Introducing CT Fall 2013 Fellow Mohammad Fadel

Constitutional Transitions has the pleasure of introducing Mohammad Fadel, one of six visiting fellows to join the Center this semester. Fadel comes to New York from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law.

Fadel’s research works to develop and document Islamic public law, combining an area that would traditionally be left to religious interpretation with the methodologies of modern legal analysis. His latest interests focus on how constitutions can incorporate Islamic law and reconcile it with a push for democracy in transitioning states. His work offers important lessons to both religious and liberal forces engaged in the Arab Spring transitions, though he challenges the central assumptions of both. Speaking about his role as a scholar, Fadel believes “it is incumbent on intellectual elites to think about structures of reconciliation” between competing political forces. Without an acceptable arrangement that earns the support of the citizens, he argues, the rule of law would be reduced to “mere naked power.”

Fadel argues that many of the prerequisites for a plural democratic order can be found in historic Islamic jurisprudence. Critically, Fadel finds in the writings of pre-modern Islamic jurists a principal-agent relationship between public officials and the Muslim community. This aspect requires that officials act in the public interest, thereby creating a domain for deliberation that resembles a modern liberal state, more than one governed by dogmatism and pure interpretation. For example, while some in Egypt have called for reducing the marriage age to be in accordance with the traditional or prophetic era, Fadel argues that such a regulation exists for the benefit of the wedded partners, and thus is properly a subject of political deliberation in light of the common good rather than a question of religious law.

Fadel has been involved with Constitutional Transitions from its first moments. At the Center’s inaugural symposium in March 2012, he gave a presentation on Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution, and whether and how Egypt could reconcile substantive Islamic law and human rights law with its pre-existing civil law system by according greater common law powers to Egyptian courts. Earlier this year, he also presented a paper at last semester’s Constitutional Transitions Colloquium that described the existence of public law in pre-modern Sunni jurisprudence, highlighting the principal-agent relationship described above, as well as concepts related to sovereign immunity and requirements for public rationality, the latter of which he likened to contemporary arbitrary and capricious review in the United States. A summary and video recording of that event are available here.

Fadel is also serving as a Global Professor while at NYU Law. He is teaching two courses: an introductory course on Islamic law and one specifically on Islamic finance. The former class is divided equally between matters of historic jurisprudence, substantive areas of Shariah, and modern issues in Islamic law. The latter course has a similarly broad historical perspective, considering how Muslims have engaged in finance and contracts in both the premodern and modern eras.

In addition to his work on Islamic law and constitutional issues, Fadel teaches the Business Organizations and Law of International Business & Financial Transactions courses at the University of Toronto, as well as Religion and the Liberal State: the Case of Islam. Prior to his academic career he practiced law with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. To read his full biography, please click here.


Introducing Fall 2013 CT Fellow Lech Garlicki
(4 November 2013)

Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow David Dyzenhaus
(12 October 2013)

Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow George Anderson
(12 October 2013)

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