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Webinar: Hassaan Shahawy, “Fake Hanafis and Radical Basrans in 9th Century Iraq,” March 8, 2021 @ 6-7:30 EST

March 8 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

From the organizers:

Please join us for our next workshop on Monday, March 8th, 6:00-7:30pm (ET). Hassaan Shahawy (JD Candidate, Harvard Law; PhD in Islamic Law, Oxford) will present an article, entitled “Fake Hanafis and Radical Basrans in 9th Century Iraq.” We’re excited to welcome Omar Abdel-Ghaffar (PhD Candidate, History and Middle Eastern Studies) who will serve as respondent. See below for the paper abstract.

If you would like to attend this session, please RSVP to Lucy (lucy_ballard@mail.harvard.edu) to receive the Zoom link and paper for prior reading.

Shahawy’s abstract:

This article asks a simple question: if early Hanafi doctrine was replete with istihsan (juristic preference), and if al-Shafii declared it impermissible, where are the voices of 9th-century Hanafis responding on the topic? The question implicates many others, like whether al-Shafii was influential in his own time (rehashing an old debate sparked by Wael Hallaq), what it meant to be “Hanafi” in 9th century Iraq, and where to find discourses of legal theory predating the birth of usul al-fiqh.My findings were more exciting than I expected. The article traces two lines of responses to al-Shafii. The first is represented by Bishr al-Marisi, an enigmatic figure remembered both as a leading jurist and as a heretic, whose close personal relationship then dramatic fallout with al-Shafii remains recorded in stunning detail. Not so coincidentally, he also stands out as a Hanafi who accepted al-Shafii’s characterization of istihsan as pure subjectivity and he shockingly rejected istihsan outright. The second line of responses is represented by Basrans like al-Jahiz, Muways b. Imran, and some anonymous later thinkers who develop a surprisingly sophisticated defense of istihsan based on the radical notion that subjectivity is good, and indeed necessary to the proper functioning of the law. This line of thinkers extends into the early 10th century, but only as interlocutors in other texts, illustrating how, despite the dearth of legal theoretical sources available, we can piece together whole schools of thought that did not survive into the classical era.


March 8
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
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