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A Turn in the Epistemology and Hermeneutics of Usul Al Fiqh (David Johnston)

A Turn in the Epistemology and Hermeneutics of Usul Al Fiqh (David Johnston)

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Published by msharif10
Abstract: I argue here that an epistemological shift has taken place in twentieth century usul al-fiqh: away from the classical/orthodox Ash'ari position in which the human mind simply discovers the divine law and extends it to new cases on
the basis of consensus (ijma') and analogical reasoning (qiyas); and toward a position in which reason is empowered to uncover the ratio legis behind the divine injunctions-a distinctly Mu'tazili approach. This shift has been ac- companied by a privileging of universal ethical principles (kulliyyat), now identified as the aims of the Law (maqasid al-shari'a), over the specific injunctions of the texts (juz'iyyat)--a hermeneutic strategy that has often favored public interest (maslaha) as the chief criterion for developing fresh legal rulings in the light of new sociopolitical conditions. The main theoreticians discussed here are Muhammad 'Abduh, MuhammadRashid Rida, 'Abd al-Razzaq Sanhuri, 'Abd al-Wahhab Khallaf, Muhammad Abu Zahra, and Muhammad Hashim Kamali.
Abstract: I argue here that an epistemological shift has taken place in twentieth century usul al-fiqh: away from the classical/orthodox Ash'ari position in which the human mind simply discovers the divine law and extends it to new cases on
the basis of consensus (ijma') and analogical reasoning (qiyas); and toward a position in which reason is empowered to uncover the ratio legis behind the divine injunctions-a distinctly Mu'tazili approach. This shift has been ac- companied by a privileging of universal ethical principles (kulliyyat), now identified as the aims of the Law (maqasid al-shari'a), over the specific injunctions of the texts (juz'iyyat)--a hermeneutic strategy that has often favored public interest (maslaha) as the chief criterion for developing fresh legal rulings in the light of new sociopolitical conditions. The main theoreticians discussed here are Muhammad 'Abduh, MuhammadRashid Rida, 'Abd al-Razzaq Sanhuri, 'Abd al-Wahhab Khallaf, Muhammad Abu Zahra, and Muhammad Hashim Kamali.

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Published by: msharif10 on Mar 25, 2013
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 Islamic Law and Society.
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ATURN INTHEEPISTEMOLOGYANDHERMENEUTICS OF TWENTIETH CENTURYUSULAL-FIQHDAVID JOHNSTON*(Yale)Abstract
Iarguehere that anepistemologicalshift has takenplaceintwentiethcenturyusulal-fiqh: awayfrom theclassical/orthodoxAsh'aripositionin whichthehuman mindsimplydiscovers the divine law and extendsit tonewcases onthe basis ofconsensus(ijma')andanalogicalreasoning(qiyas);andtoward apositionin whichreason isempoweredto uncover the ratiolegisbehind thedivineinjunctions-adistinctlyMu'taziliapproach.Thisshift has beenac-companied byaprivilegingof universal ethicalprinciples(kulliyyat),nowidentified as theaims of the Law(maqasidal-shari'a),over thespecificinjunctionsofthetexts(juz'iyyat)--ahermeneuticstrategythat has oftenfavoredpublicinterest(maslaha)asthechief criterion fordevelopingfreshlegalrulingsinthelightof newsociopoliticalconditions. The main theoreticiansdiscussedhereareMuhammad'Abduh,Muhammad RashidRida,'Abdal-RazzaqSanhuri,'Abdal-WahhabKhallaf,Muhammad AbuZahra,and MuhammadHashimKamali.
LAW
AND
THEOLOGY
N
ISLAM,
as for Christiansin medievalEurope,
havealwayshad asymbioticrelationship.1But whereas westernChristiansaccordedasecondaryholystatus o theEmperorustinian's
corpusjuriscivilis,Muslims could notgrantfinalauthorityinlegal
matters oanyothertext but thesacredtexts oftheQur'anandSunna.AndwhilebothChristiansandMuslimsregardedtheirrespectiveauthoritative exts asemanatingfromGod,directlyorindirectly,andbothcommunities considered theprimarytask ofthejuristtobe the
*I wish toexpress my gratitudefor thejudicious critiqueandencouragementof FrankGriffel,BernardHaykel,FelizitasOpwis,and threeanonymousreviewers.1BernardWeiss,"Law in Islamandinthe West: SomeComparativeOb-servations,"nIslamicStudiesPresented toCharles J.Adams,eds.WaelB.Hallaqand Donald P.Little(Leidenand New York: E.J.Brill,1991),239-53,at245. SeealsoGeorgeMakdisi,"The JuridicalTheologyof Shafi'i:OriginsandSignificanceofUsulal-Fiqh,"Studia Islamica59, 1984, 5-48,where he coins thephrase,"juridicaltheology."?KoninklijkeBrillNV, Leiden,2004Also available online-www.brill.nlIslamicLaw andSociety11,2
 
