Law as Faith, Faith as Law: The Legalization of Theology in Islam and Judaism in the Thought of Al-Ghazali and Maimonides

6 Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law 1 (2014)

26 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2022

See all articles by Shlomo Pill

Shlomo Pill

Texas Southern University - Thurgood Marshall School of Law; Emory University School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2014

Abstract

This paper highlights the dynamic, symbiotic relationship between faith and law in the Jewish and Islamic traditions. Specifically, this paper suggests that during the time that Jewish and Islamic religiosity were closely correlated to orthopraxy, theology was largely seen as a useful but nonessential handmaid to right action. However, as each of these law-based faith traditions began to define themselves in terms of correct beliefs, they began to define some previously extant legal categories—particularly apostasy—in theological terms, while also assigning practical legal consequences to maintaining the wrong beliefs. Additionally, this paper suggests that the medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides’s incorporation of systematic theology into Jewish thought and law was significantly influenced by Islam’s own prior shift from orthopraxy to orthodoxy as the hallmark of religiosity. The Islamic emphasis on correct theological belief influenced Muslim jurists like Imam al-Shafi’i and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s juristic rulings about apostasy. Similarly, the Jewish emphasis on orthodox belief, which resulted in the legalization of theology and dogmatization of law, is reflected in Maimonides’s theological and juristic works, especially his rulings on conversion to and apostasy from Judaism.

Keywords: Jewish Law, Islamic Law, Theology, Law and Religion, Jewish-Muslim Engagement

Suggested Citation

Pill, Shlomo, Law as Faith, Faith as Law: The Legalization of Theology in Islam and Judaism in the Thought of Al-Ghazali and Maimonides (December 1, 2014). 6 Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law 1 (2014), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3975484

Shlomo Pill (Contact Author)

Texas Southern University - Thurgood Marshall School of Law ( email )

3100 Cleburne Street
Houston, TX 77004
United States

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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