Unofficial Islamic Legal Knowledge Production

19 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2019

Date Written: November 30, 2018


The hegemonic Turkish secularist elite, on the one hand, stigmatized, demonized and banned Islamic and Ottoman knowledge, including legal one and on the other hand with a top down social engineering approach they had tried to homogenize society and to create ideal and favorable citizens. As a result, public expressions of Islamic law, non-Turkish ethnic identity or non-Muslim religious identity had either been banned or stigmatized. But counter-hegemonic and anti-hegemonic knowledge sources and identities have continued to co-exist as unofficial, subaltern and periphery phenomena, producing their own anti or counter-systemic knowledge, including unofficial Muslim. All these have paved the way for unofficial ijtihads, micro-mujtahids, surfers on inter-madhhab, post-modern fragmentation of the unofficial Muslim law sphere and emergence of Islamic legal scholars. While all of these socio-cultural groups provide us fascinating and remarkable cases to study, in this chapter, I am only able to focus on practicing Muslims and among them, the Gülen Movement that has mainly focused on science and secular education. The movement has created its own spaces such schools, hospitals, dormitories, universities, cultural centers, think tanks, newspapers, TV stations, web portals and political lobbying associations to form and express an identity of a modern Sufistic Turkish Muslimhood. Gülen has reproduced several Islamic concepts to transnationally mobilize Turks. Eventually the Movement’s operations have reached to 170 countries until the global crackdown against it by the Erdoganist regime in Turkey. Even though Gülen is the main actor in the movement who has engaged with producing new Islamic knowledge in his constant responses to the socio-political affairs and challenges by reinterpreting Islamic sources in tune with contemporary time and space, the movement participants contribute to this process in different ways, such as by transferring knowledge to him from their own local contexts or by contextualizing and disseminating the knowledge produced by Gülen. There are interesting outcomes of these processes. For instance, many of the movement participants are of the view that something that can be called “Muslim Secularism” is possible, an idea that Islamic law is compatible with Alfred Stepan’s twin tolerations.

Keywords: Secularism, Islamic Law, Knowledge, Turkey, Gulen, Legal Pluralism, Nation-building, Islam

JEL Classification: Z10, Z12, Z18

Suggested Citation

Yilmaz, Ihsan, Unofficial Islamic Legal Knowledge Production (November 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Ihsan Yilmaz (Contact Author)

Deakin University ( email )

75 Pigdons Road
Victoria, Victoria 3216


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