Lena Salaymeh, The Beginnings of Islamic Law: Late Antique Islamicate Legal Traditions

Melchert, Christopher

This is apparently a reworking of Salaymeh’s Ph.D. dissertation (UC Berkeley, 2012). As she describes her vantage point, “I engage in a postfoundationalist understanding of history that rejects the positivist methodologies of modernism and the nihilistic relativism of post-modernism. A postfoundational understanding of historical objectivity rejects the positivist notion that particular methodologies generate Truth” (15–16). I confess I do not follow her theory, which seems to veer between accepting multiple truths (as in refusing to take contradiction as a sign that one or more of the accounts in question are untrue) and seizing on unanimity (i.e. lack of contradiction) as a reason to believe that something did happen as described. My approach in this review will therefore be to look past her theory to see whether she explains particular early legal problems in ways that seem useful to a traditional historian of Islamic law.


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Al-ʿUsur al-Wusta

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August 17, 2022