Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law

Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law

Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law

Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law

Synopsis

In this path-breaking new book, the author shows how authority guaranteed both continuity and change in Islamic law. Hallaq demonstrates that it was the construction of the absolutist authority of the school founder, an image which he suggests was actually developed later in history, that maintained the foundations of school methodology and hermeneutics. The defense of that methodology gave rise to an infinite variety of individual legal opinions, ultimately accomodating changes in the law. Thus the author concludes that the mechanisms of change were embedded in the very structure of Islamic law, despite its essentially conservative nature.

Excerpt

A juristic typology is a form of discourse that reduces the community of legal specialists into manageable, formal categories, taking into consideration the entire historical and synchronic range of that community's juristic activities and functions. One of the fundamental characteristics of a typology is the elaboration of a structure of authority in which all the elements making up the typology are linked to each other, hierarchically or otherwise, by relationships of one type or another. The synchronic and diachronic ranges of a typology provide a synopsis of the constitutive elements operating within a historical legal tradition and within a living community of jurists. It also permits a panoramic view of the transmission of authority across types, of the limits on legal hermeneutics in each type, and of the sorts of relationships that are imposed by the interplay of authority and hermeneutics.

The evolution of the notion of the typology as a theoretical construct or conceptual model presupposes a conscious articulation of the elements that constitute them. To put it tautologically, since typologies purport to describe certain realities, these realities must, logically and historically speaking, predate any attempt at typification. And since Islamic juristic typologies presuppose, by virtue of their hermeneutical constitution, loyalty to the madhhab or legal school, then it is expected that no typology can be possible without positing a school structure.

Furthermore, and as a prerequisite to the formation of a typology, there must be developed a fairly sophisticated historical account of the school. In other words, no typology can be formulated without a substantial repertoire of the so-called ṭabaqāt (bio-bibliographical) literature. This literature, in its turn, totally depends on the conception of the madhhab as a doctrinal entity composed of jurist—scholars, their tradition of learning, and profession. The final formation of the schools was thus a . . .

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