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Law, Islamic philosophy of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H015-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved January 18, 2022, from

Article Summary

One of the principles of Islam which precedes juristic discussion proper is that God, the creator and lord of the world, has commissioned humanity to believe, confess and act in particular ways. The details of this commission (taklif) were handed down through a sequence of prophets, culminating in Muhammad, and were then embedded in two literary structures which together constitute revelation (wahy): the Qur’an, which is the word of God, and the hadith, short narratives of the prophet’s life and sayings which give expression to his (and his community’s) ideal practice or sunna. The totality of beliefs and rules that can be derived from these sources constitutes God’s law or shari‘a.

Juristic literature has generated two major literary genres. One, known as usul al-fiqh (roots of jurisprudence), deals with hermeneutical principles that can be used for deriving rules from revelation; it represents, in part, something like a philosophy of law. The other, dominant genre, furu’ al-fiqh (branches of jurisprudence), is an elaboration of rules which govern ritual and social activities. An overall philosophy of law in Islam, not fully articulated in the pre-modern tradition, can only be discovered through consideration of both genres.

Citing this article:
Calder, Norman. Law, Islamic philosophy of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H015-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

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