Prefatory Notes on Persian Idioms of Islamic Jurisprudence: Reasoning and Procedures of Law-Making in Premodern Islamicate India
Comparative and Foreign Law
South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies
The essay elaborates on the manuscript tradition of transmission, commentary, and glossing of fiqh or “Islamic jurisprudence” texts in medieval and early-modern juridical culture from the Indian sub-continent. Premodern Muslim jurists composed doctrinal treatises primarily in Arabic, the shared theological language of the ‘ulamā’ or “learned scholars”. However, in the Indian context, Persian too had acquired the status of a language of Islamic law. From the fourteenth century, fatāwā compilations were made in Persian. By seventeenth-century Mughal rule in northern India, sharḥ or “commentary” and ḥāshiya or “super-commentary” in Persian were deployed as a mechanism for pedagogical transmission. Analyzing two extant Persian manuscripts pertaining to the Ḥanafī madhhab or “school” of juridical thought, Fatāwā-i fīrūzshāhī (fourteenth century) and ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq Sajādil Sirhindī’s Sharḥ-i hidāya (seventeenth century), the essay appraises the nature of textual and manuscript practices involved in generating Islamic juridical norms and practices. Examining philological and textual features exhibited internal to these two texts, I argue that fiqh doctrinal writing in the age of post-classical Islamic sciences (twelfth to eighteenth Centuries) had become “hybrid” in style. Rather than indicating tendencies towards a phase of “decline” due to “orthodox” adherence to tradition, such texts of legal genre portray a complex culture of Islamic law-making in the premodern period.