Modern Intellectual Approaches to Islamic Law
This article deals with creative proposals by four contemporary authors who promoted reform either from within the shari’ah or by borrowing methods such as empiricism and hermeneutics beyond the conventional scope of the shari’ah. To revive the forgotten sphere of Islamic public law, Mohammad Hashim Kamali puts forth the idea of identifying Islamic notions of ijma’, shura and ijtihad with modern statutory law and government ordinances. Abd al-Hamid Abu Sulayman proposes that the application of Islamic legal norms (ahkam) must be aligned within space-time considerations, which centre on two principles of necessity and fine-tuning (talfiq). Taha Jabir al-Alwani signifies the important role that knowledge of ‘rational priorities’ (‘ilm al-awlawiyyat) can play in balancing and stabilising Islamic jurisprudence. He extends the scope of ijtihad in such broad sense to bring the higher objectives of the shari’ah into account to conform to timely requirements. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is one of the first Muslim scholars to approach the shari’ah by applying modern hermeneutics as a method of inquiry into the interpretation of legal texts. The modern hermeneutics, he believes, opens the gate for new understandings to update Islamic law.