Syllabus: Islamic Business Law

New York University, School of Law

This course will provide an overview of the theoretical doctrines that give rise to Islamic finance and an introduction to its contemporary practice in various market contexts. We will begin with the religious impulse that gives rise to Islamic finance, including, different Islamic critiques of conventional finance and why Islamic finance is claimed to be a superior model. We will then turn to classical Islamic commercial law, and study the two principle classical doctrines of Islamic commercial law that seem to mandate the creation of alternative financing models, ribā (often translated, incorrectly, to “usury”) and gharar (often translated, incorrectly, as “speculation”). We will also cover the basic building blocks of Islamic commercial law, studying rules governing sales, leases, loans, pledges and other fundamental commercial law relationships as well as Islamic rules governing business organizations such as general and limited partnerships.

After completing an overview of historical doctrines, we will turn to how these doctrines were modernized to produce a “modern” Islamic commercial law, something that enabled the rise of contemporary Islamic finance. We will consider a broad range of Islamic financial contracts across various markets, including, consumer banking and finance, Islamic deposit taking banks, Islamic corporate finance (e.g., sukuk, sometimes called “Islamic bonds”) and Islamic derivatives. We will then consider the legal structure undergirding Islamic finance and use it as an example of the advantages/disadvantages of public ordering versus private ordering. The course will conclude with different critiques of Islamic finance.

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