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Jurist (a word coming from medieval Latin) is someone who studies and teaches jurisprudence (theory of law). Such a person can work as an academic, a legal writer, or an eminent judge (that is because judges in high positions shape and make law). Thus jurist, someone who studies, analyses and comments on law, stands in contrast with lawyer, someone who applies law on behalf of clients and thinks about it in practical terms. As one author has explained:
A man may be both a lawyer and a jurist, but a jurist is not necessarily a lawyer, nor a lawyer necessarily a jurist. Both must possess an acquaintance with what we call the law, but that is all. The work of the jurist is the study, analysis, and arrangement of the law — work which can be done wholly in the seclusion of the library. The work of the lawyer is the satisfaction of the wishes of particular human beings for legal assistance — work which requires dealing to some extent therefore with people in the office, in the court room, or in the market-place. The relative importance of the lawyer and the jurist is not material to this discussion.
Any highly civilized society requires both lawyers and jurists, both philosophers and men of affairs. As a mere matter of fact, there is a greater demand for men of affairs than for philosophers, for lawyers than for jurists; but the number of persons which the interests of society require should engage in a particular occupation, has nothing to do with the question of the importance of the different kinds of work done by those persons. It is important however to note the fundamental difference between the work of the lawyer and that of the jurist.
The term jurist has another sense, which is wider, synonymous with legal professional, i.e. anyone professionally involved with law. In some other European languages, a word resembling jurist (such as French juriste, Italian giurista, Spanish jurista etc.) is used in this wider sense. In the USA and Canada, jurist is sometimes used to specifically to refer to a judge.
In Sharia (Islamic law), jurists are known as Ulema, who specialize in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). In order to become an Islamic jurist, it is required for a student to receive an ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifa' ("license to teach and issue legal opinions"), equivalent to the Juris Doctor and Doctor of Laws qualifications, from a Madrasah or Jami'ah, equivalent to a college and university respectively. This system of legal education dates back to the 9th century, during the classical period of Islam.