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The Canonization of Islamic Law
A Social and Intellectual History


  • Date Published: July 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107546073

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About the Authors
  • The Canonization of Islamic Law tells the story of the birth of classical Islamic law in the eighth and ninth centuries CE. It shows how an oral normative tradition embedded in communal practice was transformed into a systematic legal science defined by hermeneutic analysis of a clearly demarcated scriptural canon. This transformation was inaugurated by the innovative legal theory of Muhammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfi'ī (d. 820 CE), and it took place against the background of a crisis of identity and religious authority in ninth-century Egypt. By tracing the formulation, reception, interpretation and spread of al-Shāfi'ī's ideas, the author demonstrates how the canonization of scripture that lay at the heart of al-Shāfi'ī's theory formed the basis for the emergence of legal hermeneutics, the formation of the Sunni schools of law, and the creation of a shared methodological basis in Muslim thought.

    • Fusion of intellectual, sociopolitical and textual history into a single integrated narrative
    • Extensive use of hitherto unknown or ignored primary historical sources
    • Close attention to important transcultural themes of orality, writing, cultural memory and canonicity
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'It is very well-written, draws on an impressive array of Arabic texts, and is the best available guide to al-Shafiʿi's legal-theoretical writings, in large part because it engages the arguments expressed in both the Risāla and the Umm. In short, it is essential reading for all students and scholars of Islamic law.' Scott. C. Lucas, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

    'Ahmed El Shamsy has given us a ground-breaking picture of the third/ninth-century development of Shāfiʿī legal scholarship.' David R. Vishanoff, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107546073
    • length: 264 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Tradition under siege
    2. Debates on Hadith and consensus
    3. From local community to universal canon
    4. Status, power, and social upheaval
    5. Scholarship between persecution and patronage
    6. Authorship, transmission, and intertextuality
    7. A community of interpretation
    8. Canonization beyond the Shafi'i school.

  • Author

    Ahmed El Shamsy, University of Chicago
    Ahmed El Shamsy is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Thought in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

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