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Using the Past and Bridging the Gap: Premodern Islamic Legal Texts in New Media

  • Mahmood Kooria

Abstract

This article analyses the internal dynamics of online Islamic legal discourses embedded in their offline and multimedia contexts that use of a rich repository of legal texts composed over a period of about a thousand years. Through their vigorous and spirited engagements with these historical texts, contemporary Islamic jurists simultaneously create new digital platforms in mass and social media to disseminate their ideas. In so doing, they perpetuate a long textual legal tradition through hypertext commentaries and super-commentaries. The premodern texts are thus reborn through new forms of ḥāshiyas such as audio commentaries, video commentaries, audio-video commentaries and hypertext commentaries. These new developments from the age of new media contribute to the textual longue-durée of Islamic law. Tracking the peregrinations of three Islamic legal texts in the mass media and cyber world, I argue that the dissemination of premodern Islamic legal texts via cyber space has resulted in the “democratization” of a knowledge-system that was previously dominated by trained fuqahā and affiliated institutional structures and has enlivened the traditional school affiliations.

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Earlier, he was a joint research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden. With Michael Pearson, he has recently co-edited a volume entitled Malabar in the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region (Oxford University Press, 2018). He thanks Omar Anchassi and Robert Gleave (Exeter), Zubair Hudawi (Kottayam), Nijmi Edres (Gottingen), Eirik Hovden (Bergen), Mervyn Richardson (Leiden), four anonymous reviewers, and Gautham Rao, Editor of Law and History Review for their extensive and insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. A recent version was presented in a panel at the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS) Annual Conference in 2018 at the University of Exeter, and the author is grateful to the panelists and participants for their feedback. He is also indebted to several respondents, who appear in the following pages, for our in-depth conversations, as well as to the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)-funded project “Understanding Sharia: Past Perfect, Present Imperfect” and the Erasmus Mundus Program for supporting this research financially.

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1. For a summary of the contents, see Dale, Elizabeth, “In this Issue,” Law and History Review 34 (2016): vvi.

2. To take one legal text of my focus as an example, Fatḥ al-muʿīn of al-Malaybārī is transliterated frequently as Fath al-Mu'in, Fathul Mu'in, Fathul Muin, Fat'h Ul Mueen, Fathul Mueen, ഫത്ഹുൽ മുഈൻ, and فتح المعين. Even though the script might be Arabic or Roman, the contents in these cases are not necessarily in these languages.

3. For a few remarkable studies on the Shāfiʿī corpus, see Halim, Fachrizal, Legal Authority in Premodern Islam: Yaḥyā b. Sharaf al-Nawawī in the Shāfiʿī School of Law (New York: Routledge, 2015); Spevack, Aaron, The Archetypal Sunnī Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of al-Bājūrī (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014); Matthew B. Ingalls, “Subtle Innovation within Networks of Convention: The Life, Thought, and Intellectual Legacy of Zakariyā al-Anṣārī (d. 926/1520)” (PhD diss., Yale University, 2011); and Calder, Norman, “Nawawī and the Typologies of Fiqh Writing,” in Islamic Jurisprudence in the Classical Era, ed. Imber, Colin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 74115.

4. al-Nawawī, Yaḥyā bin Sharaf, Minhāj al-ṭālibīn wa ʿumdat al-muftīn, ed. Shaʿban, Muḥammad Ṭāhir (Beirut: Dar al-Minhāj, 2005), 64.

5. There are slightly different opinions on this textual genealogy among specialists. For example, see Bujayrimī, Sulaymān bin Muḥammad, Ḥāshiyat al-Bujayrimī ʿalā Sharḥ Manhaj al-ṭullāb (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2000), 1:15; and Bil-Faqīh, Ḥabīb ʿAbd Allāh bin Ḥusayn, Maṭlab al-īqāẓ fī al-kalām ʿalā shayʾ min ghurar al-alfāẓ: bayān li muṣṭalaḥāt al-Shāfiʿīyyat al-fiqhīyya (Tarīm: Dār al-Muhājir, 1995), 34.

