The Ẓāhirī Madhhab (3rd/9th–10th/16th Century): A Textualist Theory of Islamic Law

TitleThe Ẓāhirī Madhhab (3rd/9th–10th/16th Century): A Textualist Theory of Islamic Law
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsOsman A
Series TitleStudies in Islamic law and society
Series Volume38
CityLeiden; Boston

In this book, Amr Osman seeks to expand and re-interpret what we know about the history and doctrine of the Ẓāhirī madhhab. Based on an extensive prosopographical survey, he concludes that the founder, Dāwūd al-Ẓāhirī, was closer in profile and doctrine to the Ahl al-Ra’y than to the Ahl al-Ḥadīth. Furthermore, Ibn Ḥazm al-Andalusī may have had a damaging effect on the madhhab, which never actually developed into a full-fledged school of law. By examining the meaning of ‘ẓāhir’ and modern scholarship on ‘literalism’, he challenges the view that Ẓāhirism was literalist, proposing ‘textualism’ as an accurate reflection of its premises, methodology, and goals as a hermeneutical and legal theory.

Table of contents


Part One: The History of the Ẓāhirī Madhhab
Ch. One: Dāwūd al-Ẓāhirī and the Beginnings of the Ẓāhirī Madhhab
Ch. Two: The Spread and Retreat of the Ẓāhirī madhhab

Part Two: Ẓāhirism: A Critical Review
Ch. Three: Jurisprudence in Third/Ninth-Century Baghdad
Ch. Four: Ẓāhirism between the Ahl al-Ra’y and the Ahl al-Ḥadīth
Ch. Five: Ẓāhirism, Literalism and Textualism
Ch. Six: Case Studies




The Zạ̄hirī Madhhab makes an incisive contribution to the history of Islamic law generally and the Zạ̄hirī madhhab in particular. Readers should find Osman’s comprehensive discussion of the origin and development of the Zạ̄hirī tradition, as well as his elaborate biographies of Dāwūd al-Zạ̄ hirī and Ibn Ḥazm, rich, lucid and highly informative.
Mourad Laabdi in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 27.3 (2015), 345-347.