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Muḥyī l-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī’s Personalist Theory of the Sharīʿa

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An Examination of His Legal Doctrine

image of Journal of Sufi Studies

While Ibn ʿArabī (d. 638/1240) continues to receive much attention within the academe as a preeminent Sufi philosopher, his jurisprudence, by contrast, rarely elicits the same attention, despite the prominent mention of the Sharīʿa throughout his many works. This paper provides an exhaustive overview of his sophisticated legal doctrine in terms of his legal methodology and substantive law. An analysis of his legal epistemology would situate him within the ‘scripturalist’ stream of legal theorists, commonly associated with the Zāhiri school. However, while Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064) certainly influenced Ibn ʿArabī’s legal doctrine, the Shaykh’s jurisprudence remains markedly original in that it is ultimately rooted in an overarching metaphysical doctrine. This is evident in his personal reframing of ijtihād as a personal process of spiritual refinement, as opposed to a methodical process of ratiocination, which leads him to develop a distinctively personalist theory of legal pluralism that transcends the limitations of school conformity.

Affiliations: 1: McGill UniversityCanada


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