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The Legal Hermeneutics of Al-shāfi'ī and Ibn Qutayba: A Reconsideration*

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In a 1993 monograph Norman Calder argued that Shāfi ī's (d. 204/820) Risāla must be a product of the early fourth/tenth centuries. Calder's argument, which has not been seriously challenged, rested mostly on a comparison of the Risāla's hermeneutic techniques with those of Ibn Qutayba's (d. 276/889) Ta wīl mukhtalif al-hadīth. A comparison of these two works shows that the evidence is much more equivocal than Calder allowed. Moreover, the overriding purposes of the two works differ to an extent which robs Calder's argument of much of its force. A close examination of the two authors' hermeneutics shows, however, that Ibn Qutayba's relatively unsystematic Ta wīl stands closer to classical usūl al-fiqh in several important respects than does Shāfi'ī's Risāla. The relationship between the two works is thus broadly consistent with their traditional datings and ascriptions.


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