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date: 09 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews scholarship on the history of Sunni usul al-fiqh—also known as “Islamic jurisprudence,” “legal theory,” “source law,” “legal methodology,” and “proofs of the law” (usul al-fiqh adillatuhu)—during the premodern period. It first considers the emergence of usul al-fiqh from the second AH/eighth CE to the middle of the fourth/tenth centuries, paying attention to debates about when and how jurists began to produce texts dedicated to the exposition of the genre. It highlights scholarly accounts of the gradual shift from early rudimentary discussions on legal methodology to systematic and detailed elaborations in the so-called mature texts of usul al-fiqh. It also explores the relationship between usul al-fiqh and furu‘ before turning to scholarship on usul al-fiqh sources from the late fourth/tenth up until the tenth/sixteenth century. The article concludes by assessing the relevance of the key intellectual debates over usul al-fiqh to legal practice.

Keywords: usul al-fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence, legal theory, legal methodology, proofs of the law, furu‘, Sunni, legal practice

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