Borrowings, Influences, and Comparability: The Case of Islamic Law
AbstractThis article analyses an orientalist debate on influence of foreign laws on Islamic law and compares the arguments of proponents and opponents of this proposition. From Adrian Reland (1676–1718) to Joseph E. David many Orientalist scholars have remained engaged in proving that Islamic law is a deficient legal system, which could not have evolved out of parthenogenesis. They have brought forward resemblances of Islamic law to Jewish, Canon, Roman, and Roman Provincial law. They claim that Islamic law has been influenced by these foreign legal systems during its formative phase and has borrowed from them extensively. Such assumptions by Sheldon Amos, Goldziher, Schacht, Wegner, and Crone have been rebutted and invalidated by Fitzgerald, Ansari, Niazi, Hallaq, and Motzki. As the discussion gets intense Joseph E. David highlights that comparative study of Islamic legal tradition is largely led by curiosity about influences and borrowings rather than considering the wider question of comparability and striving to have a better understanding of compared systems. An analysis of the arguments of proponents of the notion that Islamic law is influenced by foreign legal systems reveals the weakness and inconsistency of their thesis.
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