History of Fiqh: A New Frame

This article examines the debates over the Islamic law in the Ottoman land after the 1908 revolution, focusing on the introduction of the “history of fiqh” into educational curricula and its reformulation as the new framework for modern(ist) interpretations of ictihad. In this context, I analyze the impact of its introduction into higher education on the emergence of a new literature on this new discipline as well as those texts on the history of fiqh, and discuss different views on the periodization of it, which gives valuable clues in terms of the way in which fiqh and its history were understood at the time. I also compare the first texts in the Ottoman land with those in other parts of the Muslim world. I classify different approaches to the history of fiqh in the post- Meşrutiyet era Ottoman thought into three groups: (i) there is no separate section on the history of fiqh or of usul al-fiqh in those textbooks that follow classical works on usul al-fiqh. (ii) Some books give historical information on fiqh and usul al-fiqh, and touch upon madhabs and the fiqh literature, but they do it without interpreting the historical information. (iii) A new approach that sees the history of fiqh as a much needed framework for new interpretations (ictihad) presents the historical information with a new periodization emphasizing some characteristics that they attribute to them, rather than the content of this information.


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