Deciphering the Meaning of Revealed Law : The Sur´shian Paradigm in Shi’i Epistemology
Abstract: This study analyses the major intellectual positions in the philosophical debate on Islamic law that is occuring in contemporary Iran. As the characteristic features of traditional epistemic considerations have a direct bearing on the modern development of Islamic legal thought, the contemporary positions are initially set against the established normative repertory of Islamic tradition. It is within this broad examination of a living legacy of interpretation that the context for the concretisations of traditional as well as modern Islamic learning are enclosed. After the 1979 revolution, the problem of the renewal of Islamic law has acquired great urgency and there is an ongoing debate as to the best legal solutions to many problems facing contemporary society given that there is no clear position under many areas of traditional jurisprudence. Among the pivotal figures who are considered in this respect are primarily Άbdullāh Jawādī-Āmulī (traditionalism), Muḥammad Mujtahid-Shabistarī (modernism) and Άbd al-Karīm Surūsh (postmodernism), but other individuals who belong to the Islamic intellectual elite of Iran are also included. In the main the position of Surūsh is highlighted, since his post-1988 writings on the nature of Islamic law, legal epistemology and hermeneutics accommodate Islam to modernity to an extent unsurpassed in the Iranian context.In light of the relationship between global modernity and the religion of Islam, the purpose of this book is to analyse to what extent these positions and their understanding of questions of epistemology, methodology and hermeneutics are engendered by the cognitive and ontological structures of modernity. The major argument presented is that modernity no longer is categorically conceptualised as an externalphenomenon among many religious intellectuals, but that there is instead an effort on their part to develop indigenous expressions of its driving principles. In an attempt to define some of the contents of a supposed Islamic modernity, this study suggests that Islamic postmodernism has paradigmatic relevance and reflects a thoroughly transitional phenomenon within Shi’i speculation on divine law.
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