The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer: Ibn Rushd and Modern Islamic Banking


Guest Writer, Nizar Alshubaily  


Dubai: Gone are the days when no one heard of Islamic Banking. That was when I started, in the mid 80s. But there were many pioneers before me. Since then, Islamic Finance has proliferated globally. In those days, there were hardly any decent books to learn about the subject, or any courses. Islamic Financial Institutions were few, and scholars were fewer.

Today there are over 1,000 Islamic Financial Institutions worldwide, and over a 1,000 Sharia Scholars versed in modern banking. Islamic Financial assets are set to reach $ 2.6 Trillion by 2020. There are over 240 annual Islamic Finance events, and hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities offering courses in Islamic Finance. In Britain alone there are 59 schools were Islamic Finance is taught. And added to all of this is the plethora of Islamic Finance publications.

But there is one thing that is missing, which I believe must be required reading for any student of Islamic Finance: Ibn Rushd’s “The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer”, known by its original Arabic name “Bidayat Al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat Al-Muqtasid”.

Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 A.D.) was better known as a philosopher and physician in Córdova, Spain during Islamic rule. He was also a judge just like his father and his grandfather before him. He served as a judge in Seville and as the Chief Qadi (Judge) of Córdova. He is better known in the West as Averöes, and as “The Commentator” for his works on philosophy and Aristotle. Many of his works are lost, while others survived in Latin or Hebrew but not the original Arabic.

“The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer” is breathtaking in its detail, and find it would be difficult to find an equivalent legal book of the time. The Book is about comparative Islamic law discussing the views of different schools of Muslim Jurists. Ibn Rushd however hoped that The Book would provide the student with the tools necessary to derive on his own the sources of law. In Ibn Rushd’s own words: “We have designed the book in such a way that with the help of its methodology he (the student) may attain the status of Ijtihad.” Ijtihad is the effort in finding a legal solution.

It’s available at Amazon in English, translated from the Arabic. It is in two volumes, and it’s Volume II that is especially useful for any student of Islamic Finance.

Volume II is over 600 pages long and covers around 48 Books divided into chapters, mostly on Islamic Contract Law relating to such subjects as Ijara (Leasing), Taflis (Bankruptcy), Ariya (Commodity Loan), Salam (Advance Payment), and Buyu (Sales).

The Book of Sales (Buyu) for example is around 78 pages with five main parts and numerous sub chapters, discussing such subjects as: identification of the kinds of sales, conditions of the validity of each kind, causes of vitiation (faults), the rules of valid sales, and the rules of vitiated sales.

This is not an easy book, and cannot be read lightly. It’s best used as a reference by the student. I hope someday it will be mandatory reading for all Islamic Finance students.

Ibn Rushd’s fame was great, till this day he is renowned as a luminary of Andalusian Spain with a statue in his honor in his native city of Córdova.

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