LUCIS’ focus on Islam and society takes shape in three research themes which define our programme: 1) Negotiating Islam; 2) Production and transmission of knowledge; 3) Law and governance.
From the formative period of Islam to the contemporary world, Muslims have negotiated changing modalities of being Muslim. This is a dynamic and continuing process, the product of ongoing and unstoppable adaptations to an ever-changing environment and interactions with other cultural domains. This development has taken truly global forms, creating complex new configurations but also tensions.
Research in this area focuses on developments in Islamic thinking and practice, and their interaction with Islamic theological, legal, and political discourses. How are Muslim beliefs and practices given shape in everyday life and how do these relate to Muslim identity and imagination at a specific place and time? Looking at socio-historical circumstances – migration, changing power relations, the influx of new ideas, products and people, and their influence on society – we seek to understand the social visualisations of Islam in their historical context and as expressions of recurrent and recognisable patterns throughout history.
Muslim scholars work in a long and rich tradition of knowledge-production in their own culture. Traditionally the dominant form of knowledge was normative, understood in terms of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and the writing of history in the form of chronicles, with their compilations of reports and anecdotes. Western understanding of Muslim societies, true to the principles of philology, has from the beginning privileged the study of these written sources.
A critical reflection on the history and practices of the academic study of Islam and Muslim societies, however, has led to a consciousness of Islamic studies as a social practice and an understanding of its relevance for society as both an asset and a potential problem. At present a more nuanced view of what has become known as “Orientalism” has gained currency, stressing the importance of exchange and collaboration between scholars studying Muslim societies and Islam from the inside and from the outside.
In the coming years LUCIS will continue to promote the study of the scholarly production of knowledge on and in Muslim societies, in its complex relation to societal concerns, focusing especially on the exchanges between Muslim and Western scholars. Particular attention will be given to the rich heritage of Leiden University in this field, to be explored in an international context of critical studies of Orientalism.
With regard to governance, policies and law, many Muslims and Muslim countries recognise the possibility that Islam has something important to say about the way society is to be ordered, governed, and regulated. The extent to which this religious dimension has materialised into actual policies, laws, regulations, rulings, and government decisions has varied immensely over time, according to place, social sphere, and the subject at hand. These developments and outcomes are subject of ongoing research on "Sharia and national law".
LUCIS research on law and governance in Muslim countries covers a wide geographical breadth from West and North Africa to Europe, the Middle East, Iran, and Southeast Asia, notably Indonesia. It is not limited to its religious dimensions in a strict sense. Being at least "Islam-sensitive" it also addresses problems such as limited statehood, authoritarianism, dysfunctional bureaucracy, injustices, normative and legal uncertainty, as well as problems of social and economic development.
In sum, LUCIS research on law and governance looks at how state and non-state actors interact to shape and follow formal and informal rules that regulate the public realm. Our studies look at how these interactions take place in "arenas of governance" such as the government, political society, economic society, civil society, bureaucracy, and the judiciary.