Photo of Dr Wissam Halawi

Dr Wissam Halawi

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

As a specialist in medieval Islamic social history, I have a substantial interest in examining the relationship between theoretical legal discourses, hagiographical traditions, documents of the practice on the one hand, and the functioning of social institutions on the other. Hitherto, my research has particularly focused on rural communities, as well as religious minorities, in the Islamic lands; to analyse how adepts’ everyday lives were organised, but also how religious and local institutions interacted with official ones. Hence, I joined the IAIS as a Research Fellow within the LAWALISI (Law, Authority and Learning in Imami Shi’ite Islam) Project, to explore the social ramifications of Shīʿī legal literature, mainly the books of fiqh, written in Baghdad in the 10th and 11th Centuries. Much valuable study has already been undertaken on these texts by historians of Islamic thought. However, a new approach could enhance our understanding of legal theories that Shīʿī scholars elaborated during that period, to deal with the absence of the Imam, and that of his representatives (sufarāʾ). Considering the doctrinal adjustments of the “Four Precepts (al-aḥkām al-arbaʿa)” – namely the legal taxes (ḫums), legal punishment (ḥudūd), collective prayer (ṣalāt al-ǧumʿa), and holy war (ǧihād) – as a case study, I intend to examine the extent to which this change was merely a theoretical development, or whether it had practical repercussions for the running of Shīʿī communities then. 

As part of the Maronite Research Project that I have been working on with Elise Voguet (CNRS-Paris) for the past two years, I am studying the unpublished notarial documents of the Qannūbīn Monastery (Mount of Lebanon) dated from the 15th and 16th Centuries. This invaluable literature allows us to find out more about the establishment of the Maronite patriarchy in the sacred valley of Qādīšā, and about land property and taxation in the late Mamluk and the early Ottoman periods. It attests that the most prestigious Maronite institution in Syria was recognised by the central state then, and acquired a useful familiarity with Islamic notarial practices and contract law, as they are described in books of šurūṭ. For the presentations given in two voices (with Elise Voguet) on this topic, see "Biography". Forthcoming: an article, with an Arabic Critical Edition and a French Translation of two documents. 

In my PhD work, my focus was on the History of Druzism in the premodern period. Based on hagiographical and legal unpublished sources, along with narrative local literature, I made a thorough analysis of the social and political context of the emergence of the first Druze school of law in the mountains of Syria in the late 15th Century. The historical critical method and the anthropological approach were essential to my understanding and interpretation of these new Druze texts. I showed that, contrary to preconceived ideas, the celebrated Emir Ǧamāl al-Dīn ʿAbd Allāh (d. 884/1479), now the supposed founder of the Druze maḏhab, is not the author of the first treatises of law. Indeed, both the methodology of law and legal reasoning, and the cumulative Druze doctrine of positive law, have been elaborated after his death, most probably by his disciples based in the villages of the Ġarb and the Šūf. Such a revision was made possible, firstly, by deconstructing the mythical figure of the Emir; and secondly, by examining his life and action within the family context of Banū al-Ḥusayn, the powerful Buḥturid Emirs of the Ġarb throughout the late premodern period. Moreover, I examine how and to what extent this social and political context has been the cradle of the first religious (albeit non-official) Druze institutions. For instance, the functioning of the institution of the sāyis, which is substantiated in the Druze treatises of law, is close to that of the qāḍī in Islam; but unlike the latter, the former doesn’t have any coercive power. In sum, I analyse the willingness of the religious chiefs to establish a normative framework, and to structure justice within the community by subjecting adepts to a specific Druze legal theory. For my articles on the History of Druzism, and on the History of Druze Law, see "Biography". I am also currently undertaking a systematic study of Premodern Druze Law (especially on topics as sexuality, marriage, education, inheritance and trading relationships), based on unpublished legal treatises written by Druze jurists in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The sources of premodern Druze Law, its connections – or divergences – with other schools of law in Islam, as well as its roots in local rural practices will be of interest to my research over the next years. Forthcoming: the publication of my doctoral dissertation (in French); a systematic study of Druze Law, with an Arabic Critical Edition and English/French Translation of excerpts from the Druze legal treatises.

