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Article: Islamic Law and Post-Ijtihadism

This Article will explore the religious component of post-Islamist discourse. It will argue that, in all probability, the discourse on ijtihad will be replaced by the post-ijtihad phenomenon and that this transition will impact the religious lives of Muslims all over the world.

The term Islamism, according to Asef Bayat, refers to movements that seek to establish an Islamic order, a state that is based on the shari‘a and moral code. An essential component of Islamism is its vision of establishing a political order based on Islamic principles. Such a broad and generalized definition does not capture the nuances that distinguish and differentiate the various Islamist movements. In fact, it conceals its distinct markers. Bayat also talks of the transformation of Islamism in the Muslim world and maintains that we should not view Islamism as a static phenomenon but rather as dynamic entities that have shifting boundaries due to various internal and external factors.

In contrast to Islamism, Bayat posits post-Islamism as an ideology that fuses religion and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty. For him, post-Islamism is the after-effect of the failure of political Islamism. Incorporated in post-Islamism are notions of democracy, change and individual choice. It also emphasizes “rights instead of duties, plurality in place of a singular authoritative voice, historicity rather than fixed scriptures, and the future instead of the past. Bayat also demonstrates different trajectories and narratives of post-Islamism in different countries. It signifies, he argues, a break from the traditional Islamist paradigm.

This chapter will explore the religious component of post-Islamist discourse. It will argue that, in all probability, the discourse on ijtihad will be replaced by the post-ijtihad phenomenon and that this transition will impact the religious lives of Muslims all over the world.

Islamic Law in the Classical Period Muslim jurists in the classical period of Islam formulated Islamic law based on the socio-historical realities of their times. Jurists like Abu Hanifa (d. 767), Malik b. Anas (d. 795) and Shafi‘i (d. 820) combined their understanding of the Qur’an, the sunna, with the interpretations of previous generation of scholars. When they could not find an answer in the normative textual sources, they incorporated a wide array of interpretive devices to respond to the challenges they encountered. They deployed hermeneutical principles like maslaha (derivation and application of a juridical ruling that is in the public interest), qiyas (analogy), ijtihad (independent reasoning), istihsan (preference of a ruling which a jurist deems most appropriate under the circumstances), etc.

Based on the revelatory sources and other principles and rules they developed, classical jurists issued diverse and variant opinions on topics ranging from prayer times and forms, business contracts, a woman’s right to divorce and share of inheritance, whether a non-Muslim can testify in a Muslim case to whether a girl can marry without the consent of her guardian. As I shall demonstrate in this paper, some contemporary Muslim reformers have argued that the edicts of erstwhile jurists are no longer applicable in the present age. They have also argued that for Muslims to effectively live in the modern world, there is a need to revise the traditional legal articulations.

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