Graduate Associate


Intisar Rabb

Near Eastern Studies, PhD candidate

Jones Hall

Intisar Rabb received her JD from Yale Law School, and is a PhD Candidate at Princeton University, where she is writing a dissertation on legal maxims in comparative American and Islamic law. After completing law school, and prior to returning to Princeton, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Thomas L. Ambro of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Last year, she held a fellowship at the University Center for Human Values. This year, she holds the Mrs. Giles C. Whiting Fellowship and is a fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion. She is also active in LAPA as a graduate associate.

In 1999, Intisar graduated from Georgetown University with an honors degree in Government and Arabic, a course of study that included spending a year abroad in Cairo. After graduating, she completed a one-year intensive program in Islamic studies/law at the Abu Nour Institute in Damascus. She has also studied in Iran, Morocco, and Senegal. She speaks fluent Arabic, is proficient in Persian, and has reading knowledge of French, German, and Spanish.

In addition to Islamic and comparative law, Intisar's academic interests include American constitutional law and statutory interpretation, American criminal law, and the history of legal process and canonization in both systems of law.


"'We the Jurists': Islamic Constitutionalism in Iraq", 10 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 527-79 (2008). This article examines the implications of incorporating Islamic law in a modern democratic constitutional context. The new Iraqi constitution’s designation of Islamic law as “a source of law” placed the issue of Islamic law’s role in new democracies at the forefront of the debates on “Islamic constitutionalism”—governing structures characterized by written constitutions that incorporate Islamic law. With its incorporation of both Islamic law and democratic/human rights provisions, the Iraqi constitution establishes a scenario where the government must legislate or adjudicate with respect to a set of dual norms. What challenges does the government face in attempts to legislate and adjudicate vis-à-vis an ostensibly religious legal system? Must it delineate a relationship between its traditional three branches and Islamic law’s traditional interpreters (the jurists)? This article takes up these questions, positing that the role of Islamic law in an Islamic constitutional regime revolves around issues of interpretation and the institutional relationship between the government and the jurists. Taking the debates about family law reforms as a case study, the article assesses ways in which sentiments about Islamic law play out in discussions of popular sovereignty (“we the people”), juristic input (“we the jurists”), and legal reform. By comparing Iraq to existing models for Islamic constitutionalism, the article shows how the prospects for progressive laws and legal reform in Iraq depend on the form of Islamic constitutionalism adopted. More generally, the article offers insights in the areas of Islamic law and legislation in contemporary contexts of democracy-building, legal reform, and rule-of-law.

"Courts, Civil Law, Fiqh [Positive Law], and Ijtih?d [Islamic Legal Reasoning]", in Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (John Esposito ed. 2007).

"Non-Canonical Readings of the Qur’?n: Recognition & Authenticity", 8 J. Qur’?nic Studies 84-127 (2006). This article examines the implications of an old copy of the Qur’?n that does not conform to any known canonical readings. In attempts to explain why, the article attempts to trace the history of the Qur’?nic canon. It begins with the notion that the canon formed around the fourth century after Islam’s advent, and then asks: by what criteria did some readings fall within the canon and some outside? What was the impetus behind the fourth-century efforts to form a canon in the first place? How and why did non-canonical readings persist after the canon had formed? This copy of the Qur’?n facilitates these inquiries because here is a document that provides a direct look at the pre-canonical Qur’?nic landscape. Drawing upon scattered records in the historical, grammatical and exegetical sources, the article seeks to shed light on the formation of the canon, the fluidity of Qur’?nic manuscript production, and the concerns that drove tradition-minded scholars in the Islamic world to settle Islam (and Islamic law)’s central text.

"Marriage: Islamic", in Routledge Encyclopedia of Medieval Islamic Civilization (Josef Meri ed. 2005).

Book Review, 30 Yale J. Int’l L. 343-46 (2005) (reviewing "Mu?ammad B?qir a?-?adr, Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence" (Roy Mottahedeh trans. 2003)).

Book Review, 27 Yale J. Int’l L. 233-36 (2002) (reviewing "Giving Meaning to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" (Isfahan Merali & Valerie Oosterveld eds. 2001)).

"Q?n?n [Secular Law of Muslim States]", in Encyclopedia of Legal History (Stanley Katz et al. eds., forthcoming).

"Police and al-Siy?sa al-Shar?iyya [Islamic Political Theory]", in Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Gerhard Böwering et al., forthcoming).

Works in Progress

"The Evolving Rule of Lenity: From the Marshall to the Rehnquist Court" (submitted for publication).

"Islamic Legal Maxims as Substantive Canons of Construction" (submitted for publication).

"The Islamic Rule of Lenity: Reasonable Doubt & Lenity in Islamic Law" (draft)

"Dueling Islamic Legal Maxims: Presumptions of Innocence vs. Strict Liability" (draft – in progress)


“Religion as Democratic Constituent,” invited paper presentation at the Yale Law School Middle East Legal Studies Seminar on The State and Legitimacy in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (upcoming, January 2009).

“Muslim Historiography in Islamic Legal Reasoning,” accepted paper presentation at the American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting in Québec, Canada (upcoming, November 2008).

“The Role of Religion (in Emerging Democratic Constitutions),” invited presentation at the IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance)-Interpeace Constitution Building Consultative Workshop in Cyberjaya, Malaysia (June 2008).

“Reasonable Doubt and Hudud Jurisprudence: Limits of Criminal Sanctions in American and Islamic Law,” paper presentation at the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting in Montréal, Canada (May 2008).

“The Islamic Rule of Lenity,” workshop presentation at a seminar organized by Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs in Princeton, NJ (May 2008).

“Islamic Legal Maxims and Hudud-Aversion in Cases of Doubt,” invited workshop presentation at Schacht Revisited, sponsored by the Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program in Cambridge, MA (April 2008).

“Islam, Constitutions & Durable Democracy,” invited panel-lecture, organized by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University (September 2007).

“Underpinnings of Islamic Law: Impact and Relevance,” invited conference presentation at Islamic Law and the West: Theory, Doctrine, Practice, sponsored by American University Washington College of Law (February 2007).

“Legal Maxims and Hudud Laws: The Limits of Fixed Criminal Sanctions?,” invited presentation at the International Society for Islamic Legal Studies Vth Annual Conference: Lawful and Unlawful Violence in Islamic Law and History, in Cambridge, MA (September 2006).

“Necessity Knows No Law but is Familiar with Andalusian Judicial Practice,” paper presentation on the panel Muftis and Their Fatwas: Text and Context, organized by Professor David Powers, Cornell University, at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington DC (November 2005).

“From God’s Rights to Societal Rights: The Evolution of Huquq All?h in Sunn? Juristic Discourse” (presented at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco (2004)).

Personal Interests and Languages

Tae Kwon Do (black belt candidate), calligraphy, painting.

Arabic fluency; Persian proficiency; reading proficiency in French, German, and Spanish.

Traveled for research and lectures to Austria, Egypt, England, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Senegal, Spain, Syria, and Turkey.

Legal London 2007 – Temple Bar Scholarship
Vienna 2008 – World Justice Forum
Malaysia 2008 – IDEA/Interepeace Constitution Building Workshop – Mt. Kinabalu Climb
New Orleans 2008 – Wedding
Travel Pics – ALL / BEST OF

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