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.
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.
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.
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).
BadrīFiqh al-shaykh51–2. 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.
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.
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.