What Is Islamic law: A praxiological answer and an Egyptian case studyReport as inadecuate

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1 ISP - Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique

Abstract : In this article, I first criticize commonly held assumptions about what Islamic law is. I suggest that it is at best useless and at worst wrong to start with a label like -Islamic law- to describe something that is presumed to be an instance of such a label. I identify the source of confusion, i.e. the postulate that there must be a kind of genealogical continuity between what people refer to as Islamic law and Islamic law as it is found in the heterogeneous legacy of sharî-a and fiqh treatises. My contention is that Islamic law is what people consider as Islamic law, nothing more, nothing less, and that it is up to theologians, believers and citizens, not social scientists, to decide whether something does conform or not to some -grand tradition-. Second, I argue that instead of looking at the hypothetical Islamic-law model, which something like Egyptian personal status law would be an instance of, the task of social scientists is, rather, to describe the situations, the mechanisms and the processes through which people orient themselves to something they call -Islamic law-. This position is grounded on a principle of indifference that seeks to avoid any normative and evaluative engagement: the focus is put on the description of practices, not on their evaluation. Moreover, this position is based upon the refusal of any ironical standpoint. In other words, it denies that social scientists occupy any kind of overhanging position vis-a-vis the social that would allow them to -reveal- to -self-deceived people- the truth that is concealed from them because of their -lack of critical distance- -ignorance- and-or -bad faith-. Third, I ground this praxiological re-specification in examples drawn from Egyptian judicial activity in the field of personal status.

Keywords : Egypt ethnomethodology Islamic law law in action legal orientalism personal status praxiological sociology

Author: Baudouin Dupret -

Source: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/


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