May 9, 2016

The Exhaustive Opinion on Unorthodox and Successive Divorces

Al-Qawl al-jāmiʻ fī al-ṭalāq (The exhaustive opinion on unorthodox and successive divorces) is a counter-treatise on ṭalaq (divorce) in Islamic jurisprudence by Egyptian jurist Muhammad Bakhit al-Mutiʻi (1856‒1935), a scholar who taught at al-Azhar in Cairo. It is a response to an unnamed “writer of the treatise on divorce in Islam published in al-Muayyid newspaper, issue 3664, on Saturday, 16 Safar, 1320 [May 24, 1902].” Al-Mutiʻi harshly criticizes the unnamed writer for having “encroached upon Islamic sharia” and “waded into a question that both early and contemporary scholars have exhausted.” At issue is whether two particular types of unusual divorce are legal: the mutatabiʻ (successive) and the bidʻi (unorthodox). In a successive divorce, utterance of the talaq the maximum three times, a step necessary to initiate the divorce process, is done at once, with the aim of avoiding reconciliation. The bidʻi (unorthodox) divorce, on the other hand, is seen as invalid because it does not meet all the conditions stipulated by sharia for a legal divorce. While the author of the original treatise was not mentioned by name, some references by al-Mutiʻi suggest that he might have been an adherent of a Shiite school of jurisprudence. His opinion was said to have been based on the reasoning of the rawafid (naysayers), a pejorative term used by some Sunnis to refer to Shiites. Al-Mutiʻi also criticizes the author for criticizing Caliph Umar, a revered Sunni figure unpopular among Shiites. Al-Mutiʻi divides his treatise into three “introductions” meant to serve as a background and to make his opinion exhaustive. He concludes with a summary of his rebuttal. Founded in circa 972, al-Azhar is the oldest degree-granting Sunni institution in Egypt. The copy of the book presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Treatises on Religious Endowments

Rasāʼil fī al-waqf (Treatises on religious endowments) is a collection of seven articles addressing different aspects of waqf (Islamic religious endowments) in early 20th century Egypt. The articles originally were published in al-Muqattam newspaper between January 1902 and November 1906. The author, ʻAziiz Khankī Bey (1873‒1956), was an Egyptian lawyer and historian of Syrian and Armenian descent. He studied law at the Madrasat al-huquq (The Law School, since 1925 a part of Cairo University), and Islamic jurisprudence at al-Azhar, also in Cairo. He was part of the intellectual circle around jurist and reformer Muhammad ʻAbduh (1849‒1905) and is credited with founding the Egyptian Bar Association in 1912. The first three treatises explore the legal tug-of-war over waqf jurisdiction between local and sharia courts in Egypt. The fourth and fifth treatises discuss the early history of waqf, beginning with the time of the Prophet Muhammad, his immediate successors (caliphs), and early scholars of Islamic jurisprudence. The sixth and seventh treatises evaluate waqf laws and asset management in Egypt at the time, with a critical assessment of best and worst practices. The booklet is arguably the first of its kind to discuss waqf in its four main aspects, namely historical, religious, legal, and urban planning. In his conclusion, the author recommends that waqf laws be modernized, and that Muslim charitable giving in Egypt be combined with that of Christians so that it can be more effective and better serve the needs of the society. Published in 1907, the copy presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Administration of Justice in Islam

Al-Qaḍāʼ fī al-Islām (Administration of justice in Islam) contains the text of a lecture by judge, social reformer, and Arab nationalist ʻArif al-Nakadi (1887‒1975). The lecture was delivered on July 29, 1921, to the club of the Arab Academy of Damascus, of which al-Nakadi was a member. It discusses the qada (administration of justice) in Islam, focusing on the development of the judicial process throughout Islamic history, including the development of legal opinion and the emergence of the various schools of jurisprudence. Al-Nakadi presents his arguments in terms of historical “pivots” by examining the administration of justice among the pre-Islamic Arabs, during the time of Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors, and later during the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, when the Islamic empire expanded to include peoples and legal traditions outside Arabia. These pivots also relate to specifications for the proper conduct and qualifications of judges, the awesome responsibility of judges and their role in public life, and the comparison between Islamic laws and modern laws. Al-Nakadi weaves into his lecture the four sources of the administration of justice in Islam, namely the Qur’an, the Sunnah (traditions of Prophet Muhammad), the ijmaʿ (scholarly consensus of opinion), and the qiyas (analogical reasoning). The latter is considered by scholars a variant of the general concept of ijtihad (independent reasoning). A Druze of Lebanese origin, al-Nakadi played an important role in the 1925‒27 Sultan Pasha al-Atrash Revolt against the French, also known as the Great Syrian Revolt or the Great Druze Revolt. Published in 1922, this copy of the booklet is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Understanding the Terminology of Bequests and Explaining the Division among Eligible Recipients

