Dead tradition: Joseph Schacht and the origins of "popular Practice"

Maghen Ze'Ev

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16 Scopus citations


The theories of Joseph Schacht regarding the provenance and development of Islamic jurisprudence have been as widely criticized as they have been deeply influential. Schacht's detractors have, for the most part, taken issue with his modern version of intiqäd al-rijäl (criticism of hadith transmitters), by means of which he claimed to turn the previously accepted chronology of early Islamic legal evolution-Allah-Muhammad-Companions -Followers -fiqh-on its head. However, neither critics nor supporters of Schacht are wont to inquire into a more fundamental question: if prophetic exempla and scriptural dicta are, on Schacht's view, only secondary contributors to the formation of sharl'a, what then is the ultimate source of the "living tradition" and "popular practice" to which he assigns the primary role in that enterprise? This essay attempts to elicit a straightforward answer to that question from Schacht's elusive writings on the subject, and then puts that answer to the test with the help of two of the rare instances in which Schacht commits himself on this score regarding specific legal issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-347
Number of pages72
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2003


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