From September 2014 to July 2017, I taught first and third year undergraduate classes on medieval Islamic social and political history at the Sorbonne University (Paris IV). Besides enabling students to discover the medieval Islamic history in its plurality, I stressed the historical critical method to help them to develop their own point of view of primary sources, or within a subject (such as the Holy War, and status of women in Islam). Furthermore, I have acquired significant competences in Arabic Codicology and Palaeography, which have permitted me to date the manuscripts that I used in my doctoral thesis. My skills in Arabic philology were crucial in my work as well, to be able to analyse the Druze medieval texts of my corpus thoroughly. 

JOURNAL ARTICLES

“Arbitration and Mediation in the 9th/15th century among the Druze Gharb” (French), Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM), 140, 2016, p. 101-120.

“The Druze Reform in the Syrian mountains in the fifteenth century” (French), Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM), 135, 2014, p. 99-130.

“Druze Manuscripts earlier than the 9th/15th century?” (French), Bulletin d’Études Orientales (BEO), 62, 2013, p. 149-169.

“The Kitāb durrat al-tāğ wa-sullam al-miʻrāğ of Ibn Naṣr: An eulogy of Ğamāl al-Dīn Abdallah al-Tannūḫī (820-884/1417-1479)” (French), Arabica, 58, 2011, p. 128-164.

“The Druzes in Medieval Arabic Chronicles: an exploded narration” (French), Studia Islamica, 104/105, 2007, p. 103-132.

Biography

CURRICULUM VITAE

Wissam HALABI HALAWI

E-MAIL

w.halawi@exeter.ac.uk

whalawi@hotmail.com 

RESEARCH AREA

  • Medieval Islamic social History 
  • Rural History 
  • Islamic Law 
  • Druze Law 
  • Justice, Mediation, and Arbitration in Medieval Islam
  • Religious authority 
  • History of Sanctity 
  • History of minorities (Druze, Maronite, Shi’i) in the Medieval period  

LANGUAGES

Arabic – English – French  

INSTITUTIONS

  • IAIS – University of Exeter
  • Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University
  • Paris IV Sorbonne University
  • IFPO – Institut français du Proche-Orient
  • CNRS – Islam Médiéval UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée

EDUCATION  

Aug 2017- 

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Exeter, Exeter. LAWALISI project (Law, Authority and Learning in Imami Shi’i Islam), under the supervision of Professor Robert Gleave.       

2008-2016

Ph. D. Dissertation, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris): “Druzism in the 9th/15th Century: Between Sayyidian hagiography and social realities” (French), 700p.; Qualification with distinction.

Supervisors: 

- Professor Daniel De Smet; CNRS – National Centre for Scientific Research 

- Professor Françoise Micheau; Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University

Members of the Jury: 

- Professor Denise Aigle; École Pratique des Hautes Études, EPHE 

- Professor Mohammed Ali Amir-Moezzi; École Pratique des Hautes Études, EPHE 

- Professor Anne-Marie Eddé; Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University 

- Professor Mathieu Tillier; Paris IV-Sorbonne University  

2012-2014

Researcher Fellow, IFPO (French Institute for the Near East), Beirut.  

2007-2008

MA in Medieval History, Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne University; Dissertation: “Jalons pour une histoire de la formation du Canon druze” (Milestones in the history of the Druze Canon Law formation), 220p. ; Qualification with distinction.

Supervisor: Professor Françoise Micheau.

2005-2007

MA in History, Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne University; Dissertation: “Étude de l’historiographie druze. Pour la période primitive du druzisme (408-434/1017-1043)” (Druzism in the early period between 408/1017 and 434/1043: state of the art), 180p. ; Qualification with distinction.

Supervisor: Professor Françoise Micheau.

 

TEACHING EXPERIENCE  

2014-2017 Paris IV Sorbonne University. 

Tutorial in Medieval History, 3rd year undergraduate classes;

Module: “Power and Society in the Medieval Middle East (7th-10th Century)”.

2014-2017 Paris IV Sorbonne University. 

Lectures in Arabic Studies, 1st year undergraduate classes;

Module: “Introduction to Arab-Muslim civilisation”.

2014-2015 Paris IV Sorbonne University. 

Tutorial in Medieval History, 1st year undergraduate classes;

Module: “Introduction to Medieval Muslim East (7th-15th Century)”.

 

PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS 

“A new study of the History of Druzism in the premodern period, based on unpublished hagiography and legal literature” (French), Arabica, forthcoming.

“Arbitration and Mediation in the 9th/15th century among the Druze Gharb” (French), Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM), 140, 2016, p. 101-120.

