The Faqīh as Engineer A Critical Assessment of Fiqh’s Epistemological Status

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Ali Paya

Keywords

Fiqh, Engineering, Science, Knowledge claims, Pragmatic measures, Correspondence truth

Abstract

Following a brief discussion on the differences between science and technology as well as engineering’s main characteristics, I explore fiqh’s epistemological features. The upshot of my discussion is that although Muslim scholars like Farabi and Ghazzali consciously placed fiqhin the category of “applied sciences,” it seems that many of the fuqahā’ and other Muslim (or even non-Muslim)s cholars have not fully appreciated the significance of this point.T he result, as I argue, has been epistemic confusion on the part ofm any fuqahā’and perhaps other Muslim scholars. It has generally been assumed that fiqhhas the (immediate) aim of acquiring knowledge and discovering objective truth about reality, and that by doing so it can fulfill its other purpose: dealing with practical issues. I shall argue that this misconception has contributed to some unfortunate consequences. Equating a faqīh, who is a practical problem-solver par excellence (i.e., an engineer), with an ‘ālim (a man of knowledge) has helped the fuqahā’ further consolidatet heir dominant position in the ecosystem of Islamic culture. In turn,t his has paved the way for the dominance of instrumentalistic/p ragmatic approaches, in contrast to truth-oriented activities, in tra-d itional centers of learning in Muslim societies.

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