Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 May 2010
The analysis and presentation of divine law, in an Islamic context, took place primarily in the literary genre known as furūʿ al-fiqh (branches of jurisprudence). There, the law was presented as, essentially, a permanent system of norms and values, unchangingly valid. Since the historical reality of Muslim societies included change and diversity, it is necessarily the case that the relationship between the law as an intellectual structure and the law as realised in social practice was oblique. It was a matter of degrees and kinds of difference. Works of furūʿ can be classified as of two major types, mukhtasars or epitomes of the law, and mabsūts or expansums. The mukhtasar characteristically contains a succinct and highly compressed sequence of norms, loosely bundled under topical headings: a structured framework or skeleton of the law. The mabsūt justifies and explains the law and multiplies its details. In its most characteristic form, it is a commentary on a mukhtasar. There are other types of furūʿ literature (notably the treatise or risāla on a single topic or bundle of topics of the law), some of which will be identified in the following pages; and it is possible to distinguish different tendencies within the broad typology of mukhtasar and mabsūt. The conditions that govern the genre as a whole include the fundamental condition of loyalty to school tradition.