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Book: The Legal Thought of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī

This book offers a new theoretical perspective on the thought of the great fifteenth-century Egyptian polymath, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505).

In spite of the enormous popularity that al-Suyuti’s works continue to enjoy amongst scholars and students in the Muslim world, he remains underappreciated by western academia. This project contributes to the fields of Mamluk Studies, Islamic Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies not only an interdisciplinary analysis of al-Suyuti’s legal writing within its historical context, but also a reflection on the legacy of the medieval jurist to modern debates. The study highlights the discursive strategies that the jurist uses to construct his own authority and frame his identity as a superior legal scholar during a key transitional moment in Islamic history. The approach aims for a balance between detailed textual analysis and ‘big picture’ questions of how legal identity and religious authority are constructed, negotiated and maintained. Al-Suyuti’s struggle for authority as one of a select group of trained experts vested with the moral responsibility of interpreting God’s law in society finds echoes in contemporary debates, particularly in his native land of Egypt. At a time when increasing numbers of people in the Arab world have raised their voices to demand democratic forms of government that nevertheless stay true to the principles of Shari’a, the issue of who has the ultimate authority to interpret the sources of law, to set legal norms, and to represent the ‘voice’ of Shari’a principles in society is still in dispute.

Book’s Overview

  • Explores the different forms of authority and rhetorical strategies adopted by religious scholars and institutions in Muslim societies
  • Brand new study of a previously neglected figure in Islamic history: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505)
  • Interdisciplinary approach that analyses historic sources alongside modern takes, such as the YouTube commentaries produced after the 2011 Egyptian revolution
  • Demonstrates how Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti fits into a larger discussion about reform and revival in Islam

About the Author

Rebecca Hernandez received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University’s Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and taught previously at Georgetown University and at the College of William and Mary. Her primary research interests include Islamic law and society, religious authority, and medieval and modern Egypt.

Table of Contents

1. Authority by Persuasion: Power Relations in al-Suyuti’s Legal Opinion on Scholarly Stipends
2. Authority by Association: Consensus vs. Ignorance in al-Suyuti’s Legal Opinion on Logic
3. Authority by Articulation: The Language of Religious Revival and Reform in al-Suyuti’s Tajdid Genre
4. Authority by Aggregation and Abstraction: The Pragmatics of Communication in al-Suyuti’s Book on Legal Precepts
5. Authority by Allusion: The Legacy of al-Suyuti in Contemporary Egypt

Bibliographic Information

Title: The Legal Thought of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī

Author: Rebecca Hernandez

Publisher: Oxford University Press

 Language: English

Length: 235 pages

ISBN: 9780198805939

Pub. Date: 05 December 2017

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