Home / Library / Books / Book: Pragmatism in Islamic Law: a Social and Intellectual History

Book: Pragmatism in Islamic Law: a Social and Intellectual History

Since the formative period of Islamic law, jurists have debated whether it is acceptable for a law to be selected based on its utility.

In Pragmatism in Islamic Law, Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim presents a detailed history of Sunni legal pluralism and the ways in which it was employed to accommodate the changing needs of society. Since the formative period of Islamic law, jurists have debated whether it is acceptable for a law to be selected based on its utility, rather than weighing conflicting articulations of the law to determine the most likely expression of the divine will. Virtually unanimous opposition to the utilitarian approach, referred to as “pragmatic eclecticism,” emerged among early Islamic jurists. However, due to a host of changing institutional and socioeconomic transformations, a trend toward the legitimization of pragmatic eclecticism arose in the thirteenth century. Subsequently, the Mamluk authorities institutionalized this pragmatism when Sultan Baybars appointed four chief judges representing the four Sunni schools in Cairo in 1265 CE. After a brief attempt to reverse Mamluk pluralism by imposing the Hanafi school in the sixteenth century, Egypt’s new rulers, the Ottomans, embraced this pluralistic pragmatism. In examining over a thousand cases from three seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury Egyptian courts, Ibrahim traces the internal logic of pragmatic eclecticism under the Ottomans. An array of archival sources documents the manner in which Egyptian society’s subaltern classes navigated Sunni legal pluralism as a tool to avoid more austere legal doctrines. The ensuing portrait challenges the assumption made by many modern historians that the utilitarian approaches adopted by nineteenth- and twentieth-century Muslim reformers constituted a clear rupture with early Islamic legal history. In contrast, many of the legal strategies exercised in Egypt’s partial codification of family law in the twentieth century were rooted in premodern Islamic jurisprudence.

Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim is assistant professor of Islamic law at the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies in Montreal. He holds a BA from al-Azhar University and an MA degree from the American University in Cairo. He completed his PhD in Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in 2011.

Table of Contents

Part One: Setting and Context

  1. The Codification Episteme and the Multiplicity of Truth

Part Two: Juristic Discourse Prior to the Nineteenth Century

  1. Tatabbu‘ al-Rukhas ˙ in Juristic Discourse Prior to the Nineteenth Century
  2. Talfīq in Juristic Discourse Prior to the Nineteenth Century

Part Three: Court Practice Prior to the Nineteenth Century

  1. Pragmatic Eclecticism in Court Practice A Thousand and One Cases

Part Four: The Sweep of Modernity

  1. Juristic Discourse on Pragmatic Eclecticism in Modern Egypt

Codification and the Arab Spring Can the Sharī‘a be Restored?

Bibliographic Information

Title: Pragmatism in Islamic Law: a Social and Intellectual History

Author: Ibrahim Ahmed Fekry

Publisher: Syracuse University Press, [2015]

Language: English

Length: 376 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8156-3394-5

Pub. Date: 2015

Related Post

Check Also

One Day Colloquium: Rationality and the Mystical Tradition: Shia Muslim – Roman Catholic Perspectives

On November 16, 2018 the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), in Rome will be hosting a colloquium on the subject Rationality and the Mystical Tradition: Shia Muslim – Roman Catholic...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

logo-samandehi Google Analytics Alternative