A Tale of Two Courts: Shari’ah Transformations in Anthropological and Historical Perspective

a talk jointly organised by

IAIS Malaysia & Syariah Law Department, Academy of Islamic Studies , University of Malaya

Speaker: Professor Michael G. Peletz, Department of Anthropology, Emory University, USA

Venue: IAIS Malaysia, Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. [location map]

Date: 10th October 2013 (Thursday)

Time: 10:30am

This presentation provides preliminary observations concerning continuities and transformations in Malaysia’s Shari’ah judiciary during the past few decades and in the new millennium in particular. It does so through comparative-historical perspectives afforded by two distinct periods of ethnographic observation, spanning a period of a quarter century, bearing on the “same” (but ultimately very different) court in the district of Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. One of the assumptions informing my chosen object of study and my methodological approach to it is that an ethnographically and historically oriented focus on the Shari’ah judiciary allows us to productively contextualize and better understand a good deal of the oftentimes abstract discourses concerning Shari’ah that are heard in different quarters of Malaysian society and of course globally. The focus and approach I adopt allows for a clear view of how the relevant discourses and social forces play out not only on the ground and in practice, but also, since I am dealing squarely with the social organization and actual practices of the Shari’ah judiciary, “in the grip of engagement” (Tsing 2005:5). Michael G. Peletz is Professor of Anthropology and former Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Emory University (USA), with research interests in social and cultural theory, gender, law, religion (especially Islam), and modernity, particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia, and other parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. His books include Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times (Routledge, 2009); Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia (Princeton University Press, 2002); Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society (University of California Press, 1996); A Share of the Harvest: Kinship, Property, and Social History Among the Malays of Rembau (University of California Press, 1988); and (with Aihwa Ong) Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia (University of California Press, 1995). Peletz began conducting research in Malaysia in the late 1970s and is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Humanities Center; the Social Science Research Council; the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; the National Science Foundation; and the University of Notre Dame.

Admission is FREE with online registration, all are welcome to attend.

Contact Information

International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-7956 9188 Fax: +603-7956 2188 / +603-7956 2966 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(3rd ICIHE)

Theme: The Role of Awqaf in the Development of Islamic Higher Education: the Past, the Present, and Future Prospects

Dates: 30th September – 2nd October 2012

Venue: Pahang State Foundation Complex, Kuantan, Malaysia

Co-organizers: IAIS Malaysia, Pahang State Foundation, and IKIP International College


It is now for the third time in three consecutive years that an international conference on Islam and higher education (ICIHE) has been held in Malaysia.Now that the 3rd ICIHE is currently in progress, we may proudly claim that the idea of having a series of ICIHEs, each dealing with a specific theme pertaining to contemporary Muslim higher education, that will last for years to come has become a reality. This series of ICIHEs owes its origin and development to the close and steady collaboration between IAIS Malaysia, the Pahang State Foundation, and IKIP International College, which have worked hard to make this series a reality. Undoubtedly, however, it is the personal interest and commitment of Dato’ Seri Diraja (Dr) Adnan Yaakob, the Menteri Besar of Pahang, who is also the Chairman, Pahang State Foundation to the development of Muslim higher education among the ummah, and the generosity of the Foundation that have made this series possible,

The theme chosen for the 3rd ICIHE is “The Role of Awqaf (“Endowment”) in the Development of Islamic Higher Education: the Past, the Present, and Future Prospects.” It is a follow-up to the theme of the 2nd ICIHE “The Empowerment of Muslim Communities in Private Higher Education.” Although the issue of the importance of awqaf to Muslim higher education was raised during the 2nd ICIHE, it was not then sufficiently discussed, since it was not the main objective of that conference. Accordingly, in order to do full justice to this very significant subject of Muslim concern, the 3rd ICIHE is to be devoted entirely to discussions of awqaf in its specific relation to the development of Muslim higher education.

The greater part of traditional Muslim education at all levels, including the tertiary, owes its origin, development, and progress to the awqaf institution. The famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo, founded in 970 CE, is an excellent example of an awqaf-funded Muslim higher education institution that was later to serve as a model for many private Western universities. The first degree-granting university in the world, the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fes, Morocco, founded in 245 AH/859 CE by a woman, Fatimah Fihriyyah, was similarly financed by its waqf revenues. In short, awqaf played a central role in the birth of the modern university.

