Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim

  • Fellowship Dates 2009-2010
  • Research Topic Legal School Boundaries and Eclecticism in 18th-Century Cairo
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Georgetown University
In Sunni Islamic law, talfiq is any departure from the doctrine of one's school of law in order to draw legal rulings from other Sunni schools. The common wisdom is that this legal technique was made lawful only in the 19th century, where legislators drew on the four Sunni schools to write codes that were more compatible with modernity. Talfiq is thus considered one of the most important hallmarks of legal modernization. This research considers whether talfiq existed in theory and practice in 18th-century Cairo prior to the 19th-century legal reforms. It hypothesizes that, contrary to the common historical view, talfiq was considered lawful prior to nineteenth-century legal reforms and argues that talfiq should be seen as part of a continuous evolutionary process already underway in the 18th century, not as a 19th-century, European-inspired phenomenon. This research addresses misperceptions and demonstrates that in 18th-century legal theory, talfiq was considered lawful and signals a departure from the classical doctrine. This is not yet captured in legal studies, partly due to the paucity of research on the 18th century generally and on talfiq in particular. Additionally, it considers the practical aspect of talfiq to find whether the permissive attitude found in the theoretical literature of the 18th century corresponds to the actual practice of the courts. This aspect is particularly important since most studies of Islamic legal history focus on legal theory, with few studies using court records for evidence of how the law functioned in actual practice.

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