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.
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.
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.
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.