Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3358 : Shariat meets Common Law: History of Gender Reform and Colonialism in Tunisia, Egypt, and India

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Darakhshan Khan
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module will introduce students to the comparative history of gender reforms in the post-colonial Islamic world. It will highlight the continuities and ruptures between the colonial and post-colonial legal systems, the rise of the discourse of human rights in the 20th century, and the dynamics between the Islamic legal structures and the ideology of the modern state.

Throughout the semester, students will examine how laws related to marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance, and maintenance (alimony) impact Muslim women’s interaction with the state in Egypt,India and Tunisia.

By looking at the role played by local political parties, religious institutions, and international bodies such as the United Nations, the module will encourage students to look at legal systems as complex webs. The module has a strong comparative element, and the readings, discussions and assignments are designed to encourage students to think across different geographical and political systems.

Outline Of Syllabus

Indicative guide to subjects covered:
-Introduction: Getting familiar with key positions (European legal systems, Islamic jurisprudence, global discourse of human rights and the rise of the religious right)
-History of colonialism with a focus on Asia and Africa
-India: Colonial roots of Muslim Personal Law (18th and 19th centuries)
-India: Reform and codification of the ‘shariat’ (20th century)
-India: Case study: Ahmad Khan v/s Shah Bano (1985)
-Egypt: From Ottoman millet courts to unified judiciary
-Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood and the changes to personal law
-Case Study: Nasr Abu Zeid apostasy and divorce case (1995)
-Tunisia: French Protectorate (1881-1986) and dual legal system
-Tunisia: The 1956 Code of Personal Status of postcolonial Tunisia
-Case study: Children of Divorce (2015)

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Ability to grasp complex historical processes such colonialism, international rights treaties, and women’s activism that shape the Muslim Personal Law across the world.
Awareness of key debates around gender equality and women’s rights in the non-western world.
Awareness of the full spectrum of the debates women’s rights and an ability to look beyond the binary of progressive and regressive regimes modern and traditional, secular and religious).
Ability to differentiate between different forms of modern Islamic legal systems.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Ability to write clearly and critically about complex subjects.
Ability to critically analyse primary sources and relate them to historiographical debates in the field.
Synthesize and challenge a wide variety of interpretations.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion771:0077:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading901:0090:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Small group teaching will introduce students to the historical context of colonial and post-colonial India, Egypt and Tunisia and familiarise them with the key debates surrounding personal law and women’s rights. It will also give them the opportunity to engage with the readings and case studies, ask critical questions, participate in debates and develop their oral communication skill.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M20A 700-word review of a documentary on divorce (including footnotes, excluding bibliography)
Research paper2A80A 3000-word final essay (including footnotes, excluding bibliography).
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Report2MA 300-word comment on shariat as a legal system
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A formative exercise around the midterm period, asking students to comment on shariat, allows me to assess their grasp on the complexity of the term, its philosophical, religious, and legal meanings, and the different ways in which it has been interpreted by Muslim communities.
The midterm film review assignment will encourage students to examine the proceedings of a family court. It will test their ability to apply the readings and discussions of the first three weeks to a real-life court scenario.
The final essay will test students' ability to research a set of problems and formulate evidence-based arguments.
Submitted works test intended knowledge and skills outcomes and develop key skills in research, reading and writing.
This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.
All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:
Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.