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Hadith, Transmission and The Idiom of Islamic Law. The Great Question of Islamic Law…. How do we live as Muslims?. What is “Islamic Law”/ Shariah ?. Crime: theft, murder, slander… Transactions: buying, selling, interest… Family Law: marriage, divorce, inheritance

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Hadith, Transmission


The Idiom of Islamic Law

the great question of islamic law

The Great Question of Islamic Law…

How do we live as Muslims?

what is islamic law shariah
What is “Islamic Law”/Shariah?
  • Crime: theft, murder, slander…
  • Transactions: buying, selling, interest…
  • Family Law: marriage, divorce, inheritance
  • Warfare: treaties, civilians…
  • Ritual: how should I pray, do pilgrimage?
  • Pleasing God: what acts please or don’t please God?
  • Boundaries of Community: what makes you Muslim or not?
aims of the shariah
Aims of the Shariahمقاصد الشريعة أو الكليات الخمس

The 5 rights that the Shariah seeks to protect:

  • Life
  • Property
  • Honor
  • Reason
  • Religion
judging actions
Judging Actions

2. Required (wajib): ex. five daily prayers

1. Recommended (mandub): ex.extra charity

0. Permitted (mubah): ex. wearing a blue dress instead of a green one

  • Disliked (makruh): not returning the greeting of another Muslim
  • Prohibited (haram): drinking alcohol, fornication
types of punishment
Types of Punishment
  • Most issues of Islamic law would never be in court! They are personal and optional. The rulings exist to provide Muslims with answers to any question.
  • Hadd Punishments: corporal and capital punishments for murder, fornication, drunkeness, slander, and theft. To be avoided!
  • Ta’zeer Punishments: non-severe corporal punishments (below 10 lashes), fines etc. Subject to discretion.
sources of authority
Sources of Authority
  • God, His Prophet and the Authority that Muhammad bequeathed (depends on how you believe it should be inherited)… imams or ijma’(consensus)

Tools for Manipulating and Applying Authority

  • Analogy: includes a fortiori, reductio ad absurdam reasoning
  • Considering best interests; aims of the Shariah
how do we apply quran and sunna the first two centuries
How do we apply Quran and Sunna? The First two Centuries




Principles applied in reasoning

Texts to be followed literally


  • Partisans of Hadith:
  • Quran
  • Reliable Hadith
  • Ruling of Companions
  • Weak hadith
  • analogy
  • ‘Partisans of Reason’
  • Quran
  • Reliable hadith
  • Rulings of Companions
  • Best judgment
al shaf i s compromise
Al-Shaf’i’s Compromise

Sources of the Law:

  • Quran
  • Hadith: sunna as texts to be applied literally
  • Ijma’: consensus
  • Analogy: applying Quran and hadith to similar situations

 Rulings based on these can become consensus (ijma’)  100% compelling

sunni schools of law
Sunni Schools of Law

Hanafi: based on Abu Hanifa (d. 767) and his followers in Kufa, the official school of the Ottoman Empire, widespread in India

Maliki: based on the teachings of Malik b. Anas (d. 796) in Medina, the school of North African and Andalusia

Shafi’i: based on the teachings of al-Shafi’i (d. 820), found in Egypt, Southeast Asia, Yemen

Hanbali: based on the teachings of Ibn Hanbal (d. 855), found in great numbers only in Arabia (and Syria)

diversity disagreement
Diversity & Disagreement
  • Law is probabilistic (zanni) due to…
    • 1. Questions about the reliability of sources
    • 2. Tremendous potential for interpretive difference
    •  “I believe I am right, with the possibility that I am wrong; I believe that my opponent is wrong with the possibility that they are right.”
  • There always more than one answer! (bother between the madhhabs and within one madhhab)
case study the hand of a thief
Case Study: The Hand of a Thief
  • Quranic Verse: ‘The thief, male or female, cut off their hand in retribution for what they have done, an exemplary punishment from God, for God is mighty and wise’ (Quran 5:38).
  • Hadith: ‘Do not cut off the hand of the thief for less than ¼ dinar’ ≈ $25
  • Companion Ruling: Umar suspended the punishment during famine (aims of the Shariah)
case study the hand of a thief two
Case Study: The Hand of a Thief two
  • Madhhab Difference: Hanafis say no amputation for the theft of any food or substance that was licit to begin with, such as animals or vegetables
  • Mitigation: some argue that punishment for theft cannot be established without two confessions; it’s reported that Umar and Abu Darda’ would encourage the accused to deny the charge, then handle the problem privately.
applying islamic law law and the state
Applying Islamic Law – Law and the State
  • Muslim rulers (caliphs or sultans/amirs) do not determine Shariah (but they could enact secular laws = qanun, and they provide law enforcement)
  • Shariah was determined by the ulama
    • Faqih (a jurist): develops law and legal theory (sometimes in an ivory tower)
    • Mufti: a jurisconsult, asked about rulings by people or courts
    • Qadi (judge): works for the state applying a school of law, rulings enforced by the police
hadith how do we know what s true vs forged
Hadith: How do we know what’s true vs. forged?
  • Demand an isnad :
  • Who is in the isnad ?
  • Is there corroboration?






Hadith Canon: 6 collections of relied-upon hadiths, the most famous are…

Sahih al-Bukhari (d. 870)

Sahih Muslim (d. 875)




Prophet: Be nice to your mother

does this method work
Does this Method Work?
  • Where does the burden of proof lie?
  • Muslim hadith critics had different priorities than we do: they cared about law and doctrine, not exegesis and history.
  • Maybe the Prophet really… prophesized?