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This article investigates how Hanafi jurists responded to armed rebellion against local authorities in Mecca. I examine two understudied legal treatises that have been written about the sack of Mecca by armed rebel groups in 1632. These treatises provide important insights for studying how premodern Islamic legal discourses dealt with the issue of rebellion under Ottoman rule and sovereignty. I contend that it is in this context of rebellion and violence that we can test the contours of Ottoman imperial power and authority. I argue that recurrent defiance to the Ottoman political order compelled Hanafi jurists to revisit the earlier commitments of the school with regard to dissent and political change. In these two treatises, Hanafis insisted that armed rebellion in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca went beyond any valid political grievances – which would have been admitted as a plausible cause for dissent – and justified a swift military intervention.

In: Turkish Historical Review
Author: Samy Ayoub

This article investigates the impact of the state on the legal order through an examination of authoritative Ḥanafī legal works from the 17th and 18th centuries CE. By focusing on the madhhab and its juristic discourse, I challenge the reigning narrative in Islamic legal studies by demonstrating how late Ḥanafī jurists assigned value and authority to Ottoman state orders and edicts. This increasing state authority is reflected in the state’s ability to settle juristic disputes, to order jurists and judges to adopt specific opinions in their legal determinations, and to establish its orders as authoritative and final reference points. The incorporation of state orders within authoritative Ḥanafī legal commentaries, treatises, and fatwā collections was made possible by a turn in Ḥanafī legal culture that embraced the indispensability of the state in the law-making process.

In: Islamic Law and Society
Author: Samy Ayoub


This article explores two recent decisions issued by the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to demonstrate how the Court resolves conflicts involving Islamic and Christian law: (1) a decision to maintain the constitutionality of the wife’s obedience (ṭāʿat al-zawǧa) articles in the Personal Status Law for Christians, and (2) a decision to extend Muslim mothers’ exclusive custodial claims over children until they reach the age of 15. The article argues that the SCC takes upon itself to decide — based on its own internal logic — the normative legal positions for Christians and Muslims. The SCC rulings reinforce a vision of the Egyptian State as the exclusive holder of legal authority (walī al-amr) with the power to determine the meaning of Islamic/Christian legal norms in a court of law. In these judgments, the Egyptian State is personified as an independent jurist (muǧtahid) that can legislate on behalf of Egyptian Muslims and Christians.

In: Arab Law Quarterly
Author: Samy Ayoub


This article explores an important debate on divorce law in early 20th-century Egypt between the sharīʿa judge Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir (d. 1958) and the adjunct to the last Shaykh al-Islām of the Ottoman Empire, Muḥammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī (d. 1952). The debate is centred on Shākir’s argument that triple divorce (three pronouncements of the divorce oath in one utterance, deemed irrevocable according to the Ḥanafī school) should be treated as a single revocable divorce, a position that the Ḥanafī school rejects. The Egyptian divorce law was changed on 10 March 1929 to embrace the revised position, supported by the government, that a triple divorce counts as a single divorce, thereby making it revocable. Shākir argued that the official adherence of the sharīʿa courts to the preponderant opinions (al-rājiḥ) of the Ḥanafī school was one of the key obstacles to meaningful legal reform in this case. Despite his declared following of the Ḥanafī school, Shākir dismissed Ḥanafī legal norms and authorities, and advocated an urgent break with the control of the Ḥanafī legal school on the process of judicial reasoning in the Egyptian sharīʿa courts. To further demonstrate this dynamic, I take up a close reading of a court decision on whether custody payments (ujrat al-ḥaḍāna) include housing support (sakan), or if the latter is a separate calculated expense. Shākir not only ruled in opposition to the Ḥanafī preponderant position but also rejected the late Ḥanafī authority Muḥammad Amīn ʿĀbidīn’s (Ibn ʿĀbidīn, d. 1836) effort to harmonize the school’s position on this matter. I propose that Shākir was an iconoclastic Ḥanafī.

In: Die Welt des Islams