Dr. Taha Jabir Alalwani (1935– 2016) was a graduate of Al-Azhar University and an internationally renowned scholar and expert in the fields of Islamic legal theory, jurisprudence (fiqh), and usul al-fiqh. He authored numerous works and was a member of the OIC Islamic Fiqh Academy, and President of Cordoba University in Ashburn, Virginia, United States.
as an explanation of the etiquette envisioned
by Islam for all those engaged in discourse and
intellectual dialogue. To a great extent, the
book is an exposition of the higher principles
and purposes of the Shari'ah which provide
Muslims with perspectives far vaster than those
afforded by pedantic debate over points of law
and procedure, or fine distinctions between
conflicting theological arguments. In fact,
experience has shown that long immersion in
such futile debate often renders the mind
incapable of comprehending real situations
and making value judgements on changing
Since the book was originally intended to address opposing Islamic political
parties in one particular part of the Muslim world, the author went to great
lengths to give examples from classical Muslim historical experience. In
particular, he analyzes instances of judicial disagreement between the early
fuqaha’, differences that were not allowed to go beyond the academic or
to cause hard feelings among the debaters and dissenters alike. Certainly,
the differences between those early scholars never led them to lose sight
of the higher purposes of the Shari'ah or their responsibilities.
Although this book may more appropriately be titled The Ethics of
Disagreement between the Classical Jurists, it nonetheless serves as a useful
introduction to the subject of disagreement in general. It also lays down
for contemporary Muslims many commendable examples of forbearance
and understanding on the part of some of the greatest personalities and
scholars in Muslim history. In this lies the utility of this book.
death. Yet, the issue remains one of the most controversial to have afflicted the
Muslim world down the centuries. It is also the source of much damaging media
coverage today as Islamic jurisprudence stands accused of a flagrant disregard for
human rights and freedom of expression.
The subject of this book is a highly sensitive and important one. The author rightly
concentrates on evidence, to examine the historical origins of the debate in rigorous
detail, as well as the many moral and contextual issues surrounding it. Disputing
arguments put forward by proponents of the death penalty he contends that both
the Qur’an and the Sunnah promote freedom of belief including the act of exiting
the Faith and do not support capital punishment for the sin of al-riddah. Note that
attention is on the word sin, for there is qualification: as long as one’s apostasy has
not been accompanied by anything else that would be deemed a criminal act,
particularly in terms of national security, then according to the author, it remains a
matter strictly between God and the individual. Of interest is the fact that the Qur’an
significantly refers to individuals repeatedly returning to unbelief after having believed,
but does not mention that they should be killed or punished. This work has been
written at a time of great complexity and vulnerability when a true understanding of
the higher intents and values of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, maqasid al-shariah, is
sorely needed. The author employs a strong evidence-based approach examining in
detail the Qur’an and authentic Hadith, taking into consideration traditional
approaches to the study of the Islamic textual sciences and other fields of knowledge,
as well as analyzing scholastic interpretation.
Taking the life of a person without just cause is according to the Qur’an equivalent
to the killing of the whole of mankind. It is vital therefore, that in the interests of
compassion and justice, as well as freedom of belief, this subject is clearly addressed
once and for all.
Although the science of Al-Usul is mainly concerned with legal matters, its range and the arsenal of tools it uses makes it attractive to students of Islamic Jurisprudence as well as to other scholars of Islamic Knowledge and culture. The difficulties it poses are inevitable. This book, however, attempts to simplify this “Most important method of research ever devised by Islamic thought” during its most creative period, and bring it to the understanding and appreciation of the modern learner, while underscoring its importance and relevance to the world of Islam today.