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In: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online
In: Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Volume I
In: Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Volume I

lit. "jurisprudence"; term used to designate the processes of exposition, analysis, and argument which constitute human effort to express God’s law (šarīʿa).

in Encyclopaedia Iranica Online


This essay offers, in Section 2, a translation of al-Nawawī's presentation of the hierarchy of Muftīs. The context of the passage and its terminology and arguments are explored in the other Sections in order to assess their implications for the general character of Islamic juristic activities. Section 1 identifies two themes central to the text, namely loyalty to madhhab and differentiation of the task of the teaching jurist and the muftī. The first of these is elaborated in Section 3, which points to formal qualities of presentation and argument which assert the hermeneutical continuity of the school tradition; and in Section 4, which deals with the pivotal role of the founding imām in the legitimation of the school tradition. Section 5 takes up the terms taqlīd and ijtihād and shows that al-Nawawī's usage points towards a complex resolution of the recent debate about the open/closed door of ijtihād. The last Section returns to the original two themes to make two suggestions: (1) that taqlīd may be assessed as a principal of vitality within a hermeneutical tradition; (2) that the author-jurist (not the practising muftī) is the dominant creative agent within the ongoing juristic traditions.

In: Islamic Law and Society

In the fourth chapter of The Sectarian Milieu, John Wansbrough asks the question whether Islam gives expression to a concept of history as event or as process, the one implying a nostalgic, the other a dynamic approach to community history. This paper accepts the distinction while suggesting that there are more ways of exploring the question than that exemplified in his analysis. While his study comes to a tentatively negative answer (Islam as nostalgia), this article suggests that the processes of reading scripture constitute precisely a means for the preservation of event and for its transformation into process. Section 2 looks at a liturgical and Section 3 at a scholastic (exegetical) reading of scripture, while Section 4 proposes that the literature of the law must also be understood as a "reading" of scripture. In each case, it is argued, the meanings of salvation history are re-discovered from generation to generation through the experience of the community, in an ongoing hermeneutical tradition which stresses not event but process (in Wansbrough's own words "the afterlife of an event perpetuated by constant interpretation"). Sections 5 and 6 offer some concluding remarks about Islamic epistemology and the process of reading, which is both the activity of contemporary scholars and the object of their studies.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion