shariʽa Society

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:
shariʽa Society

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This chapter explores the relation between interpretation and social hierarchy as defined by the dominant shari'a image of society. Shari'a texts lived in social relations, in human embodiers and interpretive articulations. Al-Shafi'I distinguishes specialist knowledge and general knowledge. Knowledge and ignorance, and scholar and commoner distinctions were part of a wider social world of status ranking in the Muslim community according to honor, descent, occupation, and wealth. The relations of power surrounding authoritative texts centered on the connection between interpretation and hierarchy. The shari'a understanding of the social order was anchored in the distinction between knowledge and ignorance, a distinction that concerned, not differences of intelligence, but rather control of the cultural capital acquired in advanced instruction.

Keywords: shari'a society; Al-Shafi'I; interpretation; social hierarchy; Muslim community; social order; authoritative texts

Chapter.  6289 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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