Limited Legislative Power of the Ulu al-Amr (State Legislative Organ) in Islamic Law

  • A. Akgunduz
Keywords: Islamic Law, legislation, legislative power, codification, Sharî‘ah, ulu al-amr, legal authority, qânûn, qânûnnâme, legal system, fiqh, ta‘zîr, constitution, qânûn-i asâsî


Ahmed Akgunduz[1]


Islamic law is one of the broadest and most comprehensive systems of legislation in the world. Through various schools of thought, it has been applied throughout the Muslim world and has also had a great impact on other nations and cultures. There are many conflicting views regarding legal authority in Islamic law, from traditional approaches to more liberal theories. The conflicts stem from ignorance of the implementation of Islamic law in the history of Islam. This paper aims to explore this difficult subject by looking at examples of Islamic law in the history of Islam, especially in the Ottoman state.

In Islamic law there are some limited legislative powers for the ulu al-amr (ruler): codifying the current Sharî‘ah decrees like Majallah; preferring and codifying one of the Ijtihâds, such as certain preferences in Ottoman family law (dating back to 1917); authorizing the state to legislate for the Order of the World regarding permissible issues; and ascribing limited legislative powers in certain fields of law, such as like determining penalties for the crimes of ta‘zîr.

[1]    Ahmed Akgunduz is professor of Islamic Law at the Islamic University of Rotterdam.