In spring 2021, Hassaan Shahawy (A.B. '16, J.D. '22) was elected the 135th president of the Harvard Law Review, making him the first Muslim and first expert in Islamic law in the position. In the first half of our conversation, Hassaan talks about his background in Islamic law and how it contributes to his studies at Harvard Law School and work at the Harvard Law Review. He also shares his interests in broader social issues such as criminal justice reform and refugee issues. In the second half, we discuss Hassaan's Ph.D. dissertation entitled, "How Subjectivity Became Wrong: Early Hanafism and the Scandal of Istiḥsān in the Formative Period of Islamic Law (750-1000 CE)." Hassaan talks about how his interest in modern Islamic legal debates led him to research how early Muslim jurists dealt with political, economic, and social change; specifically, the use of istiḥsān, juristic preference (literally, “to seek what is good”), in the Hanafi school of law and the subsequent controversy around the use of subjectivity to depart from more conventional legal reasoning.
Hassaan Shahawy is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from Harvard College in 2016, where he studied history and Near Eastern studies, and went on to study at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where he earned his master's and Ph.D. in Islamic law.