Laws

Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law

Wael B. Hallaq, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 269 pages.

This book traces the development of Islamic law from its earliest period to the full formative period, when the major madhahib were established, to show that institutionalizing Islamic law always involved a reasoned defense and calculative move. Hallaq asserts that such processes were not an innovation; rather, they were embedded in the structure of the original legal traditions that allowed for continual social change and the maintenance of order and stability in Islam’s social system. Throughout the ages, the Shari‘ah has been subjected to a dialectical milieu and change as dictated by varying social conditions. This further stimulated change to maintain the established order’s very essence, which was based on the logic of reasoning and calculation.

The juristic structure of authority did not remain very rigid and conservative as it seemed, except for a few cases. Rather, at a certain level, hermeneutics, insightfulness, and self-perception were the objective realities or normative standards when addressing the formulation of law and change and development as such. Under varying sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions, the schools’ founders were challenged to resolve a crisis or respond to an ambiguity. In the process, many other schools, as well as their accompanying methodologies and notions, developed. So, contrary to the popular belief about the supremacy of the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali schools, as well as the conservative nature of Islamic law, there emerged many other schools with specific hermeneutic tools. In the first chapter, “Juristic Typologies: A Framework for Enquiry,” Hallaq argues that there existed a wide variety of juristic typologies (communities of legal specialists by various formal categories in the context of historical circumstances and similarities within a particular theme) along the lines of specific and original schools, and later deviations. These typologies were developed upon the hierarchical nature of laws, the relationship of one type to another, historical context, and specific social circumstances.

Ibn Rushd classified the Maliki school into three categories based on how and to what extent scholars were literalists or used reasoned judgment and a syllogistic apparatus. Abu Amr ‘Uthman ibn al-Salah classified the Shafi‘i school into six types under two categories, and Shaykh al-Islam Ahmed Ibn Kamal Pashazadeh classified the Hanafi school into seven Ranks.

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