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The Legal Status Of Science In The Muslim World In The Early Modern Period: An Initial Consideration Of Fatwās From Three Maghribī Sources

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Chapter Summary

The following discussion examines the place that natural science (chiefly astronomy and medicine) occupied in three of the most important collections of legal opinions ( fatwa pl. fatawa) in the Muslim West during the late medieval and early modern periods: the collections of al-Burzuli (d. 841/1438), al-Wansharisi (d. 914/1508), and al-Wazzani (d. 1342/1923). Instead of representing editions of the author's own al-Wazzani, these collections contain selections from the legal decisions of hundreds of jurists over a substantial period of time. In this way, they offer valuable windows into the nature and variety of legal practice in the Muslim West in the post-formative and early modern periods. While acknowledging that science is notoriously difficult to define, for the purpose of this paper, it has been chosen to frame scientific practices as those that, among other things, constituted an alternative form of authority to that professed by legal scholars.

Keywords: al-Burzulī; al-Wansharīsī early modern periods; fatwā Muslim West; natural science



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