In This Review

Sharia, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics
Sharia, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics
By Mark Fathi Massoud
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 372 pp.

Responding to those who claim that sharia fuels much of Somalia’s violence and political instability, Massoud argues that Islamic law instead holds the key to rebuilding the political order in the country. He points out that sharia is invoked to justify misogyny and human rights abuses but that it has also been used to advocate for gender equity and democracy. He argues that it is not sharia but struggles over the legal system that have been the main source of contention and conflict going back to the beginning of the colonial era. Two noteworthy chapters discuss this history in which successive national states grappled with how to integrate Western jurisprudence and both customary law and sharia. Massoud views the conflicts that led to the collapse of the central state in 1991 as the logical continuation of these earlier debates about the legal underpinnings of the Somali state. The book is vague on how the principles of sharia can in practice reconstruct an organic and stable legal order, although Massoud appears to view the breakaway state of Somaliland as a potential model of how the right kind of sharia could emerge.