I owe the idea of this website to Nicolette van der Hoek, acquisitions editor at Brill, who kindly took the time to explain Brill’s copyright rules to me at the book stalls of the 2018 convention of the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS), held at University of Nottingham.

Nicolette explained that I would only be permitted to share my published articles if they were stored on a personal website, not a commercial site like academia.edu or even my faculty page at Cambridge Muslim College, where I lecture on Islamic law. I had only two publications to share, an article and book chapter, but I felt I needed to make a personal website to share my current work and plan for my future publications. However, my typical snail-like progression through my personal projects meant that the fruition of this intention has only come now, more than two years later, and even then, it only came to happen after a chance conversation with Altaf Kazi, my old colleague from the National Zakat Foundation, who put me in touch with Imran Ahmad of Igrafiks, who has very kindly put together this site for me, jazāhum Allāh khayran.

Other Activities

I hope that this site will help me overcome a somewhat lazy and highly disorganised disposition, whereby I rarely get around to reading and studying if not in the context of a project or producing a particular form of output. I hope that by treating this site as a project, I can trick myself into finally reading and reflecting on material that I’ve wanted to tackle for a long time. Let’s see if the trick works! To this end, there are a few sections that I have added.

Readings is where I hope to record readings of texts that will hopefully feed into my current and future projects. I will start with readings of pietistic anafī works, commencing with Imām Zadeh al-Jūghī’s Shirʿat al-Islām. I hope also to place here summaries of books I have read.

Reflections is where I can record thoughts that I would like to develop further, as well as quotations from books that I find of interest.

Lessons is dedicated, not to my research area, but to my mentor in Arabic and tafsīr, Shaykh ʿAlī Hānī al-ʿAqarbāwī, who has urged me teach tafsīr, and I realise that I owe it to him to comply with this request. I hope to summarise his own lessons in balagha and tafsīr research, and then present readings in the tafsīrs of al-Jalālayn and al-Nasafī, as he has suggested. These will be presented as free resources for people who are already students of Arabic and tafsīr; I do not plan here to record lectures for a wider public.

Writings presents not just my academic writings, but also non-academic writings that I feel might be of general interest. Each piece of writing is on its own page where readers are invited to leave comments and engage critically. I am occasionally slow with emails and messages, but hope not to leave messages unanswered for too long.

Presentations presents abstracts and reflections on conference papers I have given.

Lectures is where I give links and reflections on talks that I have given that can contribute to the discussions on this site.

And, of course, Contact is about you. If you want to get in touch and discuss, I’d be very happy to hear from you. I hope to engage both academics and practitioners of anafī law with this page and look forward to learning from you all.

I ask God almighty to accept and bless.

Sohail Hanif


29th July, 2020

My Research

My academic research is in the area I call ‘anafism’. I suspect some people might feel uncomfortable with the label and its possible sectarian ring. However, I feel compelled to call it anafism, and not simply Islamic law or anafī law, as my work studies the school of Abū anīfa (d. 150/767) (God have mercy on him) from the point of view of its presenting a complete thought system, with its own theological underpinnings, its own conception of tradition, its own understanding of the role of the human mind in comprehending God’s law and its own framing of the role of fiqh (jurisprudence) and fuqahāʾ (jurisprudents) in society.

My primary interest is in anafī scholarship between the 5th and 8th Islamic centuries, for reasons I will hopefully explain elsewhere on this site. My DPhil thesis [HYPERLINK] attempts to present the key underpinning ideas of this thought system, and their implications on how to approach classical works of legal commentary. I am grateful to the BRAIS-De Gruyter prize committee for their selecting my thesis as a joint winner for the 2018 prize [HYPERLINK] (an honour I shared with my dear friend Sam Ross, whose thesis studied Bible references in tafsīr literature). In addition to investigating the legal implications of my work, I also plan to explore notions of piety amongst anafīs, particularly until the 8th Islamic century, and theological underpinnings of anafī thought, as these would help me assess one of my contentions, namely, that anafīsm points to a way of being in the world.

I feel that my work is important, both to academics and committed Muslims, because it shows how classical Islamic texts exist within complex thought systems that must be fully appreciated on their own terms for us to truly understand what these texts are conveying to us and what their possible implications can be for today’s world. I hope that, by sharing my research here, I will have the opportunity to frame my academic contributions and explain why they are important to me, and also reflect on the limitations of my work. I hope throughout to benefit from contributions and critiques from anyone willing to read and comment on the work presented.