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Joseph Lowry

Abstract

This article follows the reception of Šāfiī's (d. 204/820) concept of bayān, beginning with Ğāhiz (d. 255/868) and continuing with discussions in selected later works of usūl al-fiqh. For Šāfiī, in his Risāla, the term covered categories of divine legislative pronouncements and hermeneutical categories for addressing apparent contradictions between them. Ğāhiz, in the course of elaborating his own, different concept of bayān, seems to have been polemically engaged with Šāfiī's. For Ğāhiz, as for the later usūl authors, the term connotes a successful act of communication, yet later authors continued to attempt to explain Šāfiī's use of the term, which fit badly into their own conceptual framework. The disjunction between Šāfiī's and later authors' use of the term is emblematic of what is tentatively termed the linguistic turn in mature usūl al-fiqh.

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Joseph Lowry

Abstract

In a 1993 monograph Norman Calder argued that Shāfi ī's (d. 204/820) Risāla must be a product of the early fourth/tenth centuries. Calder's argument, which has not been seriously challenged, rested mostly on a comparison of the Risāla's hermeneutic techniques with those of Ibn Qutayba's (d. 276/889) Ta wīl mukhtalif al-hadīth. A comparison of these two works shows that the evidence is much more equivocal than Calder allowed. Moreover, the overriding purposes of the two works differ to an extent which robs Calder's argument of much of its force. A close examination of the two authors' hermeneutics shows, however, that Ibn Qutayba's relatively unsystematic Ta wīl stands closer to classical usūl al-fiqh in several important respects than does Shāfi'ī's Risāla. The relationship between the two works is thus broadly consistent with their traditional datings and ascriptions.

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Early Islamic Legal Theory

The Risāla of Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʾī

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Joseph Lowry

The Risāla of al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204/820), the earliest preserved work of Islamic legal theory, has been understood in previous scholarship as either the elaboration of a hierarchy of sources of law (Qurʾān, Sunna, consensus, and analogical reasoning) or an extended defense of the Sunna. Through a careful rereading of this celebrated text, this book offers a comprehensive reinterpretation of the Risāla, in which Shāfiʿī formulated an all-encompassing hermeneutic that portrays the law as a tightly interlocking structure organized around defined interactions of the Qurʾān and the Sunna. Topics covered include Shāfiʿī’s creative account of the law’s architectonics, hermeneutical techniques, legal epistemology, relationship to kalām, and the role of consensus ( ijmāʿ).
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Joseph Lowry

Lowry, Joseph E.

Lowry, Joseph E.