The Legal Enforceability of Contracts made by Electronic Agents under Islamic Law: A Critical Analysis of the Effectiveness of Legal Reform in Saudi Arabia.
Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashrie.
The aim of this dissertation is to analyse whether contracts made by electronic agents1 might be made enforceable under Islamic law. It discusses what constitutes an enforceable contract under Islamic law and whether this is applicable when a contract is made by an electronic agent. The enforceability of these contracts under Islamic law is especially important in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) where Islamic law constitutes the legal system. Ignoring the doctrine of Islamic law in relation to the enforceability of these contracts could, therefore, fundamentally affect the future viability of these contracts in the KSA.
The dissertation argues first that the principle of mutual consent under Islamic law is not satisfied in contracts made by electronic agents because there is no communication of an offer and acceptance by the contracting parties (users). Secondly, while electronic agents function like human agents, there are a number of doctrinal requirements under Islamic agency theory that prevent electronic agents from being agents proper. Thirdly, the term ‘legal personality’ is categorised in Islamic law under ‘Dhimmah’, an ethical concept designed principally for human beings which cannot, therefore, be attributed to electronic agents.
This dissertation demonstrates that Islamic law creates conceptual obstacles which prevent contracts made by electronic agents being enforceable in the KSA. One implication of this will be a risk of negative impact on the development of these contracts in the KSA because they are contradictory to Islamic law. Islamic law must avoid narrow traditional interpretations of its legal concepts, because a lack of reform in this area will create difficulties and barriers against the enforceability of these contracts under Islamic law.