• University of Edinburgh

The Sharia and Islamic Law: An Introduction

Discover Sharia and Islamic law, and learn more about some of the diverse roles they play in Muslim life.

11,552 enrolled on this course

The Sharia and Islamic Law: An Introduction
  • Duration5 weeks
  • Weekly study4 hours
  • 100% onlineTry this course for free
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $59Find out more

Gain a fascinating insight into the diversity of Muslim belief and practice

On this ground-breaking course, you’ll work with renowned academics from the University of Edinburgh and other leading universities across the world to explore scholarly perspectives on the Sharia and Islamic law.

This five-week course explores some of the diverse roles that the Sharia and Islamic law have played in Muslim life, both historically and today.

You’ll be encouraged to think critically about the nature of religious law as you explore its many manifestations.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds What is the Sharia? What are some of the diverse ways that this concept has been understood in different times and places? What is the relationship between the Sharia and Islamic law? What are some of the roles that Islamic law has played in Muslim life, both in the past and today? I’m Dr Andreas Görke, and I am a senior lecturer here at the University of Edinburgh. My colleagues and I would like to invite you to join us on an intellectual journey through the online course, “The Sharia and Islamic Law - An Introduction.” Through this engaging and reflective course, we’ll work together to explore these two concepts. We’ll read from cutting-edge academic texts and watch interviews with leading experts.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds We will watch award-winning documentaries and work through short exercises to help us gain a greater academic understanding of the Sharia and Islamic law and move beyond sensationalist or apologetic headlines, social media posts, and so on. In this course, we will be learning with internationally renowned experts, from both here at the University of Edinburgh and from across the world. This will give students a similar kind of immersive and academically challenging experience that we would provide if we were teaching a course of this kind on campus. Each week we’ll ask questions, such as what do we mean when we say the word “law”? And what do we mean, then, when we say “Islamic law” or use terms like “fatwa”?

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds How does Islamic law relate to the Qur’an? And how did it function historically in Muslim societies? We’ll also discuss more controversial topics, like crime and punishment, the impact of colonialism, and how Islamic law is understood and applied in different parts of the Muslim world today. So if you are someone who would like to learn more about what a word like the “Sharia” has meant for Muslims historically and today, and how it has influenced their daily lives, then this course is for you. My colleagues and I look forward to welcoming you onto this course.

What topics will you cover?

  1. What is Law? What is the Sharia? What is Islamic Law?

  2. How did Islamic Law work in the past and how did Islamic law adapt to social change?

  3. Understandings of justice and the impact of colonialism on Islamic law.

  4. The diverse manifestations of Islamic law in Muslim life today in contexts ranging from Nigeria to Palestine, and from Indonesia to the United Kingdom.

  5. The role of Islamic law in a wide range of human activity, from individual worship to marriage/divorce.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Reflect on the nature of modern law, and explore the distinctions between secular and religious law.
  • Collaborate with others on broadening your knowledge.
  • Read and reflect on primary sources ranging from prominent poets, popular chat shows, award-winning documentaries, Islamist leaders, and the Qur’an itself.
  • Read and interpret cutting edge research and hear from leading academic experts.
  • Explore some of the controversies surrounding the Sharia and Islamic law in a collegial manner in an academic environment.
  • Assess the impact of colonialism in the Muslim World.
  • Investigate the place of Islamic law in modern sources such as constitutions, and some of the debates over the role of religious law in modern societies.

Who is the course for?

The course is open to anyone interested in learning more about how the Sharia has been understood in Muslim life and law in different parts of the world, both historically and today.

Who will you learn with?

Andreas Görke is Senior Lecturer for Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses mainly on early and classical Islam.

Dr David Warren is an associate research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Washington University in Saint Louis. He writes on Islam, Politics, and Islamic law.

Dr. Barry is a visiting scholar at UoE. With training in Islamic theology and law, he served as Imam of Edinburgh Central Mosque. He is the founder and director of the Olive Tree Madrasah in Edinburgh

Dr Elvire Corboz is Lecturer in Contemporary Islam and Middle East at the University of Edinburgh, with research interests in contemporary Shi’ism.

Dr. Giulia Liberatore is a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. An anthropologist by training, she teaches and writes about Islam, gender and religious diversity in Europe.

Dr Shadaab Rahemtulla is Lecturer in Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations at the University of Edinburgh. A Muslim liberation theologian, he is the author of the book: “Qur’an of the Oppressed” (Oxford)

Who developed the course?

The University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top universities and is globally recognised for research, innovation and high-quality teaching.

Learner reviews

Join this course

Start this couse for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.



Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 7 weeks



Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible


$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year

Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.