Monthly Lectures on Islamic Legal Genres (5)


This talk explores how legal treatises (rasāʾil) were essential sites for the development and expansion of Islamic legal schools’ (madhāhib) positions. I propose that rasāʾil along with legal edicts (fatāwā)––besides legal commentaries (shurūḥ) and manuals (mutūn)––were the prime loci where jurists had to contend with rapid social, political, and economic changes. Although these legal treatises were written to address specific sociolegal issues, I argue that the treatise­­––as a separate genre––provided a creative space for jurists to reaffirm, restate, or advance new opinions in the school. I propose that legal treatises were carefully considered and extensively referenced in the authoritative works of the school for their updated legal positions, practical utility for judges in courts, and relevance for official policy purposes.

The presentation is part of a monthly lecture series organized by the Project “Canonization and Diversification in Islamic Law and in Arabian Rhetoric in Comparison” situated in the collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1385) at the Münster University, in cooperation with Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty of Theology at Istanbul University.

The recordings of the first four lectures are online available:

Murteza Bedir, Istanbul University: “Form, Function and Historical Development of uṣūl al-fiqh as a Genre

Mohammad Fadel, Toronto University: “Form, Function and Historical Development of muḫtaṣar as a Genre

Sohail Hanif, Cambridge Muslim College: “Form, Function and Historical Development of the sharh-Literature as a Genre. A Quantitative and Qualitative Study

Ahmed El Shamsy, University of Chicago: What kind of thing is a gloss (hashiya)?

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