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1. Islam, Sharif. Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space.

Degree: PhD, Sociology, 2016, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

This dissertation is primarily concerned with how sharia is practiced by Muslims from a variety of backgrounds in Chicago's Devon Avenue and how they co-construct physical and moral spaces. More specifically, I am interested in how sharia as a divine, non-contingent moral and legal code is understood and analyzed in various contingent situations and everyday settings such as producing, distributing, marketing and consuming halal food products. Drawing on conversations with residents, employees, and customers who visit stores in Devon Avenue, as well as archival research, my aim is to demonstrate the various multifaceted understandings and implications of sharia for Muslims in the United States. I argue that the multifaceted interpretations and practices of sharia in the United States are connected with the rhythms and everyday practices of Chicago and beyond. These connections, rhythms, and practices are reflected and interpreted in the actions and comments of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The goal here is not just to show that the religious (for instance, sharia) and the non-religious/secular (grocery stores, restaurants, farms) are intertwined but to what extent these seemingly separate and disparate domains and spaces may be concurrently called upon within the framework of Islam, sharia, and halal food. Even though I focus on a particular neighborhood in Chicago, my aim is to flesh out the various historical, local, and global links that form a broader, nuanced picture of sharia in the United States. To this end, my analysis also takes in the broader history of Islam in the United States in order to contextualize the place and voice of the people that I present here. Within this context, I summarize the details of Islamic dietary law and the debates and issues that were raised during the course of my fieldwork. I also describe the history of halal certification, which plays an important role in marketing and distribution. I highlight two court cases  – where the issue of halal food plays a central role  – that shed light on how religious and secular laws interact with each other, in particular, how U.S. courts interpret and handle cases involving sharia within constitutional limits. I also contextualize these discussions within the frame of the separation of church and state and the concept of legal pluralism. In synthesizing these issues, I show that sharia in the form of halal food production, distribution, and consumption creates a moral space and trajectory of complex processes that are sometimes dissonant. Advisors/Committee Members: Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz (advisor), Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz (Committee Chair), Gille, Zsuzsa (committee member), Rana, Junaid (committee member), Zerai, Assata (committee member).

Subjects/Keywords: Islam in the United States; Islam and ethnography; American Muslims; Muslims in the United States; Law and religion; Religious law; West Rogers Park; Devon Avenue; Chicago; Moral space; Religion; Ethics; Morality; Muslims; Law; Space; Halal certification; Islamic marketing; Islamic branding; Dietary restrictions

…capitalist system. Based on the discussion of Islamic dietary restrictions practiced by Muslims in… …the kosher sign which indicates compliance with the Jewish dietary laws). Besides food… …non-Muslim, multi-ethnic, multi-religious setting such as Chicago. My discussion of dietary… …relevant background about Islamic dietary law. Then I summarize the current debates regarding… 

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APA (6th Edition):

Islam, S. (2016). Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Islam, Sharif. “Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space.” 2016. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. Accessed November 22, 2019.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Islam, Sharif. “Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space.” 2016. Web. 22 Nov 2019.


Islam S. Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign; 2016. [cited 2019 Nov 22]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Islam S. Sharia in the city: negotiation and construction of moral space. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign; 2016. Available from: