The Book of Scales


Kitāb al-mīzān (The book of scales) is a compendium of Islamic legal principles and practice by ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Shaʻrani, an Egyptian scholar, prolific writer, and Sufi leader of 16th century Egypt. Rather than the usual compilation of legal rules based on one or another of the major Islamic schools of law, Kitāb al-mīzān is an argument for reconciliation among the four Sunni legal approaches. It emphasizes the similarities rather than the differences between these schools. Introspection is a characteristic of al-Shaʻrani’s writing. This work begins with a long and personal essay addressed directly to his readers, in which he urges them to approach his innovative ideas with an open mind. What follows is a catalog of religious obligations relating to subjects ranging from prayer to pilgrimage to prescribed conduct in marriage, in which he emphasizes the agreement of the four Imams, Abu Hanifah (died 767 or 768), Malik ibn Anas (died 795), al-Shafiʻi (died 820), and Ibn Hanbal (died 855). To assist readers in conceptualizing the unity of the schools, the author, or perhaps the editor, has included eight diagrams illustrating the interpretations of the schools in relation to scripture and hadith. Al-Shaʻrani has been criticized by some scholars for ignoring key differences among the schools of law. Despite such critiques, he is hailed as an original thinker, perhaps the last to appear in Egypt from the time of the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517 until the early 19th century reforms of Muhammad ‘Ali Basha (died 1849). Al-Shaʻrani himself adhered to the Shafiʻi school of law. He was a Sufi adept and founded an order that was practiced for two centuries. The work is in two volumes with indexes. It was prepared for publication by Hasan al-‘Adawi al-Hamzawi of al-Azhar and was printed in Cairo. The volumes are from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

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Title in Original Language

كتاب الميزان

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes in 1 book ; 27 centimeters


  1. Winter, Michael, Society and Religion in Early Ottoman Egypt: Studies in the Writing of ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 2009)

Last updated: May 9, 2016