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.
The status of leisure and entertainment (hereafter: malāhī) is an age-old issue that emerged during the very early stages of Islam and is still being debated today. Generations of Muslim scholars and jurists have attempted to identify and delineate the permissible and the forbidden in this regard to accommodate the socio-cultural contexts of their respective societies. This article examines contemporary Islamic discourse on entertainment, particularly music and audio-visual media, e.g., television, Internet, cinema and theater. How do contemporary Muslim scholars define and relate to malāhī? What is the nature and characteristics of legitimate entertainment and leisuretime activities from the Islamic religio-legal perspective? I suggest that modern-day Muslim scholars, like their predecessors, never came to an agreement on the nature and scope of malāhī. These scholars merely acknowledge that different ethico-legal boundaries are applied to malāhī in contemporary Muslim societies.