Tag Archives: Hermeneutics

European and Islamic Contributions to an Anthropocentric Qur’anic Hermeneutic

Mehdi Azaiez and the staff of Beit al Hikma (Académie Tunisienne des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts) put on a stimulating conference in Beit al Hikma’s beautiful home in Carthage, right on the Mediterranean. Over the course of three days (July 4-6, 2017) a full-throated debate played out, in three languages, over the context within which the Qur’an ought to be read. My own contribution traced the main currents of European philosophy and Islamic thought that made their way into one Indonesian thinker’s call for an anthropocentric reading of the Qur’an:

“An Anthropological Turn in the Qur’anic Sciences: European and Islamic Contributions to Aksin Wijaya’s Indonesian Hermeneutic.” Conference on “Qur’anic Studies: Methods, Contexts, and Interpretations,” International Qur’anic Studies Association and Beit al Hikma, Carthage, Tunisia, July 4, 2017.

The slides from my presentation, which trace the connections between thinkers across a world map, are available here. The text of the paper is still too rough to post here, but I plan to turn it into an article within the next year.

Indicative and Performative Theories of Divine Speech in Classical Islamic Legal Theory

Nadja Germann and her research team put on a very rich and remarkably focused conference on “Intention and Signification: Philosophy of Language Across Islamic Disciplines, 800-1200” at the University of Freiburg, in beautiful Baden-Württemberg, Germany, from June 1 to 3, 2017. What a feast! My own contribution was:

“Indicative and Performative Theories of Divine Speech in Classical Islamic Legal Theory.” Intention and Signification: Philosophy of Language Across Islamic Disciplines, 800-1200, University of Freiburg, June 3, 2017.

I presented just a summary of a long paper draft which is still too rough to post here, but it will be polished up and published in a forthcoming conference volume from DeGruyter.

Review of Amr Osman, The Zahiri Madhhab

Here is my review of a new book on the Zahiri school of law, commonly called “literalist” but better described as “textualist” according to Amr Osman. Unfortunately, I found that the book suffers from numerous problems, which are documented in the review.

David R. Vishanoff. Review of Amr Osman, The Ẓāhirī Madhhab (3rd/9th–10th/16th Century): A Textualist Theory of Islamic Law (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Der Islam 93 no. 2 (2016): 603–609.

Permanent link to the published article (Version of Record): DOI 10.1515/islam-2016-0047

Given the negative nature of the review, I do not wish to distribute it widely, and so will not post the full text here. It is important only for those scholars who are considering making serious use of Osman’s book.

The anthropological turn in Islamic legal interpretation

On July 23-24, 2016, the Zentrum für Islamische Theologie at the University of Tübingen did a superb job of organizing and hosting a conference on “Islamic Theology – Past, Present and Future: Global Challenges and Prospective Synergies in the Academic Study of Islam.” My presentation dealt once again with the Indonesian thinker Aksin Wijaya, arguing that his explicitly anthropocentric epistemology reflects a broader shift in Islamic thought that opens up new conversations between historical and confessional scholarship on Islam:

“The Anthropological Turn in Islamic Legal Interpretation.” Islamic Theology – Past, Present and Future: Global Challenges and Prospective Synergies in the Academic Study of Islam, University of Tübingen, July 24, 2016.

Here is a pdf of the paper, as delivered. It was written for oral presentation, without documentation. I plan to use it as the framework for a published article incorporating aspects of several papers I have given recently on Qur’anic hermeneutics in contemporary Indonesia.

Al‑hirminyūṭīqā al‑fiqhiyya ʿinda al‑Imām al‑Shāfiʿī

This Arabic article on the legal hermeneutics of al‑Shāfiʿī was presented at a meeting of the regional office of the Indonesian scholarly organization Nahdlatul Ulama (Pengurus Wilayah Nahdlatul Ulama Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on March 31, 2013, at the invitation of Sahiron Syamsuddin, and then published in his International Journal of Pesantren Studies:

“Al‑hirminyūṭīqā al‑fiqhiyya ʿinda al‑Imām al‑Shāfiʿī.” International Journal of Pesantren Studies 7 no. 2 (2015 [2016]): 263–281.

Many thanks to Pak Sahiron and the scholars of Nadhlatul Ulama for their warm hospitality and their kind generosity toward my ideas and poor Arabic.

Here is a pdf of the article (marked up to indicate a few corrections necessitated by formatting issues).

Here is the English abstract:

Hermeneutics is not a new discipline among Muslim thinkers; it goes back to al‑Shāfiʿī’s founding of the discipline of legal theory (uṣūl al‑fiqh). This article examines the role al‑Shāfiʿī played in the founding of Islamic legal hermeneutics, and then describes his hermeneutic as one of great flexibility for defining hermeneutical intertextual relationships, and great freedom for deriving legal rules from texts. Then it presents the goal of al‑Shāfiʿī’s hermeneutic as the establishment of a perfect correlation between his legal opinions and the Qurʾānic verses and Prophetic traditions that were widely accepted in his time. Then it indicates the most important consequence of al‑Shāfiʿī’s legal hermeneutic: the possibility of imagining a legal system that is at once divine and human, that is entirely based on the texts of divine revelation yet also evolves to suit the needs of human society across time and space.