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 twentieth contribution, titled “Measuring interpretive authority: a methodological reflection” is by Irene K. F. Kirchner (Georgetown University). The essay starts with a daunting query: what is Islamic law and who decides in the online world of cryptocurrency? This question “is very much a methodological one,” as answering it requires a determination of authority: what voices matter for resolving novel legal questions, including those introduced by developments in new technology and data science. To provide one method of answering this question, Kirchner turns to her own work on the permissibility of cryptocurrencies under modern interpretations of Islamic law. She proposes using measures of popularity and availability to inform the field. Though she is conscious of the implicit assumptions in her reliance on online search engines to locate primary and secondary sources of relevant laws commenting on cryptocurrencies, Kirchner nevertheless proposes that search engines provide more flexible and accurate answers compared to manual subject tags, especially when it comes to measuring popularity and availability.

Please join us in thanking our contributing scholar, Irene K. F. Kirchner for her thought-provoking contribution. Next week we look forward to publishing new essay contributions to the Roundtable. Stay tuned!

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