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Felicitas Opwis

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Maṣlaḥa and the Purpose of the Law

Islamic Discourse on Legal Change from the 4th/10th to 8th/14th Century

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Felicitas Opwis

Focusing on writings of legal theory by leading jurisprudents from al-Jaṣṣāṣ (d. 370/980) to al-Shāṭibī (d. 790/1388), this study traces the Islamic discourse on legal change. It looks at the concept of maṣlaḥa (people’s well-being) as a method of extending and adapting God’s law, showing how it evolves from an obscure legal principle to being interpreted as the all-encompassing purpose of God’s law. Discussions on maṣlaḥa’s epistemology, its role in the law-finding process, the limits of human investigation into divinecommands, and the delineation of the sphere of religious law in Muslim society highlight the interplay between law, theology, logic, and politics that make maṣlaḥa a viable vehicle of legal change up to the present.
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Felicitas Opwis

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Felicitas Opwis

The purposes of the law (maqāṣid al-sharīʿa) were traditionally tied to the definition of maṣlaḥa expounded by al-Ghazālī and employed in legal analogy (qiyās) and precepts (qawāʿid). This article addresses recent developments in the interpretation of the maqāṣid al-sharīʿa in the works of legal scholars promoting alternative interpretations, such as Ibn ʿĀshūr, Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Aḥmad al-Khamlīshī, Yaḥyā Muḥammad, and Jamāl al-Dīn ʿAṭiyya. Several trends can be observed: rejecting the Ghazalian definition of essential necessities by enlarging their scope beyond five and including justice, freedom, and equality; refining the categories of the purposes and creating more nuanced hierarchies of maṣlaḥas; and expanding the application of the purposes of the law beyond the sphere of the law proper, thereby giving considerations of maṣlaḥa a proactive role in shaping society through public policies. It is suggested that new interpretations of the objectives of the sharīʿa also alter the traditional four sources of law theory (uṣūl al-fiqh).


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Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion

Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas

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Islamic intellectual thought is at the center of this collection of articles honoring Dimitri Gutas by friends, colleagues, and former students. The essays cover three main areas: the classical heritage and Islamic culture; classical Arabic science and philosophy; and Muslim traditional sciences. They show the interconnectedness between the Islamic intellectual tradition and its historical predecessors of Greek and Persian provenance, ranging from poetry to science and philosophy. Yet, at the same time, the authors demonstrate the independence of Muslim scholarship and the rich inner-Muslim debates that brought forth a flourishing scholastic culture in the sciences, philosophy, literature, and religious sciences. This collection also reflects the breadth of contemporary research on the intellectual traditions of Islamic civilization.

Contributors include: Amos Bertolacci, Kevin van Bladel, Gideon Bohak, Sonja Brentjes, Charles Burnett, Hans Daiber, Gerhard Endress, William Fortenbaugh, Beatrice Gruendler, Jules Janssens, David King, Yahya Michot, Suleiman Mourad, Racha Omari, Felicitas Opwis, David Reisman, Heinrich von Staden, Tony Street, Hidemi Takahashi, Alexander Treiger, and Robert Wisnovsky.