The Interaction Between Islamic Legal Methodologies and Social Context in the Light of the Contemporary Practice of Iftā’: A Case Study of Two Institutions
Yakar, Emine Enise
Date: 26 June 2018
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Arab and Islamic Studies
The non-binding Islamic legal rulings or opinions (fatwās), which are issued by Muslim scholars or Islamic religious institutions in response to questions asked by Muslim individuals may be said to represent the most dynamic genre of (past or present) Islamic legal literature. It was traditionally the case that the practice of iftā’ ...
The non-binding Islamic legal rulings or opinions (fatwās), which are issued by Muslim scholars or Islamic religious institutions in response to questions asked by Muslim individuals may be said to represent the most dynamic genre of (past or present) Islamic legal literature. It was traditionally the case that the practice of iftā’ resided in the individual authority and effort of Muslim scholars. However, after national and international Islamic religious institutions were established at the beginning of the twentieth century, this practice has largely become the responsibility of specific bodies tasked with issuing fatwās. Saudi Arabia’s Dār al-Iftā’ (the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Iftā’) and Turkey’s Diyanet (the Presidency of Religious Affairs) are concrete products of the twentieth century. Both institutions provide an idiosyncratic insight into the practice of iftā’ and more specifically its development and application within two very different societies. One of the primary concerns of this thesis is therefore to identify the authority, function and role of the two institutions and their official fatwās in their respective environments. The thesis compares the fatwās issued by the two institutions with the intention of determining which Islamic legal concepts and methodologies are applied. In addition, the discussion will also assess how the institutions interpreted authoritative sources of Islamic law and the process through which they came to arrive at divergent, and even opposed, interpretations. The thesis provides insight into the dynamic interconnection and interaction between Islamic legal methodologies and societal realities by examining these two Islamic modern institutions and focusing on their legal interpretation or edicts (fatwās). The active dimension of Islamic law is visibly rendered within the cultural, legal, political and social context in which the fatwā mechanism provides new regulations and rulings. The analysis converges upon the proposition that differences of opinion do not derive from the fundamental Islamic legal sources, the Qur’an and Sunna, but can instead be traced back to the different contextual environments in which the fatwās emerged, thus illustrating the strong connection between contextual elements and Islamic legal methodologies. In analysing fatwās issued by the two institutions on similar subjects within a comparative framework, I seek to explore the interaction between Islamic legal methodologies and the contexts in which they are applied. I therefore provide a contextual and methodological analysis of contemporary fatwās issued by the two institutions. After identifying four thematic criteria (the predominant madhhab affiliation, legal systems, political structures, and social presumptions and cultural practices), the thesis then proceeds to identify the points at which the two institutions converge and diverge in each of these respects. The study also uses the fatwās to demonstrate how the two institutions employ different Islamic legal concepts and principles when addressing identical issues. Finally, the thesis seeks to introduce an advanced comparative model for the study of fatwās that encompasses institutions (as social and religious interpreters), Islamic legal theories and methodologies (as an essential source of the law) and the social context in which fatwās emerge. I envisage that a comparative analysis of the Dār al-Iftā’ and the Diyanet will encourage academic researchers to investigate the institutionalised iftā’ practice and to explore differences of opinion in the modern world. Institutionalised fatwās are important elemental materials that provide considerable insight into the points at which Islamic law encounters rapidly changing socio-cultural, socio-legal and socio-political circumstances.
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