of Imām al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwaynī’s
Leaflet on the Sources of Law
A Note on the Translation
To translate a work of this type amounts to translating a long list of technical terms. This Leaflet serves primarily to define the technical vocabulary of legal theory, and to establish relationships between the terms, in order to form a coherent and complete system of vocabulary for legal arguments. Each term is therefore defined not only by its meanings in ordinary language, and by the technical definition assigned to it by al-Juwaynī, but also by its relationship to the other terms in the system. Ideally, therefore, each word should be translated in a way that preserves three levels of meaning. First, each translation should resonate with the ordinary usage of the word, so that the metaphors out of which the discourse is constructed are to some extent preserved. Additionally, of course, each translation should also express the technical meaning of the Arabic term as used in legal theory. At the same time, the etymological connections and grammatical relationships between the terms should also be reflected in the English, so that the relationships between the terms are preserved.
I have chosen to give priority to the second level of meaning, expressing as clearly as possible the technical meanings of terms, because without this the discourse will not make sense to one who is not already familiar with it. This means translating each word, sentence, and paragraph in such a way that it makes sense as a unit, independent of the rest of the discourse. I hope thereby to have rendered the text as meaningful as possible for an uninitiated reader. While I have attempted to maintain when possible the flavor of the underlying ordinary linguistic sense of words, and the relationships between words, ultimately these nuances and the terminological coherence of the discourse as a complete linguistic system can only be recognized through a study of Arabic. Indeed, the discourse is shaped by the Arabic language, and it would be impossible to reproduce all aspects of the system in another language. To become truly conversant with Islamic legal theory therefore requires studying the Arabic text, which is not any more difficult to read than the English text once one has learned the fundamentals of Arabic.
The goal of this translation is just to give a first impression of legal theory, and for that purpose it must communicate as clearly as possible the ideas in each section, without attempting to teach a precise technical vocabulary. I have therefore felt free to translate terms differently in different sections, when that seemed necessary in order to express the thought of each section. For those who wish to learn the Arabic terminology, key terms are listed, with their respective translations, at the end of each section. Some of these terms, such as ijmāʿ and ijtihād, are already becoming well known in English.