Islamic Legal Theory: A Critical Introduction Based on al-Juwayni’s Waraqat fi usul al‑fiqh

Islamic Legal Theory: A Critical Introduction Based on al-Juwayni’s Waraqat fi usul al‑fiqh. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2022.

This book is a revised and slightly expanded version of my Critical Introduction to Islamic Legal Theory, which was published online in 2017. Many thanks to Rick Todhunter at Hackett for suggesting that it be published as an affordable paperback for classroom use. It is available on Hackett’s web site as an ebook ($15.50), a paperback ($18), and in a library-style cloth binding (not sewn, $58). Instructors may order examination copies for a nominal charge of $3.

But the book isn’t just for students. Along with a critical edition and English translation of al-Juwayni’s widely used Kitab al-Waraqat fi usul al-fiqh, it offers a novel commentary that highlights the significance of classical debates for contemporary concerns in a way that I hope will prove illuminating for specialists.

Guest posts on Harvard’s Islamic Law Blog

The Islamic Law Blog of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School invited me to serve as their guest editor during November 2019. I contributed posts on teaching, research hacks, a recent conference, and uṣūl al-fiqh:

The blog is relatively new, and already has a long list of great contributors. You might want to subscribe!

Sacrificial Listening: Christians, Muslims, and the Secular University

This auto-biographical essay recounts the development of several themes and directions in my work as a Christian scholar of Islam, including my pedagogy of sacrificial listening.

David R. Vishanoff. “Sacrificial Listening: Christians, Muslims, and the Secular University.” In Faithful Is Successful: Notes to the Driven Pilgrim, ed. Nathan Grills, David E. Lewis, and S. Joshua Swamidass, 213-243. Denver: Outskirts Press, 2014. (ISBN 978-1478730354)

A scanned copy is posted here as a pdf file, by permission of the editors, for personal non-commercial use only.

A Pedagogy of Sacrificial Listening

Scholarship and teaching are both forms of human relationship. My purpose for both is to enable the development of further relationships characterized by integrity and by an ongoing process of coming to understand. Both must therefore be governed by the same principles.

The study of religions consists in listening to unfamiliar voices with sacrificial attention, constructing conceptual models that allow one to relate what one has heard to familiar categories, and then subjecting those models and categories to deconstruction through self-criticism and further acts of listening.

Teaching religions consists primarily of modeling and fostering the process of coming to understand unfamiliar primary texts and living voices through the practice of sacrificial listening.

Students should leave a course not with ‘talking knowledge’ – the ability to talk about religion – but with ‘listening knowledge’: a basic mental map, and the moral commitment and analytical ability to use and redraw that map as they strive to understand new religious voices and develop new relationships beyond the classroom.

Since teaching not only enables the development of new relationships, but is itself one form of human relationship, sacrificial listening must be a hallmark of student-teacher interaction in and outside the classroom. Students’ contributions must be given the same quality of attention as the voices being studied, so that they too may spark revisions in my ways of thinking and teaching.

The development of this pedagogy is explained in my essay “Sacrificial Listening: Christians, Muslims, and the Secular University.”

Overview of Muslim beliefs in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics

This encyclopedia entry surveys the beliefs of Muslims, presenting them not as a set of agreed-upon doctrines but as an ongoing argument over seven main topics: God, creation, humanity, prophethood, ethics, salvation, and the Muslim community.

David R. Vishanoff. “Religious Beliefs.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics, ed. Emad El‑Din Shahin, vol. 2, 321–337. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

I find it useful as an introductory reading for my class on Islamic Theology. Unfortunately, it was written “for hire” for OUP, and cannot be made available here. It is accessible in the printed encyclopedia, and until June 2022 it was available online through Oxford Islamic Studies Online; it has now been moved to Oxford Reference.