TITLE: Evolution and Development of Islamic Jurisprudence in Central Asia (750-1258 CE)
AUTHOR: Dr Showkat Hussain Dar (Faculty, Department of Islamic studies, IUST, Awantipora, JK, India)
PUBLISHER: D.K.Print world Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi
The current-day Central Asia comprises the former Soviet colonies like, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkimistan and Uzbekistan, which have been often collectively designated in the annals of Muslim History as Māwarā’ al-Nahr/Transoxiana [What is beyond the river (Oxus)]. Muslim rule was introduced to this region between 712-715 CE during the Umayyad Caliphate under the aegis of the prominent Umayyad Governor, Qutaybah bin Muslim. The region (Māwarā’ al-Nahr) served as an influential strategic, cultural and academic center under the Umayyad as well as the Abbasid regimes. The expansion of Muslim rule/Caliphate beyond the borders of Arabian Peninsula towards the Māwarā’ al-Nahr (Transoxiana), Sind (modern-day Indo-Pak subcontinent) and Andalusia (Spain) particularly from 715 CE onwards, was not a simple phenomenon of merely political significance. This process, naturally and simultaneously, embraced a wide-range of issues of socio-cultural and economic nature that eventually extended the scope of Islamic legal discourse. Owing to its rise as a significant academic epicenter of the Muslim world, this region (Central Asia) produced a considerable number of scholars of Islamic religious sciences (Qur’an, Ḥadīth/Traditions of the Prophet (SAW), Fiqh/Jurisprudence, Kalām/Theology) and other allied fields). In the Quranic Exegesis (Tafsīr), scholars like, Zamakhsharī, Razī, Faḍl Bukharī, Abū Bakr Qafal, Abu Isḥāq Marūzī, Muḥammad Farghanī etc were acclaimed experts, while as in Ḥadīth Sciences scholars like, (Imām) Bukhārī, Muslim, Tirmidhī, Al- Nasā’ī, Ibn Mājah, Abū Dawūd, the compilers of Siḥāḥ al-Sittah (the six Authentic books on Prophetic Traditions) dominated the scene.
Jurisprudence, as an important field of Islamic sciences, received a substantial/considerable attention from the Muslim scholars/academics of Central Asia, though it is plausible to maintain that the debates and discussions on Jurisprudence originated from the Iraqi school of Legal Thought, ascribed to Ḥaḍrat ‘Alī (AS) (d.661 CE) and ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ūd (RA) (d.761CE). In the course of Muslim academic and educational history, the legal discourse and formulations were greatly developed under the aegis of the Abbasid Caliph, Hārunal-Rashīd (d.786 CE). This process of the development of Muslim jurisprudence had a considerable impact on the intellectual circles of the Māwarā’ al-Nahr that eventually produced many remarkable jurists like, Abū Bakr Marūzī, Maqātilal-Rāzī, Abū al-LaithSamarqandī, ‘Alī bin Abū Bakr Marghinānī and several others. There have been significant attempts at demarcating the contribution of the Central Asian scholars (especially of medieval era) to the field of Ḥadīth sciences while as the field of jurisprudence, in this regard, has received scanty treatment at academic level. The evolution and development of Jurisprudence in Central Asia and the contribution(s) made thereof by the Muslim intelligentsia, is therefore, the main theme of discussion in the work, under review. The work, which is divided into five chapters, the first and the second depicts the emergence and development of islamic jurisprudence in general context, with brief and comprehensive analysis of the source material on the topic, while as in 3rd, 4th and 5th chapters respectively, an in-depth analysis is made of the factors responsible for the emergence and development of Islamic jurisprudence in the Central Asia from 750-1258 CE, in light of the contributions of the scholars relevant to the field of Islamic legal discourse.
