Muḥyī l-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī’s Personalist Theory of the Sharīʿa

An Examination of His Legal Doctrine

in Journal of Sufi Studies
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While Ibn ʿArabī (d. 638/1240) continues to receive much attention within the academe as a preeminent Sufi philosopher, his jurisprudence, by contrast, rarely elicits the same attention, despite the prominent mention of the Sharīʿa throughout his many works. This paper provides an exhaustive overview of his sophisticated legal doctrine in terms of his legal methodology and substantive law. An analysis of his legal epistemology would situate him within the ‘scripturalist’ stream of legal theorists, commonly associated with the Zāhiri school. However, while Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064) certainly influenced Ibn ʿArabī’s legal doctrine, the Shaykh’s jurisprudence remains markedly original in that it is ultimately rooted in an overarching metaphysical doctrine. This is evident in his personal reframing of ijtihād as a personal process of spiritual refinement, as opposed to a methodical process of ratiocination, which leads him to develop a distinctively personalist theory of legal pluralism that transcends the limitations of school conformity.

Muḥyī l-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī’s Personalist Theory of the Sharīʿa

An Examination of His Legal Doctrine

in Journal of Sufi Studies

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References

4

BadrīFiqh al-shaykh 136.

6

Eric WinkelIslam and the Living Law: The Ibn al-ʿArabī Approach (Karachi: Oxford University Press1997). Winkel has also published an insightful article in the Journal of the Muḥyiddin Ibn ʿArabī Society which recapitulates and reflects upon some of the themes discussed in his more extensive monograph. See Eric Winkel “Ibn ʿArabī’s Fiqh: Three Cases from the Futūḥāt” Journal of the Muḥyiddīn Ibn ʿArabī Society 13 (1993): 54–74.

19

See WinkelIslam and the Living Law65–85; and Chodkiewicz ows 30ff. Winkel uses the term ‘polysemantic’ though ‘polysemic’ appears to be the more conventional usage.

24

Ibid.199.

28

Ibid.95. For Chodkiewicz’s penetrating analysis into the logic behind the unique arrangement of the Futūḥāt’s contents see especially pp. 64–76.

36

Aron ZysowThe Economy of Certainty: An Introduction to the Typology of Islamic Legal Theory (Atlanta, Ga.: Lockwood Press2013) 281.

42

Ibid.52.

43

Ibid.51.

54

IbrahimPragmatism25. By ‘pragmatic eclecticism’ or ‘forum-shopping’ is generally meant the utilitarian search for more lenient legal opinions or ‘licenses’ (rukhaṣ) from across the four orthodox schools of Sunni law.

55

See al-GhorābAl-fiqh ʿinda l-shaykh al-akbar91–3.

56

Ibid.7191–3.

65

Eric WinkelIslam and the Living Law19.

67

Wael B. HallaqThe Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2005) 122–8.

68

See VishanoffFormation66–108.

69

Ibid.69.

70

Ibid.Formation68–9.

72

VishanoffFormation107. For more on the Ẓāhiriyya under the Almohads see Camilla Adang “Ẓāhiris of Almohad Times” in Biografias Almohades vol. 2 ed. Maria Luisa and Maribel Fierro Estudios Onomastico-Biograficos de al-Andalus 10 (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas 2000).

77

BadrīFiqh al-shaykh 51–2. For a more detailed discussion on these categories see Mohammad H. Kamali Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society 2006) 122–40. As Kamali defines it a word may be defined as ‘ẓāhir’ if the meaning is considered to be clear yet open to further interpretation (taʾwīl) “primarily because the meaning it conveys is not in harmony with the context in which it occurs.” As an example although the sentence “I saw a lion” is rather clear on its own it is possible that the speaker may have intended a brave man. By contrast a word is defined as ‘naṣṣ’ if it conveys a clear meaning that is also in perfect harmony with its context. Kamali Principles 123. As al-Badrī points out under the more nuanced categorization of the Ḥanafis the term ‘naṣṣ’ comes to serve the same sense and function of what is more broadly understood by the ‘ẓāhir.’ Badrī Fiqh al-shaykh 51.

79

VishanoffFormation66–7; Zysow Economy 279. It is for this reason also that the Ẓāhiris identified with the Mukhaṭṭiʾa camp of legal theorists who advocated the unity of truth doctrine in relation to all legal questions.

81

WinkelIslam and the Living Law54.

85

VishanoffFormation96–7.

86

Ibid.97; Ibn Ḥazm al-Taqrīb li-ḥadd al-manṭiq wa-l-mudkhal ilayhi bi-l-alfāẓ al-ʿāmmiyya wa-l-amthila al-fiqhiyya ed. Aḥmad Farīd al-Mazīdī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya 2003) 143–4.

92

VishanoffFormation101; and Badrī Fiqh al-shaykh 68.

94

Ibid.394.

95

See ibid.387–94.

96

Ibid.394.

98

Ibn ʿArabīFutūḥāt8:25.

104

Question no. 349 in Ibn Ḥazmal-Muḥallā303.

109

Ibid.212215.

117

KamaliPrinciples362. See also pp. 323–68 for a more detailed discussion on the doctrines of istiḥsān and maṣlaḥa.

118

KamaliPrinciples325. The five higher objectives of the sharīʿa being the preservation of i) life ii) mind iii) religion iv) property and v) progeny.

119

KamaliPrinciples362.

120

Ibid.324.

122

ZysowEconomy280–1.

124

KamaliPrinciples104–5. Unlike al-Shāfiʿī Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal apparently espoused the view that sound solitary reports may constitute as definitive sources of knowledge. This is yet another area where the scripturalism of Ibn Ḥazm bears a close affinity to the traditionalist school.

133

See BadrīFiqh al-shaykh153–294.

139

Ibn ʿArabīFutūḥāt2:278.

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