Wahhābī Legal Theory as Reflected in Modern Official Saudi Fatwās: Ijtihād, Taqlīd, Sources, and Methodology

In: Islamic Law and Society
View More View Less
  • 1 1Department of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, P.O. Box 15110, Beer Sheva, 84120, Israel

Login via Institution


The purpose of this essay is to open a window into Wahhābī legal theory as reflected in modern-day official Saudi fatwās. Discussion includes ijtihād, taqlīd, madhhab affiliation, sources and methodology. Emphasis is placed on continuity and change in light of the country's official school of law, the Hanbalī madhhab. I show that, in principle, modern-day Wahhābīs remain faithful to the tenets of Hanbalism by privileging adherence to the text and to transmitted tradition (naql) over reason ('aql). It is evident, however, that Wahhābīs now go beyond Hanbalism, drawing their legal inspiration not only from their Hanbalī intellectual forebears, but also from a wide array of non-Hanbalī traditions and scholars. Moreover, Wahhābī legal theory today breaks from classical Hanbalī legal epistemology as presented by Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) and his disciples. This is manifested especially in: (1) limiting the practice of ijtihād to qualified scholars; (2) endorsing taqlīd for those unqualified to investigate the sacred texts; and (3) identifying public interest (maslaha) in accordance with the five objectives (maqāsid) of the Sharī'a.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 85 47 2
Full Text Views 113 7 2
PDF Downloads 34 12 4