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Prophetic Sunna and Hadith in the Risāla

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Chapter Summary

This chapter concerns Shāfiʿῑ's efforts to ground law in the Sunna, the practice of the Prophet Muḥammad. This chapter treats two aspects of Shāfiʿῑ's discussion of the prophetic Sunna: the authority for using the Sunna as the exclusive supplement to the Qurʾān, and formal criticism of Hadith texts and their chains of transmitters. The impulse to bring order to extra-Qurʾānic materials, unusually strong in Shāfiʿῑ's case, posed a number of problems. These included formulating a credible justification for the use of such materials, ranking them, defining their boundaries, and acknowledging that in some cases lesser materials remained indispensable. The chapter addresses Shāfiʿῑ's responses to these challenges. The evidence of the Risāla generally, and Shāfiʿῑ's comprehensive treatment of the prophetic Sunna in particular, shows that Shāfiʿῑ approached the divine law primarily from the standpoints of structure and epistemology.

Keywords: Hadith; prophetic Sunna; Risāla; Shāfiʿῑ



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