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Grant number like: FT-54547-06

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David Reeves Vishanoff
University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC 29208-0001)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$5,000 (approved)
$5,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2006 – 8/31/2006

God's Performative Speech: Abu Ya'la (d. 1065) and the Origins of Authoritarian Hermeneutics in Islamic Law

Among the several hermeneutical theories that emerged during the formative period of Islamic legal theory, all but one regarded the Qur'an as a piece of indicative evidence from which law must be inferred through a process of rational interpretation. The exception was formulated by Abu Ya`la, who argued that God's speech functions in the same way as a human speech act, bringing about obligations performatively with a certainty that precludes interpretive debate. This project explores the powerful and flexible hermeneutics that Abu Ya`la's theory of language was designed to support, and concludes that it laid the groundwork for contemporary Muslim jurists who limit Qur'anic meaning to a single obvious and uncontestable interpretation.