After years of ruminating on Islamic legal theory (uṣūl al‑fiqh) I have published online an introductory textbook with several unusual features:
- It is free.
- Readers can add their own comments to specific paragraphs, arguing with me, al‑Juwaynī, and one another.
- Like many medieval textbooks, it takes the form of a commentary on a short handbook, Imām al‑Ḥaramayn al‑Juwaynī’s famous Kitāb al‑Waraqāt fī uṣūl al‑fiqh.
- Its approach is more critical, however. It does not just repeat classical explanations and examples, but asks contemporary questions about epistemology, ideology, and ethics.
- Consequently, it may hold some interest for specialists as well as students.
- It is based on a new English translation of the Waraqāt, which is itself based on something surprisingly novel: a critical edition of this oft-republished text.
- Comments posted by readers will help shape a future print edition.
The book is online at http://waraqat.vishanoff.com, and may be cited as:
David R. Vishanoff. A Critical Introduction to Islamic Legal Theory: A Critical Edition, English Translation, and New Commentary on Imām al‑Ḥaramayn al‑Juwaynī’s Leaflet on the Sources of Law (Kitāb al‑Waraqāt fī uṣūl al‑fiqh). Published online March 3, 2017, at http://waraqat.vishanoff.com.
Please share the link with students and even specialists who might find it useful.
This Reader’s Guide is intended as a companion for those engaged in the delightful but sometimes puzzling task of reading al-Shāfiʿī’s famous Risāla, a work that sparked the discipline of Islamic legal theory. It includes a discussion of the structure of the work and a detailed twenty-four-page analytical outline that spells out step by step the flow of what I take to be al-Shāfiʿī’s argument. I hope it proves a useful tool for students and a compelling interpretive proposal for scholars already familiar with the work.
David R. Vishanoff. “A Reader’s Guide to al-Shāfiʿī’s Epistle on Legal Theory (al-Risāla).” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 28 no. 3 (2017): 245-269.
The Version of Record (VoR) is published at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2017.1289705. Please cite only this final version. For scholars whose institutions do not provide access to the journal, a limited number of free downloads are available at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/PEsTW46I5pridIR5AxQn/full
A longer version, the Author’s Original (AO), is available here as a pdf for personal scholarly and educational use. It does not reflect the corrections and additions to the introductory essay that were suggested by reviewers, and therefore should not be cited in scholarship, but it has two advantages for personal study and teaching: it includes a brief as well as a detailed outline of the Risāla, and the long outline retains numerous comments about the text, including suggested amendments to Joseph Lowry’s translation of the Risāla, that had to be cut from the published version.