The author analyses that the legal/ jurisprudential dimension of Islam has been explored (by the Central Asian scholars) in an expertly manner and their narration, interpretation and codification widens the scope for the future research horizons of Fiqh (13-14). Islamic jurisprudence in Central Asia, as per the author, was significantly developed during Samanids especially in the reign of Naṣr II (873-1005), who established a grand Library (Khazīnat al-Kutb) at Bukhara, containing the treatises on history, philosophy, Quranic Exegesis, Ḥadīth, Medicine, logic and Islamic Jurisprudence/Fiqh (16,17). The Seljuk period of Central Asia also proved fertile for the development of Islamic sciences including jurisprudence, by the efforts of theologians, jurists and philosophers alike. However, this intellectual growth was halted by the invasions of Mongols (1162-1258), which resulted in the devastation of major academic and intellectual centers of Central Asia like Samarkand, Bukhara, Khwarizm, Balkh, Nīshāpūr and Hirat ( pp 20-27).
The author’s situating the (contents of the) current study in a proper historical context and providing an exhaustive review of the pertaining literature amply demarcates the academic significance and relevance of the work. The work mainly engages with elucidating the contributions of a band of Central Asian scholars towards Islamic religious sciences especially the jurisprudence/Fiqh.
The author views that the edifice of Islamic jurisprudence and its methodology in Central Asia was structured on the Ḥanafī school of jurisprudence/Fiqh (Iraqi school of law) with the legal aptitude and efforts of the prominent scholars like Abū al-LaithSamarqandī (d.383 AH), ‘Alī bin Abū Bakr Marghinānī (d.593 AH), Aḥmad bin Muḥammad Shashī al-Samarqandī (d.325 AH), Abū Muftī Balkhī (d.216AH), Muḥammad bin Shujā‘ Balkhī (d.266 AH) and ‘Ala’ al-DīnMuḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Samarqandī (d.361 AH). The author depicts them as the prime architects in the development of Islamic jurisprudence during medieval Central Asia (70), especially Abū al-Laith Samarqand̄ and Marghinānī were the towering jurists, whose methodology and explanation of legal discourse has been extended by later jurists of Central Asia. The author’s estimation is credible as he delineates the cities like Bukhara, Farghana, Khiva, Samarqand, Shash, Merghinan, Merv, Nīshāpūr, Osh, Tashqand and Tirmidh, as the primary and prominent centers of Islamic learning, where jurisprudence was a dominant trend during the whole of Abbasid period (12, 13).
The influence of Basra, Baghdad, Kufa, Makkah and Madina on the intellectual traditions of the Māwarā’ al-Nahr, would have been an inevitable phenomenon, as the author testifies, and was mostly visible in Samarqand, which had a great proliferation of Madrasas/seminaries and KutbKhānās/libraries. Bukhara, as explicated by the author, also attained a commendable status in intellectualism during Samanids (874-1005 CE) and was designated as Qubbat al-Islam (the identity of Islam) particularly for its splendid architectural plan (142,143). The city of Marghinan was also notable in this regard and produced the academic stalwarts like Burhānal-Dīn ‘Alī bin Abū Bakr Muh̄ammad al- Marghinānī (d.359 AH), the author of the Ḥanafī juridical work, celebrated Al-Hidāyah – and others like ‘Umar bin ‘Alī and ShaykhImādal-Dīn, the authors of Jawāhar al- Fiqh and Ādab al Qāḍī respectively, who attained world-wide attention for their deep understanding of Islamic legal discourse. The author’s description, apart from above-mentioned cities and their jurists, embraces the contributions of the scholars from the cities like, Shash, Osh and Rushdan. Aḥmad bin MuḥammadShāshī, MuḥammadSulaymānShāshī, Abū Bakr Bin ḤātamRushdān have been discussed as the notable figures of jurisprudence, Ḥadīth and Islamic legal theory ( 146).
The author has adopted a lucid style and the content is easily accessible to the readers. The author has made strenuous efforts to discuss the theme reviewing and utilizing a plethora of relevant source material, which enable a reader to grasp a vivid picture of the medieval Central Asian scholars’’ contribution to the Islamic legal framework. The author has tried to link the discourse with the current times, thereby making the theme relevant and has attempted to establish a link between the medieval glory and the modern resurgence of Islamic legacy in Central Asia post-independence era (1991). In an overall assessment, the book serves as an accessible academic and scholarly source for the scholars, researchers and students of Islamic Studies in general and the Islamic Law in particular.
(Author is Research Fellow, Department of Islamic Studies IUST, Awantipora Kmr)