By Amyn B. Sajoo
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Extra resources for A Companion to Muslim Cultures
These could become a part of the fiqh or the sharia exactly as existing readings and methods did in the past. One must, of course, have the space for informed participation and the freedom of thought and expression to make the consensus meaningful. The validity of the results is judged by whether they gather a consensus of Muslims over time. Sharia and the State The authority of state institutions is exercised by individuals who act in their name. Legislation and public policy reflect the views of the governors at a particular time.
In addition to the four major Sunni schools – Shafii, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali – the main Shia school, the Jafari, also emerged at this time. A host of social and political factors shaped the growth and spread of these schools, factors that likely also contributed to the reduction in the number of schools in the Sunni tradition and what is often called a ‘closing of the gate of ijtihad’ among the Sunni schools around the 10th century. Certainly, a conservative trend took hold in the face of instability and rapid flux in the Muslim world, leading to a long period of passivity in the unfolding of the sharia.
What is sacred is the responsibility of each individual for his or her moral choices, even if the individual chooses to seek guidance from others in this regard. It is the free exercise of this responsibility that deserves to be protected. No reason or tradition stands in the way of Muslims reaching 1 For a detailed account see Wael Hallaq, Shari‘a: Theory, Practice, Transformations (Cambridge, 2009). 40 A Companion to Muslim Cultures a consensus around fresh readings of the Quran and Sunna, or methods of interpreting them.