DAVID JOHNSTON
exegesisandcommentaryofthesetexts,onlyinIslamdoes the sacredtext of theQur'anacquire prime theologicalandlegalimportancenitsverywording.2Inthe classicaldisciplineof kaldm-theclosestequivalentto"theology"nIslam,alongwithusul al-din("theroots,"or"foundationsofreligion")-God'sspeechwasregardedas one ofhissevenattributeswhichfindsitsperfectexpressionin theQur'an("inlibration").3Law forMuslimsispartandparceloftheology,and,astheblueprintforthebeliever's obedience tothe divinewill,it takesprecedenceover thelatter.Humanreasonis an instrumentof choiceinIslamictheology,startingwiththeproofsfor theexistenceofGod.InIslamiclaw,however,God's directives arealreadyembeddedinthetexts,and whileMuslimjuristswerelikelymoreforthcomingthantheirChristiancounterpartsbouttheambiguityoflanguage-andtherebydisplayed greattoleranceforthevarietyofviewsrepresentedbythevariousschools--theynonethelessheldtenaciouslytotheQur'anandSunna as soleprimarysources oflaw.Thisessayexamines oneaspectof Muslimlegaltheory,usul al-fiqh("theroots,"or "foundationsofjurisprudence")n the twentiethcentury:theinterplaybetweenreasonandrevelationin theprocessofdiscoveringandapplyingGod's lawtothechangingconditionsof modernsociety. Mythesis isthatmainstream Muslim refomershavetentativelyembracedaparadigmshift,fromtheclassicalortho-doxposition(Ash'ari)inwhich thehumanmindsimplydiscoverstherulings(al-ahkdm)ofdivine law andextendsthemto new cases
on the basis ofconsensus(ijma')andanalogicalreasoning (qiyas),
to apositioninwhichreason,nowempoweredto discernrightfromwrongandtoferretouttheratiolegisbehind thedivineinjunctionsadistinctlyMu'tazilipredilection-isgrantedtheprivilegeand re-sponsibilitytomakelegalrulings accordingtothespiritofshari'a(literally,itsaims,orpurposes, maqasidal-sharl'a).This move has
2
KhaledAbouElFadlnotesthat he"techniquef theuristeliesonlanguage
as itsprimaryoolbywhichpowerisasserted,egitimated,orchallenged. Languageisthemaintoolbywhich ajuristattemptstonegotiatereality,producedomains oftruth,andfrustratedomainsoftruthorreality"(RebellionandViolenceinIslamicLaw,CambridgeUniversityPress,2001),321.
3
HarryA.Wolfson,ThePhilosophyofthe Kalam(Cambridge,MA: HarvardUniversityPress,1976).Theterm"inlibration"expressesforhim thestrikingparallelbetweentheMuslimdoctrine oftheQur'anand the Christiandoctrine ofincarnation.
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