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Reinterpretation or Reformation? Shi‘a Law in the West

This article will outline the salient features that characterise the Shi‘a community in the United States of America and will examine some of the recent juridical literature that has emerged from the traditional religious seminaries of Najaf and Qum.

Most scholars have focused on the experience of Sunni Muslims in the West. They often postulate a monolithic Islam that expresses the ‘normative Islam’. This paper will outline the salient features that characterise the Shi‘a community in the United States of America and will examine some of the recent juridical literature that has emerged from the traditional religious seminaries of Najaf and Qum. Also to be discussed is some of the hermeneutical tool s that the jurists have deployed in coming up with novel solutions to the challenges the community has encountered in the West. I contend that when facing new situations that cannot be located in the revelatory sources and do not have legal precedents, jurists can formulate judgments that will best protect the interests of the community while remaining faithful to the Islamic frame of reference.

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