21 Islamic L. & Soc'y 209 (2014)
An Epistemic Shift in Islamic Law

handle is hein.journals/islamls21 and id is 217 raw text is: ISLAMIC LAW AND SOCIETY 21 (2014) 209-251      Islamic Law
and
Society
BRILL                                                             brill.com/ils
An Epistemic Shift in Islamic Law
Educational Reform at al-Azhar and Ddr al-Vim
Aria Nakissa
University of Winnipeg
arianakissa@gmailcom
Abstract
In this article, I combine textual research with ethnographic data collected at al-Azhar
and Dir al-'Ulim to investigate how the modernization of traditional religious learning
has transformed the character of Islamic legal doctrine. I argue that changes in educa-
tional techniques have produced a shift in episteme. Whereas traditional religious
learning was dominated by language-based conceptions of knowledge, modern reforms
have reoriented education towards new conceptions modeled on the natural sciences.
This transformation has fundamentally altered patterns of legal reasoning, particularly
with respect to ijtihdd and taqlid. I use these observations to urge a rethinking of the
perspectives on ytihdd and taqld that currently structure Western research on Islamic
legal history.
Keywords
Islamic law - ytihad - taqlid - Egypt - al-Azhar - education - modernization -
episteme
* The author wishes to thank Asad Ahmed, Talal Asad, Steven Caton, Carl Sharif El-Tobgui,
BaberJohansen, Brinkley Messick, Ahmed Ragab, Kirsten Wesselhoeft, and Malika Zeghal for
their comments on earlier versions of this article; Fulbright and Brandeis University's Crown
Center for their generous financial support; and David Powers for his tireless and invaluable
assistance in improving the manuscript.

@ KONINKLIJKE BRILL NV, LEIDEN, 2014  DOI 10.1163/15685195-00213PO2

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