Authority Within the Hanbali Madhhab: The Case of al-Barbahari

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2 Scopus citations


This essay explores nonscholarly ways of constructing authority in the Hanbali madhhab. Ordinarily positions of authority and influence in the madhhabs were based upon a scholar’s professional reputation.1 This is the impression we get from the biographical dictionaries and historical accounts of the schools of law. The tendency to concentrate on scholars and scholarship, however, obscures the fact that the activities and concerns of the members of the madhhabs were not limited to the articulation of legal doctrine. In some cases they were involved in theological debates and in other cases in confrontations over moral issues. Furthermore, they were huge communities that were able to mobilize the masses and as a result were also involved in local politics. By the tenth century the madhhabs had recruited large followings and regulated the social and religious life of their members. It stands to reason that in some cases the authoritative figures who led the lay adherents of the madhhabs were not outstanding experts of law but rather individuals whose religious prestige was based on other factors, such as piety and moral activism. It is this type of leadership that is examined here.2 Several currents and communities placed a high premium on nonscholarly leadership. They are addressed in the concluding remarks of this study. This essay concentrates on the Hanbalis, one of the earliest and best known movements, often led by individuals whose main claim to fame was piety and activism. In some cases these leaders were not the outstanding scholars of their age and their authority was not based solely on their legal expertise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligious Knowledge, Authority, and Charisma
Subtitle of host publicationIslamic and Jewish Perspectives
EditorsDaphna Ephrat, Meir Hatina
PublisherUniversity of Utah
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)1607812797, 9781607812791
ISBN (Print)1607812789, 9781607812784
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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