Decolonial translation: Destabilizing coloniality in secular translations of Islamic law

Lena Salaymeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Contemporary Islamic legal studies - both inside and outside the Muslim world - commonly relies upon a secular distortion of law. In this article, I use translation as a metonym for secular transformations and, accordingly, I will demonstrate how secular ideology translates the Islamic tradition. A secular translation converts the Islamic tradition into “religion” (the non-secular) and Islamic law into “sharia” - a term intended to represent the English mispronunciation of the Arabic word (sharī'ah). I explore the differences between historical Islamic terms and secular terms in order to demonstrate that coloniality generates religion and religious law; in turn, these two notions convert (sharī'ah) into “sharia” in both Arabic and non-Arabic languages. Consequently, the notion of “sharia” is part of a colonial system of meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Islamic Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative law
  • Critical theory
  • Decolonial theory
  • Islamic law
  • Secular law


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