Nahed Samour seminar

‘From Imperial to Dissident: Approaches to Territory in Islamic International Law’

30 November 2017


Despite the critique the Islamic law tradition articulates towards modern international law, Islamic international law comes with an embedded political tradition of imperial rule that was itself hegemonic in substantial parts of the world for a long time. This purportedly universal rule is something Islamic law tradition criticises in today’s character of the international order. It is this tension between Islamic international law as a critique of the modern international order as well as its own history of imperial rule that is my central concern here. While Islamic international law concepts might have had little to no influence on international law as we know it today, it has arguably shaped dissent and resistance to international law.

With this in mind, my main question is this: Can you reread the history of imperial rule with its rules, principles, and institutions that were shaped during Imperial times and still resonate today, and render this rereading into a credible and sustain¬able critique of today’s international order? I argue that Islamic international law has shifted from imperial to dissident, and that this imperial-dissident divide is a necessary, challenging frame that might explain some of the existing dissonances within Islamic international law as well as between Islamic international law and prevailing understandings of international law.


Dr. Nahed Samour is a scholar of law and Islamic studies and currently Fellow at the Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study in Germany, Junior Faculty at the Harvard Law School, Institute for Global Law and Policy and she pursues her Habilitation at the Humboldt University, Berlin, Faculty of Law. She has studied law and Islamic studies at the universities of Bonn, Birzeit/Ramallah, London (SOAS), Berlin (HU), Harvard, Damascus and was a doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt/Main. She clerked at the Court of Appeals in Berlin, and was Post Doc Researcher at the Eric Castrén Institute of International law and Human Rights, Helsinki University, Finland.

The above seminar was kindly supported by the International Law Association (British Branch).