Several days ago I sat in on a class here at Stanford entitled "Classical Islamic Law." Overall, the class was a fairly typical first class, in which the professor outlined what the course would be covering. However, he made one statement that particularly grabbed my attention: "this class is a class on classical Islamic law, not its modern relevance." This was somewhat shocking to me. Though the class was listed under the Religious Studies department and not the History department, for example, it still seems remarkable to me that absolutely no connections will be made with the modern world, filled as it is with rabid clerics and jihadists who routinely cite Islamic law as the motivation and justification for their conduct.
The professor then made another equally surprising statement: "Stanford does not offer a course on modern Islamic law." Why is this? Such a class would be invaluable in teaching people to understand the statements of bin Laden and others when they point to the Qur'an and Sunnah as their guiding light and inspiration. Hopefully Stanford will offer this class in the future, but until it does, it will be up to the individual to learn about the interplay between modern terrorism and the history and theological complexities of Islam.