Early Islamic Legal Theory: The Risala of Muhammad Ibn Idris by Joseph Lowry

By Joseph Lowry

The Risala of al-Shafii (d. 204/820), the earliest preserved paintings of Islamic felony conception, has been understood in earlier scholarship because the elaboration of a hierarchy of resources of legislations (Quran, Sunna, consensus, and analogical reasoning).

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Additional resources for Early Islamic Legal Theory: The Risala of Muhammad Ibn Idris Al-shafi-i (Studies in Islamic Law and Society)

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This, of course, simply recapitulates three of the Àve modes of the bayÊn, characterized here in terms of the Sunna. ShÊÀ{Ò goes on to state that scholars agree that two of these varieties of Sunna constitute a valid source of law, that which echoes the QurxÊn and that which explains the QurxÊn. The third variety, Sunna that expresses legal rules independently of the QurxÊn, is, he further informs us, a contested issue. This admission—that not everyone considers the Sunna an independent source of law—provides a clue to one of ShÊÀ{Ò’s projects in the RisÊla: to prove that the Sunna must be 36 chapter one regarded as an independent source of valid and binding legislation, in just the same way that the QurxÊn is regarded.

At RisÊla ¶¶310–311, ShÊÀ{Ò twice mentions the two categories of “the Sunna parallel to God’s Book” (al-sunna ma{a kitÊb allÊh) and “the Sunna concerning matters in respect of which there is no explicit scriptural passage” (al-sunna fÒmÊ laysa fÒhi naÉÉ kitÊb). This is an obvious reference to the two corresponding categories of the bayÊn. In ¶311 ShÊÀ{Ò also mentions the three hermeneutical techniques (naskh, jumla:naÉÉ, and {Êmm:khÊÉÉ) that represent the types of interaction in which the Sunna explains or modiÀes passages from the QurxÊn.

I do, however, offer in the Conclusion to this study some preliminary thoughts on how the RisÊla might be understood in relation to the tradition of uÉÖl al-Àqh. Method Previous studies of ShÊÀ{Ò’s legal theory have, for the most part, rested exclusively on the abstract discussions of theoretical matters that appear 39 See generally Burton’s Sources of Islamic Law (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990) and his other works cited in the Bibliography. 40 Those authors who concentrate solely on ShÊÀ{Ò’s theoretical pronouncements end up explaining only a fraction of the RisÊla’s text, and, not surprisingly, their conclusions suffer as a result.

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