A Secular Need
Islamic Law and State Governance in Contemporary India
- PUBLISHED: April 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / South Asia, Law, Politics
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 240 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 0 illustrations
- SERIES: Global South Asia
- ISBN: 9780295747071
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Whether from the perspective of Islamic law’s advocates, secularism’s partisans, or communities caught in their crossfire, many people see the relationship between Islamic law and secularism as antagonistic and increasingly discordant. In the United States there are calls for “sharia bans” in the courts, in western Europe legal limitations have been imposed on mosques and the wearing of headscarves, and in the Arab Middle East conflicts between secularist old guards and Islamist revolutionaries persist—suggesting that previously unsteady coexistences are transforming into outright hostilities.
Jeffrey Redding’s exploration of India’s non-state system of Muslim dispute resolution—known as the dar-ul-qaza system and commonly referred to as “Muslim courts” or “shariat courts”—challenges conventional narratives about the inevitable opposition between Islamic law and secular forms of governance, demonstrating that Indian secular law and governance cannot work without the significant assistance of non-state Islamic legal actors.
Authors & Contributors
Jeffrey A. Redding is senior research fellow at Melbourne Law School and a New Generation Network scholar at the University of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute.
Redding provides thought-provoking cases and analyses, and these are riveting.- CHOICE
[A] nuanced description of how the law works –not in isolation, in this or that state institution, but rather in interaction with society, its history, the political contestations, cultural factors and economic conditions. This is done through an ‘against the grain’ reading of unconventional materials to get a reasonable grasp of the uncertain, unfixed and unpredictable nature of the law.- Contemporary South Asia
A Secular Need is a succinct text which engages with a plethora of difficult topics.- Reading Religion
[A]n important addition to the burgeoning scholarship on Islamic law and secularism in India... Redding astutely captures how such long-standing anti-Muslim sentiments are mirrored in the state’s legal system, making this book essential reading for anyone interested in current debates on a range of interconnected topics: the ambiguities of secular law, Islamic divorce, constitutionalism, religious nationalism, and legal pluralism.- Journal of Asian Studies
Redding draws a complex and multi-faceted picture of the secular Indian state’s ideological and material dependence on the Islamic non-state.- Indian Law Review
A Secular Need opens up several new vistas on many well-known cases that deal with the role of Islamic personal status law in contemporary India. The study is based primarily on the careful reading of court documents, legal petitions and counterpetitions, and personal opinions of litigants in English and Urdu. Redding brings this material into conversation with ethnographic vignettes and interviews that add substantial nuance and texture to several carefully chosen cases. This important work adds to the growing body of scholarship that challenges the deeply-ingrained perception of secularism’s neutrality and desirable exclusivity.- Islamic Law and Society (ILS)
Redding’s approach is both novel and provocative. A Secular Need will make a unique contribution to the study of Islamic law as it is administered outside of the official judicial system in India.- Sylvia Vatuk, author of Marriage and Its Discontents: Women, Islam, and the Law in India
Redding is one of the most learned scholars of the Indian legal system in this current generation. A Secular Need is very informative, well-researched, and a thorough study of the dar ul qaza system in India.- Yüksel Sezgin, Syracuse University