The Controversy over the Law Schools (lā madhhabiyya) in Twentieth-Century Syria

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The validity of the established schools of law (sing. madhhab) is a major bone of contention between contemporary Salafis and Traditionalists. The controversy reached its peak around 1970 in a famous exchange between Nāsir al-Dīn al-Albānī, who called for direct reliance on authenticated hadith, and Muhammad Sa'īd Ramadān al-Būtī, who favored the jurists' legal expertise. In this essay, I chart the course of the lā madhhabiyya debate in Syria by analyzing the polemical writings of three generations of Syrian ulama from 1870 to 1970. I argue that the seeds of the controversy were sown in the late Ottoman period in the Salafi challenge to taqld. I also uncover the central role of the Indian Ahl-i Hadith in mediating the anti-madhhab position to the core Arab lands, and the part of Syrian Hanafī-Naqshbandī 'ulamā' in defending the madhhabs. Finally, I allude to the political split among the Traditionalist 'ulamā' between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Ba'th regime.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalIslamic Law and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Ahl-i Hadith, Naqshbandiyya
  • Muslim Brotherhood
  • Salafism
  • taqld, lā madhhabiyya
  • Traditionalist Islam

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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