Khaled M. Abou El Fadl

Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law

  • B.A. Yale, 1986
  • J.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1989
  • Ph.D. Islamic Studies, Princeton, 1999
  • UCLA Faculty Since 1998

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic law and Islam, and a prominent scholar in the field of human rights.  He is the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law where he teaches International Human Rights, Islamic Jurisprudence, National Security Law, Law and Terrorism, Islam and Human Rights, Political Asylum and Political Crimes and Legal Systems.  He is also the Chair of the Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA. 

Among his many honors and distinctions, Dr. Abou El Fadl was awarded the University of Oslo Human Rights Award, the Leo and Lisl Eitinger Prize in 2007, and named a Carnegie Scholar in Islamic Law in 2005.  He was previously appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and also served as a member of the board of directors of Human Rights Watch.  He continues to serve on the advisory board of Middle East Watch (part of Human Rights Watch) and regularly works with human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (Human Rights First) as an expert in a wide variety of cases involving human rights, terrorism, political asylum, and international and commercial law.  In 2005, he was also listed as one of LawDragon’s Top 500 Lawyers in the Nation.

A prolific scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Abou El Fadl is the author of 14 books (five forthcoming) and over 50 articles on various topics in Islam and Islamic law.  He has lectured on and taught Islamic law throughout the United States and Europe in academic and non-academic environments for over twenty years.  His work has been translated into numerous languages including Arabic, Persian, French, Norwegian, Dutch, Ethiopian, Russian, and Japanese, among others.

Dr. Abou El Fadl is most noted for his scholarly approach to Islam from a moral point of view.  He writes extensively on universal themes of humanity, morality, human rights, justice, and mercy, and is well known for his writings on beauty as a core moral value of Islam.  He is one of the foremost critics of puritan and Wahhabi Islam.  Dr. Abou El Fadl has appeared on national and international television and radio, and has published widely in such publications as the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalLos Angeles TimesBoston Review and many others.

Professor Abou El Fadl is the founding advisory board member of the UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law (JINEL), and an editorial board member for Political Theology, the Journal of Religious Ethics, the Journal of Islamic Law and Society, the Journal of Islamic Law and Culture, and Hawa: Journal of Women of Middle East and the Islamic World, among others.  He also serves as an advisory board member for the University of Adelaide Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion (RUSSLR) in Australia; the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Islam Initiative Publications Project; the Harvard Press Series on Islamic Law; and the Journal of Islamic Studies (Islamabad), among others.

His most recent works focus on authority, human rights, democracy and beauty in Islam and Islamic law.  His book, The Great Theft, was the first work to delineate the key differences between moderate and extremist Muslims, and was named one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by Canada’s Globe and Mail (Canada’s leading national newspaper).  His book, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books, is a landmark work in modern Muslim literature.

Dr. Abou El Fadl holds a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University, a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Islamic law from Princeton University.  Dr. Abou El Fadl is also an Islamic jurist and scholar, having received 13 years of systematic instruction in Islamic jurisprudence, grammar and eloquence in Egypt and Kuwait.  After law school, he clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice James Moeller, and practiced immigration and investment law in the U.S. and the Middle East.  He previously taught Islamic law at the University of Texas at Austin Law School, Yale Law School and Princeton University.


