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Book Review: An Introduction to Islamic Law by Wael Hallaq

Wael Hallaq is one of the leading scholars in the field of Islamic law, and well qualified to evaluate the historical Shari‘ah, in comparison with both modern legislation and today’s heavily politicized presentation of Islamic law.

The first point Hallaq makes in the introduction of his work, appropriately, is the fact that the Shari‘ah historically did not include politics in its broad list of items; rather “it did its best to distance itself from politics and to remain an example of the rule of law, while the Shari‘ah has now ironically became a fertile political arena, and little else in terms of law”. Perhaps because of its highly politicized associations, the term Shari‘ah today provokes distaste and even fear among non-Muslim audiences.

To explain the historical Shari‘ah, Hallaq begins his first chapter with the history of the rise and development of Shari‘ah. He employs a rather new format of “Who is who in the Shari‘ah” to discuss the people who made the law, specifically figures who shaped the structure of the Islamic law. This includes, first of all, author-jurists (faqihs), muftis, judges and law professors who might at times have combined positions. A striking point Hallaq makes here is that traditional Islamic legal personnel were not subject to the authority of the state. Furthermore, the time-honored maxim of the supremacy of Shari‘ah actually left little room for Muslim governments to touch upon the sacred sources of the law for interpretation.

How the law was founded is discussed in the second chapter. Hallaq opens his account with the role of human reason in the expansion of Islamic law, and concludes that usul al-fiqh or Islamic legal theory is an outcome of the “marriage” between revelation and Muslim reasoning. Hallaq contends that the array of opinions give Islamic law a pluralistic quality that can be characterized by flexibility and accommodation.

The third chapter deals with the emergence of legal schools, generally known as madhhab in Islamic language. These schools are named after a “master-jurist” who was assumed to be the school’s founder. Here, Hallaq explains how the early interest in law and legal studies evolved within the environment of the “study circles,” where…….

Bibliographic Information

Title: Book Review: An Introduction to Islamic Law by Wael Hallaq

Author(s): Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi

Published in:  Iranian Studies, Volume 48 , Issue 3: , May 2015

 Language: English

Length: 6 pages

Book Review An Introduction to Islamic Law by Wael Hallaq_r

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