The Rhetoric of Legal Disputation

Neo-Ahl al-Ḥadīth vs. Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī

in Islamic Law and Society
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The essay deals with the bitter polemics between Neo-Ahl al-Ḥadīth and Sheikh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, a well-known legal scholar in the contemporary Muslim Sunni world. In addition to analyzing the substantial claims made by one party against the other one, the essay focuses on the rhetorical devices used by both parties. It analyzes these devices in light of theories of Pragmatics in the field of discourse analysis, with special attention to the distinction between a “discussion” and an “argument.” My main finding is that Qaraḍāwī’s critics seek to ruin his public “face” because, in their view “modernist-reformist” religious figures like Qaraḍāwī are agents of Western-oriented secularization, camouflaged by a pseudo-orthodox juristic dress.

The Rhetoric of Legal Disputation

Neo-Ahl al-Ḥadīth vs. Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī

in Islamic Law and Society



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BrownHadith251–6. Mutawātir is a type of hadith report narrated from generation to generation by such a large number of narrators in each generation that possibility of collusion of those narrators on a forgery is non-existent.


BrownRethinking Tradition22–32.


BrownHadith256–61. For a detailed analysis of al-Albānī’s method of examining the authenticity of hadiths see Amin esp. 153–6.


Haikel“Salafi Thought” 48–9.


BrownHadith261–3. On the emotional and intellectual proximity between Q and his mentor and later his colleague Muḥammad al-Ghazālī starting from Q’s days as a student at al-Azhar see Skovgaard-Petersen 32; Gräf 217; al-Khateeb 85–6 91 97 100–1. It is worth mentioning that like Q al-Ghazālī was fiercely attacked by the Salafis following the publication of his book al-Sunna al-nabawiyya bayna ahl al-fiqh wa-ahl al-ḥadīth (The Prophetic Sunna between the jurists and the partisans of hadith). Salafi authors published approximately thirty works to refute al-Ghazālī’s accusations against them that had been included in his above-mentioned book. See Tamam 73.










Haikel“Salafi Thought” 46.




Haikel“Salafi Thought” 40.


Haikel“Salafi Thought” 40.


QKayfa nataʿāmal maʿa al-Sunna113–4.


QKayfa nataʿāmal maʿa al-Qurʾān206–7. Q holds that interpretation of the Quran by the Quran should work together with interpretation of the Quran by the Sunna. See ibid. 220–8. Brown (Hadith 260–1) associates this harsh critic of the NAH’s exclusive reliance on the hadith to Muḥammad al-Ghazālī. The latter defined by Brown as a significant representative of the “Late Traditionalist Sunnis” holds that the legal method of the NAH is simplistic and “childish” and that it creates chaos in the field of legal interpretation. Late Traditional Sunnis respect the conclusions of traditional hadith criticism. However they stress that reevaluation of the content of the hadith is also required. They hold that the ultimate authority on questions of the validity the understanding and the application of the hadith is reserved to jurists not to hadith critics. Finally they avoid those traditions that are regarded as inconvenient by modern societies or by the West by interpreting them allegorically or by arguing that these traditions have been never actually implemented. See Brown Hadith 263.


Qal-Ijtihād fīʾl-sharīʿa205–6; Q al-Fiqh al-Islāmī 55–8.


Qal-Ijtihād fīʾl-sharīʿa96–7 182–84.


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