The Laws of Islam


Las leyes del Islam (The laws of Islam) was published in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1926. The book’s author, Constantino Melhem, a native Arabic speaker and a non-Muslim, sets himself the goal of translating directly from the Arabic and organizing and commenting on the body of Islamic law. His objective, as stated in the preface, is to explain to a Western audience the massive body of laws and rules governing Muslim life and to correct what he regards as misconceptions about the Muslim way of life that have resulted from inaccurate translations and superficial interpretations by Christians. He aims to shed light on laws governing the lives of 350 million Muslims (his estimate of the world’s Muslim population in 1926, when the book was published). The book is divided into four parts: religious laws, civil laws, criminal laws, and social laws. Each part is further subdivided into chapters that address such topics as fasting, prayer, marriage, inheritance, behavior toward parents, tithes, loans, commercial activities, and family life. The chapters have a common structure: they begin with the definition of the rule, list modalities of conduct needed to appropriately observe the rule, the exceptions, followed by specific examples illustrated with facts. In some chapters, Melhem offers a personal commentary about a particular law and its implications and often compares it with similar rules that apply in Christian countries. Melhem draws such connections in order to facilitate understanding by his readers. He also makes special efforts to present the relationship between causes and effects in the observance of Islamic laws in order to showcase the holistic role of law and religion in Muslim life.

Last updated: March 17, 2016