Underdetermination in Late Postclassical Ḥanafī Legal Theories

In: Oriens

Abstract

This article argues that Ḥanafī uṣūlīs of the later phases of the postclassical period understood uṣūl to be universal propositions that were underdetermined with respect to their evidentiary bases. Though the purpose of such propositions was to confer actionable certainty to particular legal effects, the later tradition imagined the main charge of uṣūl al-fiqh on a meta-theoretic level, i.e., to determine how such propositions could themselves be suitably grounded. In casting the discourse within the framework of naturalized technical methods and distinctions from fields of logic and philosophy, the tradition generally granted the relational and systemic validity of each proposition in terms of the grounding it received from another underdetermined proposition. This second-order perspective of the tradition reveals that uṣūl were systemically and relationally valid, but individually underdetermined. Thus the application of the attribute of relational validity to them and to the effects for which they are serviceable is apt.

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