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Harmonizing Similarities

A History of Distinctions Literature in Islamic Law

BRAIS prize 2018

"Harmonizing Similarities" is a study of the legal distinctions (al-furūq al-fiqhiyya) literature and its role in the development of the Islamic legal heritage. This book reconsiders how the public performance of Islamic law helped shape legal literature. It identifies the origins of this tradition in contemporaneous lexicographic and medical literature, both of which demonstrated the productive potential of drawing distinctions.

Elias G. Saba demonstrates the implications of the legal furūq and how changes to this genre reflect shifts in the social consumption of Islamic legal knowledge. The interest in legal distinctions grew out of the performance of knowledge in formalized legal disputations. From here, legal distinctions incorporated elements of play through its interactions with the genre of legal riddles.

As play, books of legal distinctions were supplements to performance in literary salons, study circles, and court performances; these books also served as mimetic objects, allowing the reader to participate in a session virtually. Saba underscores how social and intellectual practices helped shape the literary development of Islamic law and that literary elaboration became a main driver of dynamism in Islamic law.

This monograph has been awarded the annual BRAIS – De Gruyter Prize in the Study of Islam and the Muslim World.

Author Information

Elias G. Saba, Grinnell College, Grinnel, IA, U.S.A.
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Audience: Scholars of Islamic Studies, Religious Studies, Medieval Studies, Middle East History, Legal History

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