Document Type

Book Chapter

Book Authors/Editors

Lorenzo Ramaioli


Palgrave MacMillan (United Kingdom), Forthcoming

Publication Date



Law and religion are present in almost every society, where the predominance of one over the other can greatly vary, and, in some cases, they both contend for authority over the citizenry. From a historical standpoint, this resulted in a constant change in the relationship between law and religion. Globalization also had a role in this regard. In some instances, globalization exacerbates differences between religions instead of encouraging mediation; it seeks to fill the gap left by the diminishing role of religion in the West. Globalization also competes with religion; both are looking for ways to regulate conduct and push humanity to maintain particular worldviews. The identification of the position of religion within a secular state is debated to this day. Some tend to view and acknowledge the role of religion as fundamental to the cultivation of morality and better integration of social and cultural considerations within the international community. Others argue against such a role. Scholars in the West see the law as completely separated from religion and morality. In other areas this role is less definite and varies based on political and social considerations. Even in predominantly Christian or Islamic nations, some countries have imposed rules limiting the influence of religion in the public sphere whereas other countries have remained either completely or partially governed and influenced by religion. Even within countries where religion is held above the law, in some instances, it has been used and exploited for political goals. Similarly, in countries where religion is confined to the private and personal spheres, it still heavily influences national policy. Thus, coexistence amongst law and religion is of topical importance, and has been greatly debated throughout history and is key to the understanding of different cultures. A great number of comparative studies emerged examining such a coexistence over the years, given the impact of these relations on a national level but also for international politics. Coexistence between the two in the context of the secular state also forced the judiciary to analyze and interpret religion within the legal framework of the modern state. Courts have had the difficult task of balancing rule of law and the protection of believers. Examples of tribunals that dealt with such topics include the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This is not an easy mission for any judge to deal with, as the final ruling will always be subject to criticism from all parties and stakeholders involved.

Among the many existing religions, Islam is one of those that holds a great importance; it constitutes the world’s fastest growing religion, and it creates social and political rules that regulate its followers’ conduct. Islam, historically, played an important role in shaping major political events after its emergence and creating polities where both law and religion were intermixed, each supportive of the other. As an example, empires such as the Ottomans, relied on Islam to unify the nation and justify territorial expansion. Islam’s relevance within the political sphere varied from country to country, century to century. Its development took diverging paths, making Islam, rather than a monolithic entity, a multifaceted and complex religious phenomenon. Particularly in the West, debate surrounds the political dimension of Islam, approaching it with worry and caution against the spread of the religion and its coexistence within secular and liberal societies. Islam, as other religions, continues to serve as the principal basis for identity of its believers and as a means for creating and fostering deep social trust and solidarity amongst its followers. Various debates took place with regards to the place that Islam should occupy in society.