Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

First Page



In this Essay, I pay homage to John Makdisi on the occasion of his retirement. Since joining the St. Thomas Law faculty in 2011, I have esteemed him as one of the law school's senior Property Law professors, yet-truth be told-at times also felt intimidated by him for his deep knowledge of the subject, particularly present estates and future interests, coupled with his serious demeanor, penetrating gaze, and cogent arguments at faculty meetings. 4 Especially during tenuretrack faculty reviews of my teaching, I worried that my relative inexperience in teaching the subject might cause me to commit an embarrassing error. With time, I learned that my apprehension was unfounded: although he expects excellence of himself, and therefore of others, John Makdisi is generous. As a teacher, he happily and tirelessly engages with his students when they visit his office hours and, as a colleague collaborating on a committee project in the year of his retirement, I found him consistently gracious and myself wishing that I had sought his mentorship earlier. Beyond such confessions, to contribute substantively to this special issue in honor of John and June Mary Makdisi, I will: (1) review several of John Makdisi's arguments for how Islamic law influenced the creation and early evolution of the English common law; (2) ask why today's Property Law casebooks elide his provocative yet persuasive arguments; and (3) argue that today's Property Law professors should draw upon Makdisi's scholarship on the origins of the common law in order to educate ourselves and highlight for our students the intercambio de culturas (intercultural exchange) that generated the English common law. Critically, emphasizing this legal history allows us to counter the "clash of civilizations" argument that has become regnant, ideological, and pernicious in the post-9/11 era of renewed anti-Muslim animus in the United States and abroad.5