Psalms of the Muslim David: Rewritten Bible or Rewritten Qurʾān?

At the American Oriental Society meeting in 2010 I broke from my habit of presenting progress on my Islamic legal hermeneutics project, and presented an introduction to a curious text I had recently begun to study: a complete rewriting, by Muslims authors and in a Qur’anic style, of the “Psalms of David”:

David R. Vishanoff. “Psalms of the Muslim David: Rewritten Bible or Rewritten Qurʾān?” American Oriental Society, St. Louis, March 14, 2010.

I will not post the presentation here, since it has been entirely superseded by subsequent publications, especially my article “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David.”

Woodbrooke-Mingana Symposium: The Psalms of David from Christian Scripture to Islamic Sermon

Having heard my paper “A Muslim Rewriting of Psalm 2” at the Society of Biblical Literature in 2007, David Thomas kindly invited me to the 2009 Woodbrooke-Mingana Symposium in Birmingham, where I made my first attempt at a comprehensive survey of a small and curious body of Islamic literature that purports to present the original “Psalms of David,” rewritten by Muslims authors in a Qur’anic style:

David R. Vishanoff. “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: The Psalms of David from Christian Scripture to Islamic Sermon.” Sixth Woodbrooke-Mingana Symposium on Arab Christianity and Islam, Birmingham, UK, September 18, 2009.

I will not post the presentation here, since it has been entirely superseded by subsequent publications, especially my article “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David.

Islamic Law: A Long Work in Progress

This essay explains the slow but certain adaptation of Islamic law to a general audience:

David R. Vishanoff. “Islamic Law: A Long Work in Progress.” The Army Chaplaincy, Winter-Spring 2009, 65-68.

This article was originally accessible on the public websites of the Chief of Chaplains (http://www.chapnet.army.mil) and the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS) (http://www.usachcs.army.mil/TACarchive/TAC/tac.htm), but as of 2017 these web sites no longer exist and The Army Chaplaincy no longer appears to be in publication or available online, so I am making a pdf of the article available here.

Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni, Kitab al-waraqat fi usul al-fiqh

Here is my old translation of a classic handbook of Islamic legal theory, Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni’s Kitab al-waraqat fi usul al-fiqh, accompanied by a minimal commentary for teaching purposes. There is also a translation only without commentary. Both are housed on my old web site, and are now superseded by my Critical Introduction to Islamic Legal Theory, which incorporates a critical edition of the Arabic text, a new English translation, and a book-length commentary.

The Muʿtazila of Baghdād and the Eastern Ẓāhiriyya: A Scripturalist Alternative…

In the wonderfully engaged and supportive environment of the 2008 American Oriental Society meeting in Chicago, I presented the progress I had been making toward Chapter 3 of The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics:

“The Muʿtazila of Baghdād and the Eastern Ẓāhiriyya: A Scripturalist Alternative to al‑Shāfiʿī’s Vision of Islamic Law.” American Oriental Society, Chicago, March 16, 2008.

Here is a pdf of the paper.

Here is the abstract:

Most Sunnī legal theory pursues al‑Shāfiʿī’s project of establishing a correlation between law and revelation.  This paper reconstructs the history of an alternative program usually identified with the Ẓāhiriyya:  law should be grounded in revelation, but it should be reinvented from scratch by applying revelation directly to each new legal problem, without extending revelation’s reach through analogical reasoning, and without exploiting its ambiguity to justify existing laws.  This alternative was formulated in Baghdād by a network of literalist, scripturalist, rationalist Muʿtazila.  al‑Naẓẓām (d. 221/836), for example, finding no consistent moral logic behind God’s commands, argued that if law was to be considered revealed at all, one would have to be content with following the Qurʾān to the letter, without any attempt to reinterpret it or apply it to problems it did not explicitly address.  Others developed this idea into a constructive legal project, arguing that any rational being can apply scripture directly and without uncertainty to particular legal cases.  Jaʿfar ibn Mubashshir (d. 234/848) took the important step of broadening his scripturalism to include some Prophetic traditions.  The main tenets of his legal theory were then replicated, without their rationalist underpinnings, by Dāʾūd al‑Ẓāhirī (d. 270/884), and later elaborated into a philosophically sophisticated hermeneutic by Dāʾūd’s followers Nifṭawayh (d. 323/935) and Ibn Dāʾūd (d. 297/910).  This scripturalist challenge to existing legal systems proved unsustainable, however, and subsequent generations of Ẓāhiriyya, finding themselves increasingly marginalized, unsuccessfully sought to mitigate their unorthodoxy by letting analogical reasoning in through the back door.  When Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064) attempted a Ẓāhirī revival in Andalusia, he adopted many aspects of mainstream interpretive theory, and placed a new emphasis on traditions.  This is why the Ẓāhiriyya have sometimes been associated with traditionists, rather than with their fellow scripturalists among the Muʿtazila of Baghdād.

Islamic Studies as Sacrificial Listening