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Shāfi῾ī's Epistemology

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Chapter Summary

One could characterize Shāfiʿῑ's entire legal theory as a solution to an epistemological problem, namely that epistemically ideal conditions do not always obtain. When they are not present, rather than allowing for knowledge of the transcendent, divine law to lapse or rest on some criterion other than a revealed text Shāfiʿῑ's opts to rely on the subjective situation of individuals who belong to a class of specialists, even when they do not know the law in a given case. Thus Shāfiʿῑ's legal epistemology forms a particularly important part of the argument presented in the Risāla. It ties together his theory of law and revelation, that they are coextensive and both individually and mutually non-contradictory, with his plea for the absolute indispensability of a class of experts.

Keywords: epistemology; Shāfiʿῑ's

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