The main main purpose of the book was to counter the rather simplistic view of the discipline of usul al-fiqh that it represents a single uniform theory, called the classical theory. The view presented in this book was that there is no uniform single legal theory in Islam. The view of a uniform theory was held not only by the Orientalists, but many Muslim scholars as well. The view did not do justice to Islamic jurisprudence for it overlooked the rich diversity found in the Islamic legl system. Instead of one, the book shows, there are at least three legal theories, each of which has been explained by the author in some detail and with remarkable lucidity. Each of these theories has played a useful role in the past and each can play even today a vital role in the development of Islamic law. Another purpose was to explain the paradox of the so-called rigidity of Islamic law at the theoretical level accompanied with a perceptible degree of laxity in practice.
The author forcefully argued that the Islamic Legal system comprises two cooperating spheres. The first sphere is relatively fixed since it is focused on given texts. This sphere falls within the domain of the jurists. The other sphere, which draws upon the general principles of Islamic law, regulates the law made by the state. These are separate but complementary spheres. Neither is the relative fixity of the first sphere a manifestation of the Muslim jurists' mental rigidity. Nor is the flexibility of the second sphere the manifestation of any cynical disregard of the revealed texts on the part of the rulers. The book has been influential in many other ways, and has given rise to research in several new directions. First published in 1994, it is still used by teachers, researchers, university students and general readers.
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