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Islamic Legal Theory Curriculum: Are the Classics Taught Today?

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During the past century, legal education has been redefined in the Arab-Muslim world as a result of the adoption of European codes, procedures and courts. Although Islamic law has been largely excluded from the curriculum of modern law schools, Islamic legal theory (usūl al-fiqh) has been retained, albeit on a highly reduced scale, and taught through modern textbooks designed by professors of the new law faculties. This article traces the genealogy of the modern usūlī textbook in an attempt to explain how the Shari a faculties of contemporary Arab universities have come to privilege the modern textbook over the classical treatise to teach Islamic legal theory. I compare the curriculum and course material of the Shari a faculties of five universities: al-Zaytūna, al-Qarawiyyīn, al-Azhar, Damascus University and Jordan University. In all, this study examines forty-two modern textbooks of Islamic legal theory. A survey of the contexts in which the first modern textbooks were taught reveals, in part, how the modern textbook of Islamic legal theory differs from its classical counterpart.


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