Ahmad Atif AhmadThe Fatigue of the Sharī‘a

Palgrave, 2012

by Elliott Bazzano on March 1, 2014

Ahmad Atif Ahmad

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] In the book, The Fatigue of the Sharī‘a (Palgrave, 2012), Ahmad Atif Ahmad explores a centuries-old debate about the permanence, or impermanence, of God’s law, and guidance, in the lives of Muslims. Could God’s guidance simply cease to be accessible at some point? Has such a “fatigue” already taken place? If so, how could one know for sure? What kinds of Muslims, and non-Muslims, have contributed to this debate? Ahmad ambitiously tackles these questions, and many more, in his meticulously researched and provocative monograph. In order to interrogate his topic, he surveys the many camps of the debate and also defines and problematizes key words such as sharī‘a, ijtihād, and madhhab. Although the text relies on a familiarity with the Islamic legal tradition, Ahmad’s style of writing, which constantly asks readers to reflect on key questions, allows even the uninitiated to benefit from and reflect on what it could mean for God’s guidance to fatigue. As a result of recounting competing angles of the debate, Ahmad leaves with the reader with enduring questions, rather than simple answers, regarding how or if the sharī’a will indeed come to an end. If the legal schools, for example, arose at different times and in different contexts, why would they all meet a common future? As political struggles in the Middle East, North Africa, and the greater Muslim world continue, Ahmad’s timely book will likely interest not only Islamic studies scholars and legal historians, but also journalists, policy makers, and political scientists.

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