Relations of Interpretation

Brinkley Messick

in The Calligraphic State

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 1992 | ISBN: 9780520076051
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520917828 | DOI:
Relations of Interpretation

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This chapter is concerned with the division of interpretive labor between two categories of worldly interpreters. The main activity of the mufti is the writing of fatwas. A mufti is a type of Muslim jurist who delivers a nonbinding legal opinion known as a fatwa, exercising in the process the form of legal interpretation called ijtihad. The muftiship and the judgeship are distinguished in the shari'a manuals. While the mufti is sought out by single questioners for nonenforceable fatwas, a judge rules in contexts of two-party adversarial conflict, and his judgments are enforceable. The difference between a fatwa and a judgment is elaborated. Fatwas and judgments are interpretive reciprocals: they come to rest at opposed points on the same hermeneutical circle.

Keywords: interpretive labor; mufti; fatwas; muftiship; judgeship; shari'a manuals; judgment

Chapter.  7095 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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