The author, Dr Riaz-ul-Hasan Gilani, of this extremely refreshing book, entitled “The Reconstruction of Legal Thought in Islam”, on Islamic law is a Pakistani lawyer of high calibre, who practices at the Lahore Bar and has been on the faculty of his city’s Law College.

The edition in our hands, published at New Delhi in November 1982, is described as the “1st Edition” that, however, seems incorrect. As we turn the preliminary pages of the book, we learn that it was first produced in 1974 as a textbook for the LL.B course of the Punjab University that had, two years earlier, introduced a new paper dealing with those branches of the Islamic law, which were in force in Muslim India, but had been repealed and replaced by the Western laws during the British regime. Later, Maulana Abul A’la Maududi took interest in this work. Taking inspiration and guidance from him in 1977, Gilani brought out a second edition, adorned by the late Maulana’s brief foreword. The Indian edition under review seems to be a reprint of the same.

At the beginning of the book, the author spells out the main characteristics of Islamic jurisprudence comparing it with the Western legal philosophy. He also points out the drawbacks of some well known works in English on Islamic law, including Abdur Rahim and Mahmasani. Though I do not fully agree with what has been said about these two authors, generations of students who have had to be content with their works must have pined for a better treatment of the subject. The need for a new and more systematic work on Islamic jurisprudence using the correct legal terms in English has been felt by many since long. Gilani’s work answers it to a great extent.

In Part I of the book, the author has discussed at length the Islamic concepts of law and jurisprudence - comparing them with the parallel Western concepts – and the various ‘basic’ and ‘dependent’ sources of the law of Islam. In a separate brief chapter, he has exposed the myth of the alleged debt of Islamic jurisprudence to Roman law. Yet, another chapter, “Islamic Law and Social Change”, is - according to the author - addressed (unlike the rest of the book that is meant for students only) to the “intellect of the West.” This brilliant essay on the sociological jurisprudence of Islam ably explains that the winds of social change now blowing across the Muslim world would not eclipse the law of Islam, since the latter has enough potential to meet the challenge of time and age.

Part II of the book contains two detailed chapters on Islamic constitutional and international laws, and four brief ones on the Islamic laws of crimes, torts, contract and evidence. Throughout the book the treatment of the subject is comparative and thoroughly documented. At the end of Part II, a short chapter is especially devoted to the place and status of jurists in Islamic legal theory and the authenticity of some classical treatises on fiqh. This is called “Guide for the Lawyers”.

The three appendices of the book contain the syllabus of a special paper on Islamic law and jurisprudence (approved by the Punjab University) and summaries of Chapters 6 and 11. While the last two seem to be redundant, the appendix on syllabus should have been more comprehensive, indicating what the university students of law (studying Islamic law as part of wider law courses, both undergraduate and advanced) should be taught.

There is no chapter on family law in the book, since, as explained by the author, that branch of Islamic law has not been displaced in the subcontinent. The reason is not convincing. The import of the attractive title chosen for the book demanded comprehensiveness.

Also, while there is no dearth of books on Islamic family law, very little is found in English on the family jurisprudence of Islam.

On the jurisprudential map of the globe today we find four distinct blocks - those of common law, civil law, socialist law and Islamic law. While the jurisprudence of the first three is well known to both the West and the East, the English-speaking world is not familiar with the true principles of Islamic legal theories. It is suggested that in the next edition of the book, the learned author should include chapters on the Islamic laws of family relations, property, commercial transactions and awqaf. With these additions, the book will surely attain universal utility and will also fulfil late Maulana Maududi’s expectation that it should bring about “a remarkable revolution in our legal thought.”

In the meanwhile, the book - superb within its limited scope - must be read by all teachers and students of Islamic and comparative jurisprudence. I have already got it included in the syllabi for advanced courses in Islamic law at Delhi University and the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies.

The text above is a review of Dr Riazuddin Gilani’s book titled “The Reconstruction of Legal thought in Islam”.