Islamic Law in the curriculum of UKZN School of Law: challenges and solutions

Paper presented at the 2013 CLEA Conference in Durban

Munirah Osman-Hyder
School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal

The aim of legal education, and hence law school curricula, is to produce lawyers that will provide relevant, effective and efficient legal services to the communities in need of such service. In order to produce the quality legal professionals, the curricula have to be relevant and supply the necessary knowledge, values and skills required by the aspiring professional.

Post-democracy, the higher education sector in South Africa has been undergoing a steady transformation related to the need to widen access and to redress past imbalances in the provision of education. Part of the challenges in this transformation process is to develop curricula that both recognise the diversity of the positive ideals, beliefs, and faith while remaining impartial toward any one belief and to contribute to the development of a new shared identity. UKZN School of law responded to this challenge by the creation of the “Legal Diversity” module. Legal Diversity covers different legal systems with a focus on family law. Currently the systems covered are: African Customary Law; Islamic law; Hindu law; and Jewish law.

Islamic Law is therefore taught through a small window created in the Legal Diversity module. This poses many challenges in respect of curriculum. Firstly, the time or lecture periods allocated for the Islamic law section is a small fraction of the module. Secondly, the subjects are covered in a very basis and introductory manner. Thirdly, students find it difficult to grasp the linguistic terminology and concepts and finally it is challenging for them to shift from one legal system to another, especially since each of these systems are so varied and different in their approaches.

This presentation seeks to define and analyse the challenges faced regarding the Islamic law curriculum at UKZN School of Law with a view to offering some suggestions for Islamic Law curriculum development.

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