Rethinking the Taqlīd Hegemony A Conceptual-Historical Approach

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Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim

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The primary and secondary sources of Islamic law often assume a binary distinction between ijtihād and taqlīd, ignoring a third level of engagement with the sources, which was conceptualized by some jurists as forming a distinct category. In this article I discuss the evolution of the terms ijtihād, taqlīd, and ittibāʿ, using a conceptual-historical approach (Begriffsgeschichte). I argue that the use of taqlīd to mean “precedent-following” did not emerge as a technical term until after the time of al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204/820). The distinction between precedent-following (taqlīd) and verifiable-following (ittibāʿ) did not appear in legal discourse until the time of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 241/855). I also demonstrate that there were three approaches to these terms in legal discourse after the time of Ibn Ḥanbal, with three groups of jurists defining them in ways that advanced their different visions of law-making. I conclude with a discussion of the debate over the meanings of these terms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.




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