6. Yaḥyā bin Sharaf al-Nawawī, Tahḏīb al-asmāʾ wa al-lughāt (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, n.d), 1:18–19.

7. On its impact in the later history of the Shāfiʿī school, see Mahmood Kooria, “Cosmopolis of law: Islamic legal ideas and texts across the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean worlds” (PhD diss., Leiden University, 2016), 131–33, 151–54.

8. al-Shāliyātī, Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad Kōya, al-ʿAwāʾid al-dīniyya fī talkhīṣ al-Fawāʾid al-Madaniyya, ed. al-Shāfiʿī, ʿAbd al-Naṣīr Aḥmad (Cairo: Dār al-Baṣāʾir, 2010); and al-Saqqāf, ʿAlawī, Mukhtaṣar al-Fawāʾid al-Makkiyya fī mā yahḥtājuhu ṭalabat al-Shāfiʿīyya, ed. al-Raḥmān Marʿashlī, Yūsuf ʻAbd (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāʾir al-Islāmiyya, 2004).

9. al-Malaybārī, Abd al-Naṣīr Aḥmad al-Shāfiʿī, Tarājim al-ʿulamāʾ al-Shāfi ʿīyya fī diyār al-Hindiyya (Amman: Dār al Fatḥ, 2010).

10. On the commentaries and wider legacies of these three texts, see Kooria, “Cosmopolis of Law,” chap. 4–6.

11. Mahdi, Muhsin, “From the Manuscript Age to the Age of Printed Books,” in The Book in the Islamic World: The Written Word and Communication in the Middle East, ed. Atiyeh, George N. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), 115.

12. On the impacts of these developments, see the contributions to Gelvin, James L. and Green, Nile, eds., Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014); Green, Nile, Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); and More, J. B. Prashant, Muslim Identity, Print Culture, and the Dravidian Factor in Tamil Nadu (Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2004).

13. Hussain, Yusof, ed., Mass Media in Selected Muslim Countries (Kuala Lumpur: International Islamic University Malaysia, 2003); and Boyd, Douglas A., Broadcasting in the Arab World: A Survey of Radio and Television in the Middle East (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982).

14. For recent debates and overviews, see Hoffmann, Thomas and Larsson, Göran, eds., Muslims and the New Information and Communication Technologies: Notes from and Emerging and Infinite Field (Dordrecht: Springer, 2013); Larsson, Göran, Muslims and the New Media: Historical and Contemporary Debates (Surrey: Ashgate, 2011); Rakhmani, Inaya, Mainstreaming Islam in Indonesia: Television, Identity, and the Middle Class, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); and Khalil, Joe F. and Kraidy, Marwan M., Arab Television Industries (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

15. Eickelman, Dale F., Bunt, Gary, and Anderson, Jon W., New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003); Hirschkind, Charles, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006); Hoesterey, James B, Rebranding Islam: Piety, Prosperity, and a Self-Help Guru (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016); Rakhmani, Inaya, Mainstreaming Islam in Indonesia; compare with Abu-Lughod, Lila, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Kitley, Philip, Television, Nation and Culture in Indonesia (Athens, OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2000); Salamandra, Christa, A New Old Damascus: Authenticity and Distinction in Urban Syria (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004); Watson, Bill W., “A Popular Indonesian Preacher: The Significance of Aa Gymnastiar,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11 (2005): 773–92; and van Heeren, Katinka, “Return of the Kyai: Representations of Horror, Commerce, and Censorship in Post-Suharto Indonesian Film and Television,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 8 (2007): 211–26.

16. Campbell, Heidi A., When Religion Meets New Media (London: Routledge, 2010).

17. For example, see the contributions to the special issue of Oriens on the hāshiya and Islamic intellectual history, Oriens 41 (2013): 213545.

18. Shamsy, Ahmed El, “The Ḥāshiya in Islamic Law: A Sketch of the Shāfiʿī Literature,” Oriens 41 (2013): 289315.

19. Motadel, David, Islam and Nazi Germany's War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 37, 92108; and Herf, Jeffrey, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), passim.

