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One out of five people in the world today lives subject to Islamic law, but stereotypes of rigid doctrine or harsh punishment obscure an understanding of the values and style of reasoning that characterize everyday lslamic adjudication. By considering its larger social and cultural context Islamic law is shown to be a kind of common law system: justice is sought through a careful assessment of persons, more than facts, and justice resides not in equality but in a quest for equivalence.
Through ordinary court proceedings the style of reasoning is seen to be embedded in a set of cultural assumptions, thus rendering the study of Islamic legal proceedings a window on Muslim society generally. Using data ranging from the courts of North Africa to the treatment of Islam in American courts, from a reinterpretation of the Prophet's sociological jurisprudence to the analysis of Islamic concepts of responsibility and trust these essays demonstrate the enduring appeal of Islamic law in the lives of everyday adherents.