To Most Likely Know the Law: Objectivity, Authority, and Interpretation in Islamic Law

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Abstract: This article addresses the implications of interpretation on objectivity and authority in Islamic law. Premodern Muslim jurists developed a jurisprudence that acknowledged the inevitability of interpreting in the law. Their jurisprudence concentrated on how to legitimate interpretive agency and offer standards of evaluation for a legal system whose ultimate authority rests on a theological commitment to God as sovereign. The issues of objectivity and authority in the law are hardly unique to the Islamic legal tradition.
Indeed, if there is a distinct contribution that this study offers, in addition to explicating the various Islamic legal theories, it is that however a legal system’s sovereign is understood, similar questions about objectivity and authority will arise in legal systems. Whether the sovereign is God or the state, the issue of interpretation remains of central concern.

Biography: Anver M Emon is assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, and specializes in premodern Islamic legal history and theory.  He is the founding editor of Middle East Law and Governance, and the author of Islamic Natural Law Theories (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Volume 4, Number 4 (Fall 2009) pp. 415–440