20. Messick, Brinkley, “Media Muftīs: Radio Fatwas in Yemen,” in Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftīs and Their Fatwas, eds. Masud, Muhammad Khalid, Messick, Brinkley, and Powers, David S. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 311–20; Lerner, Daniel, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (London: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964).

21. Sunarwoto, , “Radio Fatwa: Islamic Tanya-Jawab Programmes on Radio Dakwah,” Al-Jami'ah: Journal of Islamic Studies 50 (2012): 239–78.

22. Furber, Musa, “Ranking Confidence in the Validity of Contemporary Fatwas and Their Dissemination Channels,” Tabah Analytic Brief, 13 (Abu Dhabi: Tabah Foundation, 2013).

23. On the historical and contemporary uses of these texts in the curricula of South and Southeast Asian curricula, see Hudawi, K.M. Bahauddeen, The Development and Impact of Shāfiʿī School of Jurisprudence in India (New Delhi: Readworthy Publications, 2013); al-Fayḍī, Muḥammad Bukhārī, Tārīkh al-abrār mimman tudras kutubuhum fī diyār Malaybār (Palakkad: Lajnat Anwār al-ʿUlūm al-Jāmiʿat al-Ḥasaniyyat al-Islamiyya, 2010); Bruinessen, Martin van, “Kitab kuning: Books in Arabic Script Used in the Pesantren Milieu; Comments on a New Collection in the KITLV Library,” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 146 (1990): 226–69; and van den Berg, Lodewijk W.C., “Het Mohammedaansche godsdienstonderwijs op Java en Madoera en de daarbij gebruikte Arabische boeken,” Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 31 (1886): 518–55.

24. For his extensive recordings of several other Shāfiʿī texts, see http://www.alhabibomar.com/Lessons.aspx?SectionID=7 (May 9, 2018).

25. Some of these recordings are available in the online platforms. For the lectures of Qalam, see https://archive.org/details/FathAlMo3en; for ʿAbdullah ʿAlī’s lectures, see https://archive.org/details/fath-almoeen. (May 9, 2018). Also, see the subsequent discussion for nuances of these online resources.

26. Interview with KH Abdul Halim Sholeh at Madrasa Attahiriyah, Jakarta on July 7, 2014.

27. The recordings are available online at https://archive.org/details/FAT-HULMUIN (May 9, 2018). I am thankful to Sunarwoto for identifying both of these scholars.

28. Conversation with Kyai Sholeh, Jakarta, July 14, 2014.

29. Qaraḍāwī’s most famous television program on Islamic law is his “Sharia and Life” (al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayā) broadcast on Al Jazeera. For most the episodes, see http://www.aljazeera.net/program/religionandlife (February 8, 2018). On the grandeur and impact of his engagement with Islamic legal tradition, see Gräf, Bettina and Skovgaard-Petersen, Jakob, eds., Global Mufti: The Phenomenon of Yūsuf Al-Qaraḍāwī (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

30. On the ownership and uses of mass media among South Asian Muslims, see various chapters in Jeffrey, Robin and Ronojoy, Sen, eds. Being Muslim in South Asia: Diversity and Daily Life (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014). For the particular Shīʿī case relevant to the Indian Ocean littoral, see Mirza, Shireen, “Muslims, Media and Mobility in the Indian Ocean Region,” in The Shi‘a in Modern South Asia: Religion, History and Politics, eds. Jones, Justin and Qasmi, Ali (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 131–58.

31. The program is still ongoing, and it has already covered more than 700 episodes. The main muftī in the show is K.C. Muhammad Baqawi. Some episodes have been uploaded to YouTube and are available in this playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvvkgwtBSlgQ_R7ErTjW5Lbb__RDaNirc and in the auto-play options through this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwSHOfy2gA0 (February 8, 2018).

32. The channel is Moon TV and the program is “Deen Ozhi.” One important muftī who answered the questions is Shaikh Abdullah Jamali. Some episodes are available in these YouTube playlists: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0A97B54E392E5DD1 and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0A97B54E392E5DD1 (February 12, 2018).

