“Hadith and Fiqh in the Ottoman Period Between Egyptian and Rumelian Ḥanafīs, 9th-11th Centuries A.H.” Pages 229-85 in Osmanlı’da İlm-i Hadis. Edited by Zekeriya Güler, Bekir Kuzudişli and Mustafa Celil Altuntaş. Istanbul: İSAR Yayınları, 2020.


This essay contrasts approaches to hadith and fiqh in two Ḥanafī Ottoman schools: the school of Rumelia/Anatolia and the school of Egypt/Syria. It argues that both traditions accommodated significant developments  in their works of legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh) regarding hadith criticism. However, in substantive law – specifically, works of legal commentary – Rumelian/Anatolian authors continued the Classical Ḥanafī approach to hadiths, by (1) not referencing hadiths to well-known hadith collections, (2) by not mentioning traditionist terms (such as ṣaḥīḥ, ḥasan, ḍaʿīf) to show the strength of hadiths quoted, and (3) preferring wordings for hadiths provided by the Ḥanafī commentary tradition over wordings found in well-known hadith collections. Egyptian/Syrian authors, on the other hand, embarked on an ambitious project to provide a new scaffolding for Ḥanafī law that built on the traditionist hadith project. Thus, they typically (1) referenced hadiths to well-known hadith collections, (2) used traditionist terminology to strengthen their hadith evidence, and (3) preferred wordings for hadiths found in well-known hadith collections over the wordings of the Ḥanafī commentary tradition. The essay also presents three examples where Egyptian/Syrian authors preferred a new position in Ḥanafī law based on hadith evidence, examining arguments presented in both Egyptian/Syrian and Rumelian/Anatolian works. The essay concludes that Egyptian/Syrian authors, each in their own way, were responding to and developing on the work of the Egyptian Kamāl al-Dīn ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457), the first author to apply the aforementioned developments in Ḥanafī legal theory to substantive law in a thorough and honest engagement. For further work, the conclusion highlights the need to investigate a larger spread of texts and to investigate rational argumentation in both traditions, due to the interrelation of hadith and qiyās theory in Ḥanafī uṣūl al-fiqh.



This short project was undertaken for a conference on Ottoman hadith studies in Istanbul that took place in December 2019, organised by ISAR, and is published along with the proceedings of the conference. It is my first time researching Ḥanafī thought after the 7th century. I have consciously avoided studying later Ḥanafism precisely because I was aware that there were epistemological developments to bring Ḥanafī thought closer to Shāfiʿī uṣūl al-fiqh on the approach to hadith, and I wanted to fully grasp Cassical Hanafism on its own terms before entering into texts where I expected to see a sort of fusion between aspects of Ḥanafī and Shāfiʿī thought. What fascinated me in this short project was that the approach of Classical Ḥanafism continued on in the Ottoman heartlands, where Ottoman scholars chose not to develop their own works on the lines of their Egyptian/Syrian counterparts. I consider this approach a conscious epistemological stance of these Ottoman scholars, as the texts show that they were fully aware of Ibn al-Humām’s project but did not contribute to it. This suggests that there was no break between early and late Ḥanafism (as I had previously anticipated), but rather that in the particular geographical location of Egypt and Syria a fascinating project took place. The authors that contributed to that project were highly regarded by their Rumelian counterparts, who quoted their works and benefitted from their legal insights, but who also chose not to participate in the key feature of the Egyptian project, namely, re-imagining the scaffolding that upholds Ḥanafī law.

Download: Sohail Hanif – Hadith and Fiqh in the Ottoman Period Between Egyptian and Rumelian Hanafis

A summary of the paper was presented for Irshad Classes on December 5th, 2020, which can be found here.

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