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Article: Semiotics of Islamic Law, Maṣlaḥa, and Islamic Economic Thought

The paper explores the role and meaning of maṣlaḥa and its possible appropriation in the field of Islamic legal and economic thought, as laid down by various medieval and contemporary Muslim scholars.

Questions that are pertinent to the research are the following: how has maṣlaḥa been incorporated in legal reasoning and what kind of meaning does it convey; what type of economic reading does it presuppose; do ethics, law, and scriptural sources play equally important role as reference in developing the concept in economic terms, are some of the questions that this paper will try to provide answer to. Further, as there is a tendency to believe that Islamic economic thought cannot be equated only with legal and juridical underpinnings, it is pertinent to pose a question if economic ideas have flourished independently from its legal framework. Maṣlaḥa in its capacity has always remained part and parcel of Islamic legal theory, and has been rarely addressed within the frame of economic thought; therefore a new reading is required to deal with the position of economic teachings within Islamic tradition. The paper consists of three sections, whereby the contributions made by Muslim medieval scholars on Islamic economics will be presented. The first chapter provides a historical overview of Islamic law and the concept of maṣlaḥa in relation to the field of Islamic economics, including Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s monumental Iḥya ‘ulūm al dīn, which presents a milestone in converging Sufi ethical teachings of Islam in accordance with the legal methodology of Islamic law. The second part aims to discern and examine the economic jurisprudence and economic theory in Islam as it is understood by some of the mainstream theoreticians of Islamic studies, advocating the view that Islamic economics is inextricably related to the gist of Islamic legal reasoning. In this section the ideas of Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr will be presented as he proposes a new reading of Islamic economics as a doctrine and not a science. The third part questions Islamic legal establishment and its normativity, the claim that legal norms have always been part of the Islamic economic reasoning. This claim rests upon the idea that Islamic legal patterns were also socially constructed, including some aspects of Islamic economic reasoning. Concluding remarks will draw upon the idea that despite the fact that Islamic legal and economic literature are based upon the religious scriptures of Islam, the Qur’an and Tradition, it is more appropriate to claim that they rest upon the ethical cosmology that surpasses purely theological concerns.

Bibliographic Information

Title: Semiotics of Islamic Law, Maṣlaḥa, and Islamic Economic Thought

Author: Sami al-Daghistani

Published in:International Journal for the Semiotics of Law – Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique  29 (2):389-404 (2016

 Language: English

Length: 15 pages

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