relationship to secular governance has become a particularly fraught one in the contemporary period.  Whether from the perspective of Islamic law’s advocates, secularism’s partisans, or publics caught in the two’s crossfire, few people see the relationship between Islam and secularism as anything but discordant.  

In this talk (based on my current manuscript project), I aim to dismantle the (false) opposition between secularism and Islamic law in an atypical way.  This talk does so by identifying the ways in which Islamic legal actors themselves make secular governance possible in one significant context, namely India.  Islamic legal actors enable secular governance in India in both ideological and material ways.  Ideologically, Islamic legal actors enable secular governance by providing a necessary instantiation of secularism’s alleged capacity to tolerate ‘difference.’  Materially, they do so by providing necessary dispute-resolution infrastructure for a secular state which courts were neither designed for, nor capable of, the monopolization of dispute-resolution and legal pronouncement.

The Islamic legal actors who help constitute the Indian state’s system of secular law and governance, and whom my manuscript discusses and analyzes with particularity, are individuals involved with an Indian non-state system of Muslim dispute resolution known as the dar ul qaza system.  Dar ul qaza means ‘place of adjudication’ (in both Urdu and Arabic), and the Indian dar ul qazas examined in my manuscript project provide but one example of what many people commonly refer to as ‘Muslim courts’ or ‘shariat courts.’”

Jeff A. Redding

Fellow, Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”

Associate Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law

Curriculum Vitae

Jeff A. Redding studied Economics and Sociology at Harvard University (B.A., magna cum laude) and holds a Juris Doctor (with honors) from the University of Chicago Law School. From 2000 to 2002, he worked in South Asia, first as a Visiting Research Associate at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan, then as a Member of the Adjunct Faculty of the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan, and then as a Research Attorney for the Lawyers Collective in New Delhi, India. After this time in South Asia, Jeff A. Redding returned to the United States, becoming a Visiting Researcher at the Islamic Legal Studies Program of Harvard Law School, then a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School, and eventually an Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fellow in Law at Yale Law School. He has also held positions as an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law at the American University in Cairo and a Legal Consultant for the Lawyers Collective’s offices in Mumbai, India. Since 2008, Jeff A. Redding has been working as an Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, where he became Associate Professor in 2013. At Saint Louis University, he teaches Civil Procedure, Comparative Law, and a seminar on Legal Pluralism. While teaching at Saint Louis University, Professor Redding has also been invited to be a Chercheur at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, France (from December 2010 to June 2011) and a Visiting Professor at l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France (from May 2012 until June 2012). Since January 2014, Jeff A. Redding is a Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.