How should one understand Islamic law outside of its application? What happens when we think about religious jurisprudence theoretically? For medieval Muslim scholars this...

How should one understand Islamic law outside of its application? What happens when we think about religious jurisprudence theoretically? For medieval Muslim scholars this was the field where one could enumerate the meaning and purpose of Islamic law. But to the uninitiated these justifications for legal thinking are submerged in rote repetition of technical language and discourses. Luckily for us, Rumee Ahmed, professor in the Department of Classics, Near Eastern and Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, dives into the depths of various legal theory manuals to draw narrative understandings of shari’a to the surface. In Narratives of Islamic Legal Theory (Oxford University Press, 2012), Ahmed examines two formative contemporaneous jurists from the Hanafi school of law to determine the relationship between law and ethics through legal discourses. He focuses on the nature and meaning of the Qur’an, the role of the sunnah (the Prophetic example), and the use of considered opinion in structuring legal boundaries. Ultimately, he views their positions not merely as academic debates over the minutia of religious opinions and injunctions but as ritual observance, which formulates a world ‘as if’ it were ideal. In our conversation we discuss abrogation, punishment, salvation, Abraham’s sacrifice, hadith transmission, Peircean notions of abduction, religious law, stoning, adultery, the role of scholars, and contemporary calls for reform.

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