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The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence pdf

The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh Before the Classical Schools

  • Book Title:
 The Origins Of Islamic Jurisprudence
  • Book Author:
Harald Motzki
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Thecurrent view-among Western scholars of Islam concerning the early development of Islamic jurisprudence was shaped by Joseph Schacht’s famous study on the subject published 50 years ago. Since then new sources became available which make a critical review of his theories possible and desirable.

This volume uses one of these sources to reconstruct the development of jurisprudence at Mecca, virtually unknown until now, from the beginnings until the middle of the second Islamic century.

 New methods of analysis are developed and tested in order to date the material contained in the earliest compilations of legal traditions more properly. As a result the origins of Islamic jurisprudence can be dated much earlier than claimed by Schacht and his school.


The question of when, where, and how Islamic jurisprudence came into being has occupied research in Islamic studies for over a cen­tury. Initially, a continuous development starting in the lifetime of the Prophet and ultimately leading into the legal schools of the sec­ond and third centuries A.H. (approximately the eighth and ninth centuries A.D.) was assumed. This has also been the Muslim view

of things since medieval times. This view was put into question toward the end of the nineteenth century of our era by Ignaz Goldziher, and was refuted definitively by Joseph Schacht in his book The Origins of .Muhammadan jurisprudence, which appeared in 1950.

The different opinions are essentially dependent on the state of the sources available. If one considers the Qur’an as a work, which-at least in its earthly form-originated in the lifetime of Muhammad and was put down in writing in the course of about two decades after his death, a hole of almost 150 years yawns between it and the fırst collections of legally relevant texts which are recognized as authentic,

i.e. which really go back to the author or compiler claimed for them. The debate has thus revolved around the question of what histori­cal worth the texts of these works have as sources for the preceding phase.

Schacht’s theory was largely accepted in western Islamic studies and strongly influenced subsequent research. The present study attempts to demonstrate that Schacht’s conceptions, in substantive points, are no longer tenable or are greatly in need of modification­above all, that he estimated the beginnings of Islamic jurisprudence a good half to three-quarters of a century too late.

The reservations about Schacht’s conclusions result in part from the nature of his work itself: it contains a number of questionable premises, historical inferences, and methods. This is described in the first chapter of the  present study, which contains an outline of the history of research…..

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