Roundtable on Islamic Legal History and Historiography: Week in Review

On December 10, 2020, the Islamic Law Blog launched its Roundtable on Islamic Legal History & Historiography: Methods and Meaning in Islamic Law, edited by Intisar Rabb (Editor-in-Chief) and Mariam Sheibani (Lead Blog Editor). The Roundtable’s inaugural introductory essay Methods and Meaning in Islamic Law: Introduction,” is authored by Intisar Rabb, who succinctly introduces the themes and purpose of the roundtable, highlighting the most significant developments in the field from the mid-19th century to the present. Launched in December 2020, the Roundtable will continue through January 2021, and culminate in a live discussion in March via Zoom. This week, we featured one essay. Here it is below in case you missed it:

The nineteenth contribution, entitled “Islamic Law from the Internal Point of View” is by Haider Hamoudi (University of Pittsburgh). Hamoudi notes the different perspectives lawyers and historians employ in making sense of the law. Invoking H.L.A. Hart’s famous distinction between “internal” and “external” points of view with respect to law and legal rules, Hamoudi describes lawyers as primarily adopting the former, and historians, the latter point of view. This is not to suggest that lawyers do not take history into consideration, but rather to mean that when they do, their focus is results oriented in that they use history to understand the ultimate endpoint, the contemporaneous meaning of a legal rule or institution. Hamoudi observes two consequences emanating from lawyers’ adoption of the internal view that puts lawyers somewhat at odds with the demands of historical method and meaning. While deliberately omitting discussion on the normative desirability of either method, Hamoudi concludes by observing value in merely pointing out the differences between the internal and external viewpoints of law and history, respectively, to help expose “our own biases and assumptions.”

Please join us in thanking our contributing scholar, Haider Hamoudi for his thought-provoking contribution. Next week we look forward to publishing new essay contributions to the Roundtable. Stay tuned!

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