FATWA: THE EVOLUTION OF AN ISLAMIC LEGAL PRACTICE AND ITS INFLUENCE ON MUSLIM SOCIETY
AdvisorBlankinship, Khalid Yahya
Committee memberRaines, John C.
Middle Eastern Studies
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/2565
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AbstractMy dissertation examines the transformation of Islamic legal discourse and the impact of that discourse on Muslim society. More particularly, it analyzes fatwas (religious legal edicts) over the course of Muslim history so as to determine how this legal mechanism was instrumental in the making and remaking of Islamic law and society. Historically speaking, substantive aspects of Islamic law developed out of the material of fatwas. In the very early stages of Islamic history there were no codified laws to guide people in their religious and social concerns, but the manner in which Muslims received guidance with regards to their religious practice was that they posed their concerns to early proto-jurists in the form of religio-legal questions, which these jurists addressed in the form of fatwas. Out of the critical mass of these fatwas, Islamic legal manuals began to be compiled and a definitive corpus of Islamic law came into being. Essentially, my investigation looks at the development and continuing evolution of Islamic law through lens of a particular legal practice: issuance of fatwas. By examining fatwas in different periods of Islamic history from the beginning until today, I chart the transformations that take place in Islamic legal tradition(s) as a result of the encounter with changing socio-historical conditions. More particularly, my analysis draws attention to the way in which legal practices amongst jurists created discursive shifts to established norms within Islamic legal discourse on how these discursive shifts contributed to the evolution of Islamic law. Moreover, by analyzing fatwas issued from Muslim jurists from various regions and periods, I identify how fatwas were essential catalysts for historical change, which gives us a better appreciation of the interrelationship between law and society. This historical foundation provides a basis for a diachronic assessment of the transformations that take place in Islamic legal tradition as a result of the encounter with colonialism. In latter part of my investigation, I examine how the practice and rationalization of fatwa has changed due to the ramifications of colonialism on the Muslim world. In this era, the established practices and doctrines of Islamic law were critiqued through the lens of modern Western ideas. This spawned modern Muslim movements that sought to reform Islamic law and redefine its relationship to the state and society. After historically establishing the ideas which were advocated by reformers, my goal is to assess whether those calls for reform have actually affected the practice Islamic law at the substantive and procedural levels. I do this by subjecting fatwas issued in the postcolonial period to critical analysis, so as to determine whether the procedures or rationale of fatwas have changed in a fundamental way. The larger themes that I address in my latter analysis is whether this modern trend amongst some Muslim thinkers and jurists towards contextually oriented legal concepts represents a lasting shift away from the traditional textually oriented legal methodology to produce a new type of discourse that is revolutionizing Islamic law or is it a passing phenomenon that will not make a lasting impact on how Islamic law is derived in the future. Fatwas are the key starting points in addressing these question because they represent the most elemental dimensions of Islamic law and the new legal developments within it. So, they offer vistas on how Muslim religious and legal practice will undergo a transformation in the future.
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