The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh before the Classical Schools

By Harald Motzki | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
THE BEGINNINGS OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE
IN THE RESEARCH OF THE NINETEENTH AND
TWENTIETH CENTURIES

The good old custom of preceding or following the investigation of a problem with a sketch of its research history pertains in Islamic studies as well. Think, for instance, of Friedrich Schwally's research report in his adaptation of Theodor Nöldeke's Geschichte des Qoràns,1 on which many a scholar has fed since then, and which is still worth reading today. Following his example and that of many others, let us precede this study as well with a chapter not only about the state, but also about the history of research on the origins of Islamic law and its jurisprudence. It will clarify the point at which my investigation commences and the problem which it attempts to solve.

The conclusions of historical research are fundamentally determined by two factors: firstly, by the questions that are asked, i.e., by the knowledge in which the researcher is interested. This is subject to constant change, and can sometimes also be dependent on external conditions and developments—political, social, economic, and ideological, among others. Secondly, by the the sources that are available. The tapping of new sources or revised findings about already known material can lead to the rejection of existing theories and to the formulation of new hypotheses. The question what intellectual interest motivated specific orientalists who concerned themselves with the origins of Islamic law and Islamic jurisprudence, and whether specific subjective attitudes to Islam and to political and legal developments in the Islamic countries influenced their framing of questions and their results, is a delicate2 but legitimate subject of scholarly reflection. However, it is not to this that we will now turn

____________________
1
F. Schwally, “Die muhammedanischen Quellen und die neuere christliche Forschung über den Ursprung der Offenbarungen und die Entstehung des Qorànbuches, ” in: Th. Nöldeke/F. Schwally/G. Bergsträsser: Geschichte des Qoràns, vol. 2 (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1919), pp. 122–224, esp. 193–224.
2
Cf. J. Waardenburg, L'Islam dans le miroir de l'occident (Den Haag, 1963). E. W. Said, Orientalism (London, 1979).

-1-

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