A Paradigm Shift in Assessing /Evaluating the Value and Significance of Hadīth in Islamic Thought: From 'ulūmu-l-isnād/rijāl to 'usūlu-l-fiqh

in Arab Law Quarterly
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Abstract

This article proposes a new method for assessing and evaluating the function and value of Hadīth literature in Islamic thought, especially in relation to 'usūlu-l-fiqh sciences. It argues that the classical Islamic scholarships embodied either by methodologies developed by the Muhadīthūn with the primary focus on isnād- and rijāl-based Hadīth analysis or the epistemological evaluation of Hadīth in the hands of the 'Usūliyyūn is inadequate in developing a systematic methodology that would be able to ultimately resolve the current impasse on the questions of Sunnah compliance of otherwise vast (Sunni and Shi'a) Hadīth bodies of knowledge. Instead, it argues that the ultimate assessment, evaluation and definitive 'value' or significance of Hadīth literature, especially in the areas of law theory, jurisprudence but also theology, rests upon the broader questions concerning issues pertaining to what the author refers to as Qur'āno–Sunnahic hermeneutics. The article draws upon a published article on the new methodology of the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunnah developed by the same author elsewhere in which a direct hermeneutic relationship between Hadīth and the symbiotic nature of the Qur'āno–Sunnahic hermeneutic relationship is established in order to argue that the questions of Hadīth authenticity and reliability take a secondary role in their overall assessment and evaluation, especially in 'usūlu-l-fiqh theory. Instead (hermeneutic or exegetical) Hadīth value, significance and role is primarily determined in relation to its position with regards to the delineating features and the epistemological and methodological assumptions of a particular Qur'āno–Sunnahic hermeneutic model.

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