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B03 Canonization and Diversification in Islamic Law and in Arabian Rhetoric in Comparison
The project aims at a comparison of processes of diversification in academic production, which happened in Islamic law (fiqh) and in Arabian rhetoric (balāġa; as in literary studies) during the so-called ‘post-classical’ age (beginning around the 14th century). Processes of canonization in different fields of Arabic productions of knowledge found a conclusion towards the end of the 13th century, so that certain persons and their texts achieved a dominant position thereon and those have been in the main focus of academic discussions since then. Such canonization realizes itself in Islamic law through the development of different ‘schools’ (maḏāhib). In Arabic rhetoric, different approaches merge together as a common theory and its most canonical text, Talḫīṣ al-miftāḥ, becomes the text most commented on (after the Quran) in the Arabic Islamic world. Due to these canonization processes, western Islamic researchers have been working under the apprehension since the 19th century that later developments in the Islamic history of ideas – the so-called postclassical phase – were more or less arrested or stagnant. Such a premise is inextricably linked to the Western narrative of modernization: a stagnant, irrational and religious orient is pitted as Other against a dynamic, rational and secular West. Accordingly, this prejudice of the postclassical age as a time of decadence, has been renegotiated and modified by differently oriented Arab intellectuals. The impact is still palpable today: literary texts of the 14th through the 19th centuries still constitute a bit of a blind spot in Islamic studies.
This is the point of departure for project B03. Following two academic traditions – law and rhetoric in the sense of literary studies – the PIs undertake an empirical analysis of these processes of canonization and relate them to one another. The project is based on the following premises: both the legal and the rhetorical discourses split open into diverse genres in the postclassical age. A diversification process begins that has not been noted so far by other research on the topic. So far, postclassical sources have not been placed within any generic order; this constitutes an oversight that has probably contributed to the thesis that this kind of literature stagnated. The project, on the other hand, postulates that the development towards different genres was concomitant to a diversification in terms of content: the different genres represent different discursive levels that have respectively different functions. While some texts proved stabilizing for the discourse, others made room for more complex positions. The project seeks to establish a comparison of law and rhetoric on the grounds of a theory of genre in order to provide a multidimensional perspective and overcome the established thesis of stagnation. In order to be able to do this, the project covers five distinctive genres: (1) maxim literature; distinction literature and rätselliteratur; (2) responses and tractates; (3) Quran exegesis; (4) legal hermeneutical texts; (5) annotated trope poetry. This way, the PIs seek to demonstrate the dynamics of canonization and diversification in law and rhetoric in comparison.
If this hypothesis holds empirically, one can conclude that canonization processes in law and rhetoric do have a stabilizing effect, yet did not simply end in stagnation or stereotyping. Rather, it might be possible to argue that the collaboration of canonization and diversification prove to be a strategy that lends the discourse stability and flexibility at the same time. Such findings would prove widely influential – even beyond the realms of Islamic law and Arabic rhetoric.
Prof. Dr. Norbert Oberauer – maxim, distinction and rätselliteratur; Jun.-Prof. Dr. Syrinx von Hees – annotated trope poetry. Dr. Hakki Arslan – Rasāʾil and fatwa-literature
Luca Rizzo– Legal hermeneutical texts and balāġa
Dr. Tarek Sabraa – Quran Exegesis