Berlin Institute for Islamic Theology

The Working Group for Islamic Philosophy of Law

The Working Group “Islamic Philosophy of Law” (IPL) aims to promote the interdisciplinary study of Islamic philosophy of law. In doing so, it will elaborate how the traditional Islamic sciences that engage with questions related to the philosophy of law could be brought together and form a new discipline called “Islamic philosophy of law”. Thus far, philosophy of law as a discipline has not occupied a prominent place in the traditional Islamic order of knowledge. Subjects relevant to it are discussed mainly in legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh), in addition to disciplines such as systematic theology (kalām), philosophy (falsafa), exegesis (tafsīr), and Hadith commentary. This working group will bring the different discourses relevant to philosophy of law in the Islamic tradition into conversation with the broader scope of academic disciplines at Humboldt University such as the faculties of law, philosophy, and theology.

Questions pertinent to the Islamic philosophy of law have direct implications for scholarly as well as societal developments. For instance, question of the “Islamicity” of actions under contemporary circumstances is one of the research topics directly linked to broader societal questions in Germany and Europe. The Group’s research projects and conferences will influence the ongoing debates concerning the contemporary normativity of the Muslim traditions with regard to their theological legitimation. Furthermore, the activities envisioned for the Group will contribute to the development of Islamic Theology in Germany and to the formation of a comprehensible “theological language” under secular circumstances.

 

The leading questions of the Working Group are focused around a number of salient themes:

Islamic Philosophy of Law
What is law? What is jurisprudence? What makes a jurisprudential system “Islamic”? Is the traditional discipline of uṣūl al-fiqh best seen as jurisprudence, legal theory, legal philosophy, a form of theology? What is the relation of uṣūl al-fiqh to ‘secular’ philosophy of law? What is the relation between uṣūl al-fiqh to other disciplines of Islamic scholarly tradition such as falsafa and kalām? How might the legal theoretical tradition be restructured, going beyond uṣūl al-fiqh, and aiming at a comprehensive legal philosophy in its modern sense?
Epistemology
According to the Islamic tradition, what epistemological capacities do humans have? How can legal plurality be justified? What are some of the ways in which Muslim thinkers have conceptualised knowledge in general and legal knowledge in particular? What distinguishes a religious epistemology from a ‘purely’ philosophical one? What are their perceived limits and possibilities?
Hermeneutics
Which methods of interpreting religious scriptures are justified under contemporary conditions and in light of the current state of knowledge? What is the relation between classical hermeneutics and modern theories in the fields of linguistics and philosophy of language? What are some of the ways of making sense of the traditional methods and investigating their relevance for contemporary discussion?
Ethics
What is the relationship between law and ethics in the past and present? What makes an ethics “Islamic”?
Authority
How can religiously justified actions be implemented under a secular legal system? Who is authorized to issue instructions for the theological needs of Muslims? How is “tradition” to be determined given that contemporary scholars often use it as a legitimizing reference for their opinions?
 

 

The Working Group is going to organize international conferences, periodical workshops and reading groups in order to work on the above-mentioned research areas.

The inaugural conference, “Departure for the Construction of Islamic Philosophy of Law: Obstacles, Challenges and Solutions”, will be held in May 27-28 2022. Conference Programme

A books series on Islamic Philosophy of Law will provide a platform for pioneering publications in this research field. A weblog will inform the wider interested audience about the research results.