Summary of Khizr Khan’s “Juristic Classification of Islamic Law”

Before Khizr Khan graduated with an LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 1986, he published an article in the Houston Journal of International Law. Entitled “Juristic Classification of Islamic Law,” his piece focuses on textual authority’s place in Islamic law, and whether it contributes to the viability of Ijma and a unified school of Islamic legal thought. Khan establishes the historically unquestioned authority of the chief sources, the Quran and the Sunnah, before turning his attention to the opinions of many jurists who opined on whether or not other texts should be considered in a theoretically unified school of Islamic legal thought. Though these differing opinions all strove for codified unity, says Khan, their irreconcilable approaches to textual authority cleaved Islamic jurisprudence into separate schools, the most famous of which are Hanafite, Malikite, Shafiite, and Hanbalite. Nonetheless, an implicit tradition of working towards unity remains, leading Khan to end his article by questioning whether this unwritten principle will take precedence over theological schisms in contemporary legislation.

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