Islamic Legal Texts in Arabic
- Module Code:
- Unit value:
- Taught in:
- Full Year
This course sets out to study and analyse the classical literature of the Sunnite legal tradition. The course will chart the formulation of Sunni juristic abstraction in relation to substance law (al-furu‘), considering the contributions of Hanifite, Malikite, Shafite, Hanbalite and Zahirite jurists. It will also cover the intricate enterprise regarding the endeavour to articulate a theory of law (usul al-fiqh) based on the conceptual resolution of its textual sources and other epistemological preliminaries. Within this comprehensive framework, students will compare and contrast texts from the rich reservoir of legal literature preserved in the earliest legal manuals. Moreover, by examining the texts of the formative years, students will be able to gauge the significance of works which left an indelible print on the development of the juristic tradition. Having taken into context the immense significance of representative texts of this early period, students will have the opportunity to explore the compendiums of jurisprudence as collated by later proponents of the developed traditions through the ensuing centuries. In addition to these compendiums there will be a study of the slandered compilations which catalogued the differences amongst the jurists under the rubric ikhtilaf alfuqaha; and, an examination of related literature engendered by legal abstraction such as the writings which circumscribed edicts (fatawa); legal expositions of the text of the Qur’an; and the voluminous biographical compilations (tabaqat) on jurists and their significance.
Having examined the rich corpus of furu‘ literature, the course will consider the earliest attempts to formulate a theory of law (usul al-fiqh) which ostensibly begins with al-Shafi’i’s Risala and culminates in intricate treatises which fuse the principles of law within a theological framework. The course therefore aims to provide students with a grasp of the development and significance of the legal tradition pre-eminently through the examination of primary source material.
Given that this is essentially a text-based course, it is expected that students should be able to read and comprehend classical Arabic material.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the module
At the end of the course students will have developed a distinct understanding of the nature and evolution of early Islamic legal texts. In addition, s/he will also have obtained not only a firm grasp of the structural features of the sources in this field and an understanding of their theoretical and background frameworks. Furthermore, the students will have the chance to trace aspects of the Islamic legal and judicial system in the early Islamic sources, including the Qur'an and Sunnah as well as early Islamic literatures in this field. Also, this course will provide students with an understanding of some aspects of the relationship between the theory and practice of Islamic law.
Two hours each week are devoted to the examination and translation of primary source material. Students are expected to prepare the set texts in advance of lectures; moreover, it is also expected that students present at least one seminar relating to topics covered during the course of the lectures.
Method of assessment
One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on the first day of term 2 (15%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on the first day of term 3 (15%).
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