Hadith, Piety, and Law
Author(s): Christopher Melchert
Contemporary literature on fundamentalism, extremism, jihad, the Islamic state and Shari[ah, consciously or unconsciously, reinforces the perception that Islam is a threat to the so-called civilised World. Most of this literature focuses mainly on current events and do not venture into past history and culture in an attempt to trace possible reasons for the present malaise. The rise of Orientalism was, by contrast, a journey into an exotic Orient with lexicography as its major tool. The present volume of sixteen well researched papers by Christopher Melchert take us back to the formative period of Muslim thought, focusing on three specific areas: Hadith, Piety and law. In his essay on the adversaries of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the author observes that, ‘according to Ahmad, Abu Hanifah rejected hadith reports in favor of his ra’y’ (p. 5).This statement needs to be examined in the light of Abu Hanifah’s specific statements on Hadith as well as the exact meaning of ra’y. Ra’y according to Abu Hanifah does not mean pure rationalism, personal conjecture or pure speculation. It simply refers to the understanding of the legal meaning and message imbedded in Hadith. Abu Hanifah is reported to have said that if even a weak Prophetic statement is found, his personal interpretation should be discarded....