Rethinking Islamic Legal Methodology with Reference to Maqasid al-Shari'ah

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Ahmad Kazemi-Moussavi

Abstract

Alternative approaches to Islamic law made ‘Islamic legal methodology’ a locus of scrutiny and re-examination by contemporary Muslim authors. This ‘methodology’ (usul al-fiqh), which is more than 1,200 years old, developed out of consideration for the authority of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the fundamental sources of the law. Although fascinating at the beginning, the rules of literal demonstration could not solve problems arising from the sheer text-based reading of the law. Muslim scholars of the classical period occasionally took different approaches such as consideration of higher objectives of the law (al-maqasid) and knowledge of priorities (al-awlawiyyat) to harmonise the applicability of the law with varying situations facing them. This genre of efforts got a new momentum in the recent decades as it seems heading towards rethinking the method of reading Islamic law. The purpose of this article is to provide a critical survey of what these efforts offered to rethink Islamic legal methodology.

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