Student Stories

Jonathan Burns

J.D., International and Comparative Law

Jonathan Burns

"...the quality and quantity of McKinney’s international and comparative law programs far exceed that of any other law school in the Midwest, and probably rivals other law schools nationwide."

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Some students find their textbooks and materials on Amazon.com. But Jonathan Burns, a third-year student in the IU McKinney School of Law, has his own book listed on the website. 

Burns’ book Introduction to Islamic Law: Principles of Civil, Criminal, and International Law Under the Shari'a was just published by Teller Books.

His work began the summer after his first year at the law school, when he worked in Saudi Arabia for Dentons, an international law firm. 

The Indianapolis native honed his skills as a research assistant on a book by Dentons attorneys called “A Legal Guide to Doing Business in Saudi Arabia,” which included a chapter on Islamic law. Burns “found the topic fascinating,” and it prompted him to enroll in an Islamic law class at McKinney taught by adjunct professor Mohamed Arafa.

The class was helpful, especially when he returned to Dentons the next summer after writing a Note on the Islamic banking and finance law in post-revolution Egypt’s banking sector for the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review at McKinney.

“I had a pretty good understanding of the Shari'a (law) and some of its nuances,” Burns said. A colleague told him that Teller Books was seeking manuscripts on Islamic law for its comparative law series, and Teller agreed to publish his manuscript. He finished the book in November 2013 and was pleased with the reaction, particularly from his Islamic law instructor.

“Professor Arafa was very excited,” Burns said. “I was humbled by his willingness to take the time to review the final manuscript and to contribute a foreword to the book.”

Others he knows were surprised by his choice of topic.

“I think there is a tendency in the West to think of Shari'a as only two things: cutting off hands and stoning women,” Burns said. He found the reality much different. “Islamic law is incredibly complex and covers every action, inaction, relationship, etc., in the way that any other legal system does.”

Burns has embraced the international aspects of his education, before and during law school. In addition to working in Saudi Arabia, he has spent time in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Cuba. He is fluent in Spanish and has language skills in Arabic.

“I was drawn to the law because I love solving problems,” he said. “And I always had in the back of my mind the desire to work internationally. I think it’s fair to say that the quality and quantity of McKinney’s international and comparative law programs far exceed that of any other law school in the Midwest, and probably rivals other law schools nationwide.”