Call for Papers: Language and Meaning in Islamic Legal Theory

The Department of Islamic Legal Studies invites submissions for the 12th annual AMI Contemporary Fiqhī Issues Workshop, hosted by Al-Mahdi Institute (AMI). Over the last decade, the Fiqhī Workshop has focused on contemporary jurisprudential issues, encouraging a multidisciplinary approach and inviting scholars from traditional and academic backgrounds to present their research and ideas.

In the summer of 2024, AMI’s 12th Fiqhī Workshop will, for the first time, turn its focus to explore the meta-jurisprudential issue of ‘language and meaning’ discussed in the discourse of Islamic legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh) and its impact on jurisprudence (fiqh). The workshop aims to bring together scholars knowledgeable in Islamic legal theory, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of language to explore nuanced aspects of language and meaning discussed in Islamic legal theory.

Muslims legal theorists unanimously agree that knowledge of Sharia regulations (aḥkām al-sharīʿa) is primarily justified through the scriptural sources of the Quran and hadith corpora. Consequently, a large portion of the discourse of Islamic legal theory has historically been devoted to the study of language and meaning (mabāḥith al-alfāẓ). Muslim jurists have devised numerous hermeneutical methods/principles to identify, understand, and interpret the apparent linguistic (ẓāhir) indication of scripture, and thereby deducing new, or justify pre-existing, jurisprudential knowledge of Sharia. For example, typical issues discussed in the Uṣūlī study of language and meaning include:

  • The relationship between words and meaning.
  • The usage of language as literal (ḥaqīqī) and metaphorical (majāzī).
  • The nature and indication of linguistic forms and structures such commands and prohibitions (awāmir wa nawāhī), general and specific statements (ʿāmm wa khāṣṣ), absolute and restricted statements (muṭlaq wa muqayyad), clear and ambiguous statements (mubayyan wa mujmal), and explicit and implicit statements (manṭūq wa mafhūm).

The Muslim hermeneutic understanding of the complex interplay between language and meaning and the richness of debates and implications therein is not comprehensively presented in the English language. Therefore, this workshop invites scholars and researchers who can critically present and recreate the discourse of mabāḥith al-alfāẓ in the English language, specially focusing on the above issues, and analyse their normative implications on contemporary jurisprudential deduction of Sharia.

Applicants are invited to consider the following areas:

  • The historical origins of the different hermeneutical principles used in legal theory and the context in which they were developed.
  • The philosophical, theological, and ethical theories and assumptions that are discussed in the context of mabāḥith al-alfāẓ.
  • The relevance of the linguistic and hermeneutical principles developed in uṣūl al-fiqh to questions in the philosophy of language, and how different theories of language may inform discussions in uṣūl al-fiqh.


The Conference 

This workshop is organised by AMI in collaboration with AMI Press. Shortlisted abstracts are expected to be developed into full academic papers. Upon successful completion of all publication requirements, contributors will be awarded an honorarium. AMI will cover all reasonable travel and accommodation costs. The proceedings of the workshop will be published in the form of an edited book in 2025. The language of the workshop (and published papers) will be English only. The workshop will run over two days, each having 6–8 papers, and includes lunch, refreshments, and dinner. Each paper should last no more than 20 minutes. All presenters are required to stay for the full two days.


 Schedule for Submissions 

  • Abstracts: The deadline for abstracts is 19th April 2024. Abstracts should be 300–500 words and should be submitted along with a CV (maximum 2 pages, with a listing of the applicant’s publications and recent work experience) in either MS Word or PDF format. Authors should also provide a short biography of themselves.
  • Shortlisting Abstracts: Abstracts shortlisted for the workshop will be notified by 3rd May 2024.
  • Workshop: Selected abstracts will be invited for a two-day workshop on 4th and 5th July 2024 at the Al-Mahdi Institute, 60 Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6RB. The workshop co-ordinator will arrange travel and accommodation for you.


Submissions of Abstracts 

An abstract of no more than 500 words should be submitted in the form of a MS Word document or PDF attached in an email to [email protected] by 17:00 UK time, Friday 19th April 2024. Applicants should submit a CV with a listing of publications and recent employment history along with a short biography of themselves.


Submissions Process (Full Papers)  

Full papers should be submitted in the form of a MS Word document attached to an email to [email protected] no later than 17:00 UK time, 29th November 2024.

The first page of the manuscript should contain the following:

  • The title
  • The name(s) and institutional affiliation of the author(s)
  • Short biography
  • The address, telephone, and email address of the corresponding author(s)
  • An abstract of 300 words maximum
  • A bibliography
  • 6 keywords

Final paper submissions must align with the formatting guidelines provided by AMI Press, following the Chicago Manual of Style. The word count for submissions should fall within the range of 6,000 to a maximum of 10,000 words, excluding the bibliography.