“The Druze Reform in the Syrian mountains in the fifteenth century” (French), Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM), 135, 2014, p. 99-130.

 “Druze Manuscripts earlier than the 9th/15th century?” (French), Bulletin d’Études Orientales (BEO), 62, 2013, p. 149-169.

“The Kitāb durrat al-tāğ wa-sullam al-miʻrāğ of Ibn Naṣr: An eulogy of Ğamāl al-Dīn Abdallah al-Tannūḫī (820-884/1417-1479)” (French), Arabica, 58, 2011, p. 128-164. 

“The Druzes in Medieval Arabic Chronicles: an exploded narration” (French), Studia Islamica, 104/105, 2007, p. 103-132.

 

ORGANISATION OF SEMINARS 

2013-2014 Organiser of a cycle of three research seminars at the Louis Pouzet’s Study Centre of Medieval and Ancient Civilisations (Saint-Joseph University, Beirut), and the IFPO (French Institute for the Near East). 

Topic: “Kisrawân sacking in 1305: Historicity and Challenges”

 - 1st Session (2014, January 22nd): “Kisrawân sacking, and political context”

 - 2nd Session (2014, March 12th): “Kisrawân sacking, and community particularism”

 - 3rd Session (2014, May 21st): “Kisrawân sacking, and the contribution of Christian sources” 

 

PRESENTATIONS 

Sales, Acquisitions and Donations: Land Property and Taxation in Jabal Lubnân in the premodern period, based on the notarial documents of the Maronite Monastery of Qannubin”; Presented with E. Voguet at the Congress “Middle-East and Islamic Lands IISMM” organised by the GIS, Paris, July 7th, 2017; as part of the workshop “Land Property in Islamic Lands” organised by N. Lucas and E. Voguet. 

 “Notarial Documents of the Maronite Monastery of Qannubin (15th C.)”; Presented with E. Voguet at the IISMM (Institut d’études de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman), Paris, April 27th, 2017; as part of the workshop “Islamic Law and Premodern Societies (7th-19th C.)”, organised by C. Müller and I. Warsheid.  

The Formation of Islam: History and Civilisation”; Presented at the Hoche-Versailles College, Versailles, January 25th, 2017; as part of the training seminar on Islamic History organised by the IISMM (Institut d’études de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman). 

Premodern Druzism: Theory and Positive Druze Law in Legal Treaties”; Presented at the University of Exeter, Exeter, January 10th, 2017; as part of the joint workshop of the IAIS (Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies) organised by R. Gleave.  

The Omayyad and Abbasid Caliphates”; Presented at the iReMMO (Université Populaire de Recherche et d’Études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient), Paris, November 5th, 2016; as part of the encounter entitled “Empires prior to the emergence of the Ottomans”. 

The emergence of Druze Religious Authority in Syria in the 15th Century: sources and constructions”; Presented at Paris IV-Sorbonne University, April 2nd, 2016; as part of the seminar “Sources and Methodology in Islamic History” organised by M. Tillier.

The Gharb Religious Elite versus Local and Central Powers: Apocalyptic Discourse and Social Reality in Premodern Druzism”; Presented at the IRBIMMA (Institut de Recherche sur Byzance, l’Islam et la Méditerranée au Moyen Âge), Paris, March 30th, 2016; as part of the joint seminar of the UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée “History and Archeology of Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean”, organised by A.-M. Eddé and M. Tillier. 

Druzes in the 9th/15th Century: History and Textual practices”; Presented at the Modern, Medieval and Arabic Louis Pouzet’s Study Centre, Beirut, May 15th, 2013; as part of the seminar “Sources and their interpretation”. 

Druze Manuscripts: the transmission of Legal and Theological knowledge”; Presented at the IFAO (Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale), Cairo, January 11th, 2010; as part of the workshop “Archives: Material and Materiality” organised by S. Denoix. 

The Emir al-Sayyid al-Tanūḫī (d. 1479): Between Continuity and Rupture”; Presented at the IISMM (Institut d’études de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman), Paris, June 18th, 2009; as part of the workshop on “The Nusayris and the Druzes, two esoteric communities at the doctrinal periphery of Islam” organised by D. De Smet and O. Mir-Kasimov. 

State-of-the-art and methodology in a Dissertation project”; Attendance to a seminar at the “Maison des Sciences de l’Homme”, Nantes, June 12th, 2009.