33. http://www.shamela.ws/ (February 20, 2018). Other similar large-scale platforms that digitize and preserve premodern Islamic legal and extralegal texts are al-Waraq http://www.alwaraq.net/Core/index.jsp?option=1, al-Maktaba al-Waqfiyya http://waqfeya.com/, Digital Persian Archive, http://www.asnad.org/en/, and Multaqa Ahl al-Hadith http://www.ahlalhdeeth.com/ (February 18, 2018).

34. On the democratic nature of similar digital resources and their impact on the scholarship, see Weller, Martin, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), especially chap. 4 and 5.

35. al-Fayḍī, Muḥammad Bukhārī, Tārīkh al-abrār mimman tudras kutubuhum fī diyār Malaybār (Palakkad: Lajnat Anwār al-ʿUlūm al-Jāmiʿat al-Ḥasaniyyat al-Islamiyyat, 2010), 213–14.

36. For the digitized Shāfiʿī texts, some of the most useful and exclusive online resources are: http://shamela.ws/index.php/category/136; http://waqfeya.com/category.php?cid=84; http://www.feqhweb.com/vb/f9.html; http://www.feqhbook.com/?book_categories=3; http://chafiiya.blogspot.nl/ (February 18, 2018).

38. In his YouTube channel, he has uploaded similar recordings of several other premodern Islamic texts related to mysticism, theology, ethics, and history, and the Minhaj is the only legal text https://www.youtube.com/user/elkhader9/featured (July 7, 2017).

40. For Rushdī Qalam's commentary, see https://archive.org/details/FathAlMo3en; for Ḥusayn ʿAbdullah al-ʿAlī’s commentary, see https://archive.org/details/fath-almoeen; for two Indonesian scholars Ahmad bin Nuh al-Haddad and Muhibbul Aman Aly, see https://archive.org/details/FAT-HULMUIN (July 7, 2017).

41. For a list of such Shāfiʿī audio commentaries, see http://www.feqhweb.com/vb/t18304.html. For a few commentaries on Minhāj, see https://archive.org/details/MnhajAtaleben; http://www.almostaneer.com/Pages/Sounds.aspx?ID=7; and https://archive.org/details/Makrami-minhaj-1. For an audio commentary on Tuḥfa’s textual commentary by Ibn Qasim, see http://www.aslein.net/showthread.php?t=11245 (June 21, 2017).

42. For example, see one such lecture at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS-xDd-K_yg (July 7, 2017).

43. For example, see approximately thirty recordings out of sixty classes by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Razāq al-Samān at the Jāmiʿ al-Imam Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī in Damascus: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvcAHgdLE9gNeSZnkMp6bfHiaUyohn3hZ; and Muḥammad Shaqīr's one class at the same mosque: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ_KF4gIyqA (July 7, 2017).

44. For video lectures on the Tuḥfa, see Mustafa al-Qalyubi's classes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI1IWpKg36E (July 7, 2017).

45. For example, see a few Minhāj lectures by Sālim al-Khaṭīb and Arsalan Haque at al-Azhar, Cairo: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGrJQVLFsooBFT7NrqI9awblpO_lWiyjs; and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zeg_ycS7c_A, respectively; by Abd Basit bin Abd Rahman in Kelantan (Malaysia): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwKoVrs1Rqk&feature=youtu.be; and by Muhammad Nuruddin Marbu al-Banjari at Seremban (Malaysia): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t0po1W_i04 (July 7, 2017).

46. “Enam Tahun Bersama Minhajut Tholibin” http://www.almunawwir.com/enam-tahun-bersama-minhajut-tholibin/; by Anshari Taslim in Jakarta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik0dwgwUkiU (July 7, 2017).

48. For example, see Mustafa al-Qalyubi's lectures on Tuḥfa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI1IWpKg36E (July 7, 2017).

49. Halim, Fachrizal A., “Reformulating the Madhhab in Cyberspace: Legal Authority, Doctrines, and Ijtihād among Contemporary Shāfiʿī ʿUlamāʾ,” Islamic Law and Society 22 (2015): 413–35.

