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Article: The Marja‘iyya and the Juristic Challenges of the Diaspora

This paper examines the new diasporic jurisprudence that has emerged within Shi’i juridical circles.

Shi’i jurists (maraji‘) have responded to the needs of Shi‘i communities that live as minorities in the West by recasting Islamic legal discourse on Muslim minorities and reconciling Islamic legal categories to the demands of the times. In their writings, the maraji‘ have articulated the juridical and moral parameters within which the followers are to base their demeanor.

The term diaspora means scattered or dispersed. As Kathleen Moore has argued, the term signifies fluidity and change; of a minority community co-existing with a majority other. This inevitably presents numerous sociological challenges like those of assimilation, integration, identity formation etc. In the case of Islam, living in the diaspora also challenges a Muslim to be faithful to his/her tradition and yet be able to integrate and flourish in non-Muslim countries; of being dissociated from the majority within which the diaspora is located. In essence, the diasporic narrative is that of a connection of people, law, and their environment. It is also one of an adjustment of customs, religious practices, integration, and ethnic affiliations.

Presently, there are more Muslims living in non-Muslim countries than ever before. It is estimated that almost a third of the 1.3 billion Muslims live in countries where they make up the minority. This paper will examine some of the juridical injunctions that address the needs of the Shi‘i diasporic community. My main argument is that Shi‘i jurists residing in the Middle East have composed a distinctive genre of literature to respond to the various religious and socio-economic challenges that their followers encounter in the diaspora. Some jurists have invoked hermeneutical devices to meet special needs, whereas other jurists have gone beyond the rulings cited in the classical juridical manuals to formulate new edicts for diasporic Shi‘is. In some instances, the jurists have imposed laws formulated in the classical period of their history (ninth-tenth centuries) on contemporary diasporic Shi‘is.

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Bibliographic Information

Title: The Marja‘iyya and the Juristic Challenges of the Diaspora

Author: Liyakat Takim

Published in: Australian Journal of Islamic Studies 2, no. 3 (2017)

 Language: English

Length: 51 pages

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