Forensic Psychiatry in Islamic Jurisprudence By Kutaiba S. Chaleby (Herndon, Virginia: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2001. 189 pages.)

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Amber Haque



Forensic psychiatry deals with mental illness from a legal perspective. The term forensic is derived from the Roman word forum, a meeting place where legal judgments were made on cases of a legal nature. In a sense, that ancient forum has become the modern legislature and courtroom. The forensic psychiatrist is not only a physician, but one who enters the house of law trying to protect the interest of society as a whole. There are many books on this subject, but the one under review claims to be the first to deal with forensic psychiatry from an Islamic perspective. The author, Kutaiba Chaleby, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and has worked in the clinical, academic, and administrative settings for many years in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
In the introduction, Chaleby points out that the legal system in most Islamic countries is derived from British or other European legal traditions as a result of colonialism, except in matters of personal status, family rela­tionship, and inheritance laws. However, he contends that this scenario is changing, as many Islamic countries are now trying to use Islamic law in their courts. Saudi Arabia is an exception, since it was never influenced by any type of western legal system and uses the Shari'ah in all legal matters, including forensic cases.
While forensic psychiatry, as such, does not exist in Islamic literature, its major issues of concern have been addressed by Muslim scholars over the years. The present work is intended as a basic guide for psychiatrists to make decisions on forensic cases from an Islamic perspective. The author also hopes to "illuminate" the thinking and practice of modern secular forensic psychiatrists. A short account of Islamic law covering the ...

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