“Form, Function and Historical Development of Genres of Juristic Dialectic (ʿilm al-jadal and ‘ilm al-khilāf)”
Walter Edward Young (McGill University)
The importance of the genres of juristic dialectical theory known as jadal and khilāf for Islamic legal studies can not be overstated. For Sunnī traditions in particular, they comprise the venue in which the very logic of discovering God’s Law was posited, debated, and refined. Inseparably intertwined with legal theory, jadal / khilāf both fed into and were fed by continually evolving methodologies of uṣūl al-fiqh, as well as the living practice of dialectical disputation itself. The genres of jadal and khilāf represent the critical argumentation theory and dialogical logic of premodern Islamic Law. They are the analytical lenses through which we can examine and better understand Muslim jurists’ justifications and critiques. They allow us to see clearly the argumentative underpinnings which suffuse distinct corpora of law and legal theory, binding them within a larger and coherent system. And they are rich with insights and potential solutions for modern logicians and legal theorists.
Despite this, the modern study of Islamicate dialectics, including juristic jadal and khilāf, is still in its infancy. In this talk—a primary aim of which is to promote the field of Islamicate dialectics—we will proceed from relevant definitions to a brief historical overview, and then to summaries of the contents of a small set of jadal and khilāf texts which may be considered representative of distinct moments or trends in the history of these genres. Time permitting, a sample of prescribed argument method will be presented from each text, so as to provide a taste of this premodern juristic argumentation theory in action.