Yahya ibn Muhammad al-Ḥattab al-Ruʻayni (circa 1496‒circa 1587) was a mathematician, astronomer, and Maliki jurist. He was born in Mecca into a learned family of Maghrebi descent; his father Muhammad was likewise a mathematician and astronomer. A formidable author in his own right, Yahya is probably best known for his Irshād al-sā’lik al-muḥtāj ilá bayān afʻāl al-muʻtamir wa al-hāj (A guide to the rituals of Umra and Hajj). He also wrote on the sine quadrant and parallel circles, commenting on works by his father, as well as by astronomer and mathematician Sibt al-Maridini (born 1423). Presented here is Sharḥ alfāẓ al-wāqifīn wa-al-qismah ʻalá al-mustaḥiqqīn (Understanding the terminology of bequests and explaining the division among eligible recipients), a treatise on waqf (religious endowments). It consists of two parts: a glossary explaining the legal terminology used in the field, and a “conclusion” specifying the eligibility for recipients of waqf. The glossary is comprised of 13 terms and concepts, with long tanbihat (explanatory notes) that shed additional light on each term. The conclusion contains three chapters, with the first on the laws governing endowments, the second on the maturity dates of endowments, and the third on how endowment revenues should be divided among recipients. The Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence is named after Imam Malik ibn Anas, who was born and died in Medina (present-day Saudi Arabia), the burial city of the Prophet Muhammad. Malik is sometimes referred to as the Imam of the Abode of Emigration. The Maliki school is dominant among Sunni Muslims of North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The convergence of religious jurisprudence with mathematics and astronomy in the Islamic sciences is largely driven by the need of the faithful to fulfill their religious obligations. These include the proper distribution of alms and inheritance, the accurate calculation of prayer times, determining the correct direction of prayer toward Mecca, and knowing the beginning and end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Published in 1923, the copy presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

The Boat of the Wader into the Science of Inheritance Shares

The versification of complex subjects to make them more understandable to students and readers used to be a common practice among Arab authors. From mathematics to grammar to jurisprudence, versification was used to make it easier to remember the rules governing a certain subject or to explain scientific concepts by taking advantage of the popularity of poetry in Arabic intellectual life. In practice, however, the use of versification posed certain challenges. While it helped bring the subject to a wider audience, substantive details sometimes were lost or not sufficiently explained due to the need of the versifier to choose words adhering to the strict meters of traditional Arabic poetry. To mitigate this problem, versifiers almost always chose to compose in the meter (or sea) of rajaz, sometimes dubbed the “donkey of poets” for being the easiest to “ride” among the 16 major meters in traditional Arabic prosody. The poems written in rajaz are called arajiz (singular urjuzah). As a result, many arajiz became the subject of commentaries. Shown here is Zawraq al-khāʻiḍ fī ʻilm al-farāʻiḍ (The boat of the wader into the science of inheritance shares), a commentary by Ahmad ibn Anjak, a Senegalese Muslim scholar about whom little is known. He was a contemporary of the Fez-based judge Muhammad ibn al-‘Arabi al-‘Alawi (1880‒1964). The commentary is presented together with the text of the original urjuzah, composed by Muhammad ibn al-Mukhtar ibn Hamid al-Qalawi, another scholar of Maghrebi descent about whom not much is known. According to an afterword by the publisher, the commentary was first published as a lithograph in Fez, probably several years before the second edition of 1926 shown here, and received praise from judge al-‘Alawi and other readers. When the original versification was composed is not known. Both the poem and the commentary stand out as examples of the scholastic ties between North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The copy of the book presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Rules of Inheritance

Aḥkām al-mawārīth (Rules of inheritance) is a textbook on Islamic law regulating the inheritance of money and property. The book’s author, Muhammad Muhyi al-Din ‘Abd al-Hamid (died 1972), was a lecturer at al-Azhar in Cairo and the Higher Academy of Law in Khartoum, Sudan, and a widely published scholar in Islamic heritage subjects. In his introduction ‘Abd al-Hamid explains that the foundations of the laws of inheritance are, first, the Qur’an, next the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad, and third the determination of jurists. In Islamic law, ‘ilm al-farā’iḍ (the science of canonical distribution of money and property) is based on the prescriptions in chapter four of the Qurʼan. In this one-volume introductory textbook, the author discusses the main points of the law as they pertain to the list of eligible heirs. He leaves it up to the students to follow the specialized debates and variant interpretations in the classical works of jurisprudence, which he cites in footnotes. The author was born in Egypt and taught there and in the Sudan. He is well known for his teaching and writing in Islamic studies and Arabic language; it was in fact said of him that “in all the world there is hardly a student of Arabic who has not been his student.” Published in 1943, the copy of the book presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.