Professor Robert Gleave, Principal Investigator

Robert Gleave is a Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter and Director for the Centre for the Study of Islam. His research and teaching focus on the history of Islamic law, particularly in the areas of legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh), Shīʿī thought and law and the justifications of violence in Islamic thought. 

Professor Gleave’s primary research interests include:  Hermeneutics and Scriptural Exegesis in Islam; Islamic Law, in particular works of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh); Violence and its justification in Islamic thought and Shi’ism, in particular Shi’i legal and political theory.

Dr Paul Gledhill, Research Fellow

My work for the LAWALISI project centres on the historical intersection of the Sunni and Shīʿite legal traditions. It represents a response to a particular postulate concerning the origins of Shīʿite law, a postulate that locates a legal koine for the respective traditions in mid-8th-century Kufa. Positing that it was in this context that the Shīʿah, theretofore distinguished from their Sunni co-religionists along mainly political and theological lines, most likely began to develop a distinct identity also at the level of law, my research examines the relation of Twelver positive law, as expressed in the dicta ascribed to the Imams in Twelver collections of the late 9th and 10th centuries, to the strains of 8th-century legal thought that might have nourished or given rise to it. Drawing for the latter on evidence external to the Twelver tradition – juristic and prosopographical works from the 8th and early 9th centuries that are typically conceived as attesting proto-Sunnism and remain largely unexplored as sources for the history of early Imāmism – I adopt a comparative approach that seeks to circumvent a certain evidentiary problem in the study of early Twelver law, namely, the chronological gap between the floruits of its main putative sources, the Imams Muḥammad al-Bāqir (d. ca. 733) and Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (d. 765), and the compilation from the late 9th century onwards of traditionally authoritative works that purport to record their dicta.

Dr Wissam Halawi, Research Fellow

My research within the LAWALISI project focuses on the “aḥkām al-arbaʿa” or “Four Precepts”, that is the lifting of the ḫums (religious taxes), application of ḥudūd (legal punishment), management of collective Friday prayer and conduct of ǧihād (holy war). While many hadiths associate these legal Precepts a posteriori with the sole prerogative of the living Imam, or even obliquely depict the latter as the lawgiver in these matters; as of the late 10th century, Shi’i scholars attempted to adapt the application of the aḥkām to the new phenomenon of his occultation. Hence, the first books of fiqh elaborate new legal doctrines to discuss the way each of these Precepts should be applied within the Shi’i communities. Baghdadi Shi’i jurists were the early pioneers of this literature in the 11th century, especially al-Šayḫ al-Mufīd (d. 413/1022) and his student al- Šarīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436/1044), and undoubtedly al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067), Šayḫ al-Ṭāʾifa. A thorough analysis of these authors’ legal works allows us, firstly, to find out about the elaboration process of new legal doctrines, the jurists’ personal vision, their use of newly established Shi’i traditions; secondly, it opens a Pandora’s box on social history questions. Were early Shi’i fiqh doctrines, notably that of the Four Precepts, merely theoretical? Did they have any social impacts particularly on Shi’i communities functioning at that time? How in practice did they percolate – if, indeed, they ever did – through political local rules, and therefore what was their relation to other Islamic normative systems, mainly the Sunni one in Baghdad?