2023/ 2024

Mouez Khalfaoui

The Lost Branch of the Hanafi School of Law: The failed Transplantation of Hanafi Madhab in North Africa in the Premodern Era

Mouez Khalfaoui is Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic Thought at the University of Tübingen in Germany. He graduated from the University of Tunis and received a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Erfurt.  He is a member of several publishing, advising, social and political boards in Europe and around the globe. His main research fields are Islamic Law and Ethics, Minority Law, Islamic Education, Law and Society and Arabic Literature. He spent research stays and fellowships at the University of Cambridge, Paris, Lucknow, Tunis, London and Princeton. He published on Islam in South Asia, Islamic Law in Muslim premodern societies and on contemporary Islamic religious thought in Europe. In the academic year 2023/24, he is an affiliated EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

The Lost Branch of the Hanafi School of Law: The failed Transplantation of Hanafi Madhab in North Africa in the Premodern Era

My research project focuses on the spread of the Hanafi madhab in Tunisia, Algeria, Marocco and Spain (al Andalus) in the premodern era as well as questions of intertextuality between North African Hanafi legal scholars and scholars from other regions for instance Egypt and al Iraq. Furthermore it addresses the impact of the local social and political reality on that discourse and vice-versa. 

Research on Islamic Sunni schools of law (madhab; pl. madhahib) mainly focuses on questions of their emergence in Iraq from the 8th-9th centuries onwards, their relationship to other schools of law that emerged from other places, and their successful spread to other parts of the Muslim world. The Maghreb region is considered to be the stronghold of Maliki-madhab. However, the history of the Hanafi school in premodern North Africa (Maghreb and Spain) has hardly been researched. The establishment of the Maliki school in the region was preceded (i. e. accompanied) by strong and harsh disputes with scholars of the Hanafi school of thought, that has been widespread in the Maghreb region before. A deep examination of the literature from that era reveals considerable aspects of the discourse between different schools of Islamic theology and law. Intertextuality appears in the writings of scholars of different schools, in documents such as the manuscripts held by the library of the main mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia, that offer access to the thought and debates of one of the very first elaborated intellectual Muslim communities. Legal works attributed to North African Hanafi scholars from the era under consideration such as Asad Ibn al Furāt (828) encompass interactions (intertextuality) with the own and other legal schools, in Tunisia and Iraq for example, but also show traces of an ongoing debate with opposing theological conceptions such as the Muʿtazila.