It is extremely important for the contemporary Muslim ummah to revive the best of past Islamic traditions in envisioning and realizing the central role of awqaf in the development of the ummah’s education, particularly at the college and university levels. There is a real need to re-examine the awqaf tradition as a source of societal values and as an institution in the light of contemporary challenges facing the ummah in the field of education. It is with this awareness that the organizers of the 3rd ICIHE consider the choice of the role of awqaf in the development of Islamic higher education as its theme as most appropriate to the ummah’s current societal needs. The main hope is that the conference will help to break new grounds and chart new directions in Muslim thinking and practices on awqaf-based higher education.

Objectives of 3rd ICIHE

  • To create a better awareness and understanding among Muslims on the general importance of the Islamic institution of awqaf to the development and progress of the ummah in various areas of societal life
  • To better understand the various facets of institutional interactions between awqaf and education in Muslim societies, both in the past and in our present times
  • To derive useful lessons from past practices of awqaf in higher education in various Muslim communities
  • To harness the great potentials of the awqaf institution to serve as assets to Muslim higher education in the 15th century AH/21st century CE
  • To formulate an ummatic approach to the development of the awqaf institution in the service of Muslim higher education
  • To help strengthen the identity of the Muslim ummah through the empowerment of the awqaf institution

Sub-themes of 3rd ICIHE

  • The meaning and significance of awqaf as a religious and socio-economic institution in Islam
  • The historical development of awqaf in relation to education
  • Important lessons to be learnt from past practices of awqaf in Muslim societies
  • Case studies and aspiring models of educational institutions founded on awqaf
  • Awqaf and contemporary Muslim higher education: problems and challenges
  • Transforming major mosques into Muslim institutions of higher learning
  • The future role of awqaf in the development of Muslim higher education

Tentative Programs

30 September 2012 (Sunday)

  • Arrivals of speakers and participants
  • Registration of participants

1st October 2012 (Monday)

8.00 am – 9.00 am: Registration of participants and arrival of guests

9.00 am – 10.00 am: Official Opening of 3rd ICIHE

  • Welcoming speeches by organizers
  • Official opening and keynote address by the Menteri Besar of Pahang and Chairman, Pahang State Foundation, YAB Dato Sri Diraja Adnan Yaakob

10.00 am – 10.30 am: Refreshment

10.30 am – 11.30 am: Session 1

11.30 am – 12.45 pm: Session 2

12.45 pm – 2.00 pm: Lunch/Prayer

2.00 pm – 3.30 pm: Session 3

3.30 pm – 5 pm: Session 4

5.00 pm: Refreshment and End of First Day Program

2nd October 2012 (Tuesday)

8.30 am – 10.00 am: Session 5

10.00 am – 10.30 am: Refreshment

10.30 am – 11.45 am: Session 6

11.45 am – 1.00 pm: Session 7

1.00 pm – 2.00 pm: Lunch/Prayer

2.00 pm – 3.15 pm: Session 8

3.15 pm – 4.15 pm: Parallel sessions/Workshops

4.15 pm – 4.30 pm: Reports from parallel sessions/workshops

4.30 pm: Official closing of 3rd ICIHE

5.00 pm: Refreshment and End of 3rd ICIHE


  • Invited speakers (expenses covered by the organizers)
  • Accepted paper presenters


  • Representatives of institutions and organizations related to the management of awqaf
  • Representatives of both public and private education sectors
  • Representatives of non-governmental organizations
  • Individual participants from Malaysia and foreign countries

Conference Secretariat

  • IKIP International College, Kuantan, Malaysia
  • IAIS Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

General Information about Conference

  • Registration fee: Free participation for the first 250 registered. In addition, participants will enjoy free meals served during the conference
  • Accommodation: Organizers do not provide accommodation except for invited speakers, but we can offer advice on various types of accommodation available in the Kuantan area
  • Travel expenses: Participants have to pay for their own travel expenses

Contact Information

  • International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-7956 9188

Fax: +603-7956 2188 / +603-7956 2966

Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • IKIP International College, Kampus Taman Gelora

25050 Kuantan, Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia

Tel: +609-567 8999 ext 173 (Mr Mohd Idi Amin Saleh)

Fax: +609-567 7999

Toll Free: 1800 88 999

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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