  • Articles And Chapters
    • Islamic Law, Jihad and Violence, 6 UCLA Journal of Islamic Law and Near Eastern Law 1 (2017). Full Text
    • The Epistemology of the Truth in Modern Islam, 41 (4-5) Philosophy and Social Criticism 473-86 (2015).
    • Failure of a Revolution: The Military, Secular Intelligentsia and Religion in Egypt's Pseudo-Secular State, in Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring: Rethinking Democratization 253-70 (edited by Larbi Sadiki, Routledge Press, 2015).
    • When Happiness Fails: An Islamic Perspective, 29 The Journal of Law and Religion 109 (2014).
    • The Shari'a, in The Oxford University Handbook of Islam and Politics (edited by John L. Esposito and Emad El-Din Shahin, Oxford University Press, 2013).
    • The Praetorian State in the Arab Spring, 34 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 305 (2013). Full Text
    • The Islamic Legal Tradition: A Comparative Law Perspective, in Cambridge Companion to Comparative Law (edited by Mauro Bussani and Ugo Mattei, Cambridge University Press, 2012).
    • Conceptualizing Shari'ah in the Modern State, 56 Villanova Law Review 803 (2012). Full Text
    • The Centrality of Shari'ah to Government and Constitutionalism in Islam, in Constitutionalism in Islamic Countries: Between Upheaval and Continuity (edited by Rainer Grote and Tillman Roder, Oxford University Press, 2011).
    • Fascism Triumphant?, 10 (4) Political Theology 577-81 (2009). Translated into Dutch: Opinion, VolZin, The Netherlands, Issue 15, Fall 2009.
    • Islamic Authority, in New Directions in Islamic Thought: Exploring Reform and Muslim Tradition (edited by Kari Vogt, Lena Miller and Christian Moe, I.B. Tauris, 2009).
    • Islamic Law, Human Rights and Neo-Colonialism, in Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2006: The `War on Terror' (edited by Chris Miller, Manchester University Press, 2009).
    • The Unique and International and the Imperative of Discourse, 8 Chicago Journal of International Law 43-57 (2007).
    • The Place of Ethical Obligations in Islamic Law, 4 UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 1 (2005).
    • The Death Penalty, Mercy and Islam: A Call for Retrospection, in A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty (edited by Erik C. Owens, John D. Carlson & Eric P. Elshtain, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2004).
    • Islam and the Challenge of Democratic Commitment, 27 Fordham International Law Journal 5 (2003).
    • 9/11 and the Muslim Transformation, in September 11: A Transformative Moment? Culture, Religion and Politics in an Age of Uncertainty (edited by Mary Dudziak, Duke University Press, 2003).
    • The Human Rights Commitment in Modern Islam, in Human Rights and Responsibilities in the World Religions 301-364 (edited by Joseph Runzo, Nancy M. Martin and Arvind Sharma, Oneworld Publications, 2003).
    • Between Functionalism and Morality: The Juristic Debates on the Conduct of War, in Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia 103-128 (edited by Jonathan E. Brockopp, University of South Carolina Press, 2003).
    • Conflict Resolution as a Normative Value in Islamic Law: Handling Disputes with Non-Muslims, in Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik 178-209 (edited by Douglas Johnston, Oxford University Press, 2003).
    • The Unbounded Law of God and Territorial Boundaries, in States, Nations and Borders: The Ethics of Making Boundaries 214-227 (edited by Allen Buchanan and Margaret Moore, Cambridge University Press, 2003).
    • The Modern Ugly and the Ugly Modern: Reclaiming the Beautiful in Islam, in Progressive Muslims 33-77 (edited by Omid Safi, Oneworld Press, 2003).
    • The Culture of Ugliness in Modern Islam and Reengaging Morality, 2 UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 33-97 (2002).
    • The Orphans of Modernity and the Clash of Civilizations, 4 Global Dialogue 1-16 (2002).
    • Introduction, in Shattered Illusions: Analyzing the War on Terrorism 19-44 (edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl, John Esposito, Aftab Ahmad Malik, Amal Press, 2002).
    • Peaceful Jihad, in Taking Back Islam 33-39 (edited by Michael Wolfe, Rodale Press, 2002).
    • Book Review, Islamic Law and Ambivalent Scholarship, 100 Michigan Law Review 1421-43 (2002). Reviewing The Justice of Islam: Comparative Perspectives on Islamic Law and Society, by Lawrence Rosen.
    • Book Review, Soul Searching and the Spirit of Shari'ah, 1 Washington University Global Studies Law Review 553-72 (2002). Reviewing The Sprit of Islamic Law, by Bernard Weiss.
    • Constitutionalism and the Islamic Sunni Legacy, 1 UCLA Journal of Islamic & Near Eastern Law 67-101 (2002).
    • Negotiating Human Rights Through Language, 5 Journal of International Law & Foreign Affairs 229-36 (2001).
    • Book Review, The Use and Abuse of "Holy War", 14 Ethics and International Affairs 133-40 (2000). Reviewing The Holy War Idea in the Western & Islamic Traditions, by James Johnson.
    • Fox Hunting, Pheasant Shooting, and Comparative Law (with Alan Watson), 48 American Journal of Comparative Law 1-37 (2000).
    • The Rules of Killing at War: An Inquiry into Classical Sources, LXXXIX in The Muslim World 144-57 (1999).
    • Striking the Balance: Islamic Legal Discourses on Muslim Minorities, in Muslims on the Americanization Path? (edited by Yvonne Haddad & John Esposito, Scholars Press, 1998). Reprinted Oxford University Press (1999).
    • Political Crime in Islamic Jurisprudence and Western Legal History, 4 UC Davis Journal of International Law & Policy 28 (1998).
