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Intisar A. Rabb

Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies , Law

BA/BS, Georgetown University; JD, Yale Law School; PhD, Princeton University

Areas of Research/Interest: 

Islamic law: law and society, legal history, legal theory; Islamic and comparative constitutionalism; History of the Qur'anic text

External Affiliations:

Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard (2012-2013); Carnegie Scholar, Carnegie Corporation of New York (awarded 2010)


My primary research interests are in Islamic law – in both historical and contemporary contexts, typically with an approach that seeks to address aspects of law and society. Within that approach, my focus is on Islamic law and legal history, constitutionalism, and legal theory. Much of my work examines questions of jurisprudence and judicial process together with the connections between courts and broader elements in society that both inform and are informed by the construction of law in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world in comparative perspective. In historical contexts, my work has taken on the form of research on legal maxims as one tool that judges and jurists used to shape law and resolve interpretive or real-world conflicts, developed through identifiably social and jurisprudential processes in medieval central Islamic lands. In modern contexts, my work has combined assessments of constitutionalism and judicial review with analyses of various schools of legislation, constitution-making, and legal interpretation in the modern Middle East. I also have an interest in the textual history surrounding the Qur'an and the development of its variant readings. To those ends, my publications have examined Islamic law and society in historical contexts, Islamic constitutionalism in modern contexts, and the textual history of the Qur'an. 

I previously served as a visiting associate professor of law at Harvard Law School, a member of the faculty at Boston College Law School, and as a law clerk for Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. I received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, a law degree from Yale Law School, and a doctoral degree from Princeton University; and have studied and conducted research in Egypt, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere. 

Representative Publications
Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Thought (co-edited with Michael Cook, Najam Haider, and Asma Sayeed) (New York: Palgrave, forthcoming 2012).

“The Islamic Rule of Lenity,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 44 (2011): 1299-1351.

“Islamic Legal Maxims as Substantive Canons of Construction: Hudud Avoidance in Cases of Doubt,” Journal of Islamic Law & Society 17 (2010): 63-125.

“Administrative Decrees of the Political Authorities (Qanun): The Mamluk Period,” in Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History, ed. Stanley Katz et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 33-34.

“‘We the Jurists’: Islamic Constitutionalism in Iraq,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 10 (2008): 527-79.

“Courts,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, ed. John Esposito (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007-2008).

“Non-Canonical Readings of the Qur'an: Recognition & Authenticity,” Journal of Qur'anic Studies 8 (2006): 84-127.

Review, Yale Journal of International Law 30 (2005): 343-46 (reviewing Muhammad Baqir as-sadr, Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence, trans. Roy Mottahedeh (Oxford: Oneworld, 2003)).

“Confessions,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, ed. Gudrun Krämer et al. (Islamic law section ed. David S. Powers) (Brill: Leiden, 2010- ) (forthcoming).

“Legal Maxims,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law, ed. Jonathan Brown et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press) (forthcoming).

Updated on 07/17/2013