The Relevance of Islamic Law to Non-Muslims in Muslim Juridical Sources
A standard question in early and medieval works of uṣūl al-fiqh (the theory and principles of Islamic jurisprudence) was whether non-Muslims were addressed by the specific rules of Islamic law and meant to abide by them. Despite some evidence that it was rooted in legal issues that early Muslim societies faced, a later trend in uṣūl al-fiqh turned it into a rather pedantic subject irrelevant to real life in these societies, as some notable Muslim jurists believed it to be. By examining how the question was discussed prior to the rise of the Ottoman and modern legal systems, this article argues that it likely originated in early discussions of real cases from everyday life in Muslim societies, an origin that was later obscured by abstract legal and theological discussions that nearly severed it from that early context and turned it into an offshoot of broader, mostly theoretical issues. This study examines that likely origin of the question, which contributes to our understanding of not only the question itself, but also the extent to which issues of uṣūl al-fiqh were related to actual considerations, even when they seemed only part of theoretical debates.
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