The kitĀb al-NawĀzil by abŪ al-Layth al-SamarqandĪ as a source for legal and social history

Nurit Tsafrir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Kitāb al-nawāzil, compiled by the Ḥanafī Abū al-Layth al-Samarqandī, is considered the earliest extant fatwā collection. It preserves legal decisions of Ḥanafī jurists primarily from Balkh, in Khurāsān, up to the late fourth/tenth century. Many of these legal decisions respond to the contingencies of the local community by reconciling Ḥanafī law with current practice, and hence reflect the social environment from which they arose. By examining the structure and contents of Kitāb al-nawāzil, which has so far been studied only in a preliminary fashion, this paper demonstrates the immense value of this collection for the development of Ḥanafī law, for our understanding of this development, and for learning about everyday life in early Islamic Balkh. This demonstration reveals the importance of the Nawāzil, first, as a reservoir of raw material from which legal opinions were incorporated into Ḥanafī standard law; second, in providing a picture of the interrelationships between Ḥanafī law in theory and practice, revealing the role of custom in shaping the law; and third, as a firsthand historical documentation of a specific Persian Muslim community, by its own members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-166
Number of pages28
JournalJerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam
Issue number50
StatePublished - 2021


  • Abū al-Layth al-Samarqandī
  • Balkh
  • Eastern Iran
  • Fatwās
  • Kitāb al-nawāzil
  • Ḥanafī law


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