50. Halim, “Reformulating the Madhhab in Cyberspace,” 435.

51. Šisler, Vit, “The Internet and the Construction of Islamic Knowledge in Europe,” Masaryk University Journal of Law and Technology 1 (2007): 205–17; Šisler, Vit, “Islamic Jurisprudence in Cyberspace: Construction of Interpretative Authority in Muslim Diaspora,” in Cyberspace 2005 Conference Proceedings, eds. Polcak, R., Skop, M., and Smahel, D. (Brno: Masaryk University, 2006), 4350; and Yilmaz, Ihsan, “Inter-Madhhab Surfing, Neo-Ijtihad, and Faith-Based Movement Leaders,” in The Islamic School of Law: Evolution, Devolution, and Progress, eds. Bearman, Peri J., Peters, Rudolph, and Vogel, Frank E. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 191206.

52. Yilmaz, “Inter-Madhhab Surfing,” 205.

53. http://shafiifiqh.com/ and http://www.islamonweb.net/ml/fatwa-on-web. Also, please see the sections on Shafi'i law in other established fatwa websites such as https://islamqa.org/category/shafii; and http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/category/shafii-fiqh/ (February 21, 2018).

56. http://shafiifiqh.com/question-details.aspx?qstID=77 (July 7, 2017). I have standardized the transliterations to maintain consistency in the article.

57. On Bakrī and his Iʿānat al-ṭālibīn, see Kooria, “Cosmopolis of Law,” chap. 7.

58. The ḥadīth-texts are also cited as legal sources in this particular fatwa. In the following lines, it reads: “There is something attributed to the Prophet (upon him be peace), that he prohibited clipping the nails, etc., when in a state of major ritual impurity. It is found in Ibn ʿAsākir's Tārīkh Dimashq v. 43, p. 211. There, Ibn ʿAsākir—he himself being a Shāfiʿī— deemed it to be “munkar bi marrah.” In Tanzīh al-sharīʿa al-marfūʿa ʿan al-aḥādīth al-shanīʿa al-mawḍūʿa 2/85, Ibn ʿArrāq included the narration; and stated, “It is most probable that the malady/fabrication in it is from Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Maraghī.” http://shafiifiqh.com/question-details.aspx?qstID=77 (February 19, 2018).

59. https://www.facebook.com/kitabfathulmuin/ (July 7, 2017). It has more than 75,000 followers. Another group is in Malayalam (https://www.facebook.com/FathhulMueenDaras/) but with less followership (July 7, 2017).

60. Campbell, Heidi, “Religion and the Internet: A Microcosm for Studying Internet Trends and Implications,” New Media and Society 15 (2013): 680–94.

61. On the larger sectarian debates among the Islamic communities and their online–offline embeddedness, see Larsson, Göran, “One Cannot Doubt the Potential Effect of These Fatwas on Modern Muslim Societies: Online Accusations of Disbelief and Apostasy: The Internet as an Arena for Sunni and Shia Muslim Conflicts,” Studies in Religion/Sceinces Religieuses 45 (2016): 201–21.

62. Al-Rawi, Ahmed, “Online Reactions to the Muhammad Cartoons: YouTube and the Virtual Ummah,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 54 (2015): 261–76.

64. Halim, “Reformulating the Madhhab in Cyberspace,” 434–35.

Earlier, he was a joint research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden. With Michael Pearson, he has recently co-edited a volume entitled Malabar in the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region (Oxford University Press, 2018). He thanks Omar Anchassi and Robert Gleave (Exeter), Zubair Hudawi (Kottayam), Nijmi Edres (Gottingen), Eirik Hovden (Bergen), Mervyn Richardson (Leiden), four anonymous reviewers, and Gautham Rao, Editor of Law and History Review for their extensive and insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. A recent version was presented in a panel at the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS) Annual Conference in 2018 at the University of Exeter, and the author is grateful to the panelists and participants for their feedback. He is also indebted to several respondents, who appear in the following pages, for our in-depth conversations, as well as to the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)-funded project “Understanding Sharia: Past Perfect, Present Imperfect” and the Erasmus Mundus Program for supporting this research financially.

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Using the Past and Bridging the Gap: Premodern Islamic Legal Texts in New Media

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