    • Muslims and Accessible Jurisprudence in Liberal Democracies: A Response to Edward B. Foley's Jurisprudence and Theology, 66 Fordham Law Review 1227-31 (1998).
    • Dia, 7 in Encyclopedia Iranica 360-62 (1996).
    • Muslim Minorities and Self-Restraint in Liberal Democracies, 29 Loyola Law Review 1525-42 (1996).
    • Hostages (with Asma Sayeed), in Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (Oxford University Press, 1995).
    • Diplomatic Immunity, in Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (Oxford University Press, 1995).
    • Democracy and Islamic Law, in Under Siege: Islam and Democracy (edited by Richard Bulliet, Middle East Institute of Columbia University, 1994).
    • Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities: The Juristic Discourse on Muslim Minorities From the 2nd/8th to the 11th/17th Centuries, 1 Journal of Islamic Law & Society 141-87 (1994).
    • Legal Debates on Muslim Minorities: Between Rejection and Accommodation, 22 Journal of Religious Ethics 127-62 (1994).
    • Tax Farming in Islamic Law: A Search for a Concept, 31 Islamic Studies 5-32 (1992).
    • The Common and Islamic Law of Duress, 6 Arab Law Quarterly 121 (1991). Reprinted as The Law of Duress in Islamic Law and Common Law: A Comparative Study, 30 Islamic Studies 305 (1991).
    • Ahkam al-Bughat: Irregular Warfare and the Law of Rebellion in Islam, in Cross, Crescent and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition (edited by James Turner Johnson and John Kelsay, Greenwood Press, 1990).
  • Books
    • Routledge Handbook of Islamic Law (edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl, Ahmad Atif Ahmad, Said Fares Hassan).. Routledge (2019).
    • Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age. Rowman & Littlefield (2014).
    • The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books. Rowman & Littlefield (2005).Expanded and updated. First edition: 2001.
    • The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. Harper Collins (2005).
    • Islam and the Challenge of Democracy. Princeton University Press (2004).Translated into Indonesian (Islam Dan Tantangan Demokrasi, Jakarta: PT Serambi Ilmu Semesta, 2003).
    • The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses: A Contemporary Case Study. 3rd ed. Al-Saadawi Publishers (2002).Translated into Arabic (Al-Istibdad wa al-Marja'iyya fi al-Khitab al-Islami: Dirasat Hala Mu'asira, Trans. Muhammad Adil Eid, Cairo, Egypt: Shorouq Dawliyya, 2003. The translation was done by a Professor at Ein Shams University, Cairo, Egypt).
    • Shattered Illusions: Analyzing the War on Terrorism (edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl, John Esposito, Aftab Ahmad Malik).. Amal Press (2002).
    • The Place of Tolerance in Islam. Beacon Press (2002).
    • Rebellion and Violence In Islamic Law. Cambridge University Press (2001).
    • And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses. University Press of America (2001).
    • Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. Oneworld Press (2001).
    • The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses. 3rd ed. Dar Taiba (1997).Prior editions: 1997; MVI, 1996.
  • Other
    • More of the Same: Obama in Cairo, Political Theology's first Web Editorial, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (2009).
    • Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, Wall Street Journal (November, 2003).
    • On Rebuilding Iraq, Wall Street Journal (April, 2003).
    • Islam and the Challenge of Democracy, 28 Boston Review (April/May 2003).
    • Rebuilding the Law, Wall Street Journal (April 21, 2003).
    • Book Review, 32 International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2002). Reviewing The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur'an, the Muwatta' and Madianan 'Amal, by Yasin Dutton.
    • Past Year Has Been Difficult for American Muslims, Dallas Morning News (Sept. 2002).
    • U.S. Muslims, Unify and Stand Up, Los Angeles Times (July 14, 2002).
    • Moderate Muslims Under Siege, New York Times (July 1, 2002).
    • Islam and Tolerance: Abou El Fadl Replies, 27 Boston Review (February/March 2002).
    • The Place of Tolerance in Islam, 26 Boston Review (December 2001/January 2002).
    • Islam and the Theology of Power, 221 Middle East Report (Winter 2001).
    • What Became of Tolerance in Islam?, Los Angeles Times (Sept. 14, 2001).
    • Terrorism is at Odds With Islamic Tradition, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 22, 2001).
    • Islamic Sex Laws, Los Angeles Daily Journal (Aug. 5, 1999).
    • Human Rights Must Include Tolerance, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 12, 1997). Republished in: Austin-American Statesman (Aug. 15, 1997); the Orlando Sentinel (Aug. 18, 1997); The Philadelphia Inquirer Aug. 22, 1997; The Trenton Times (Aug. 25, 1997); Houston Chronicle (Aug. 25, 1997). Also appeared in Canadian newspapers and the Herald Tribune in London, England.
    • Book Review, 9 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (1992). Reviewing Law and Islam in the Middle East, edited by Daisy H. Dwyer.
    • Critique: Reviewing U.S. Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Egypt.  Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights for the years 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996.
    • Weathering Away (Poem) (Yale University Press, 1985).
    • Lebanon: Microcosm of the Middle East Conflict, The Yale International Forum (May, 1984).
    • (Dar al-Buhuth al- Ilmiyya, 1980). Book of Poetry.
    • Published several Arabic articles, short stories and poems in Egyptian and Kuwaiti newspapers.