David Drennan

Proposed Title

Beyond Flexibility in Fatwas: Engaging Power, Progress, and Modernity in Islamic Thought


My research is focused on Islamic legal thought and texts in their socio-historical context. In particular, I investigate use and understanding of the aims and objectives of Islamic law (maqasid al-shari’a), alongside the notion of general interests/benefit (maslaha) and how these concepts interact in the realm of juristic opinions (fatwas) covering real cases.

I do so by focusing on the conceptualization and use of these concepts by Muslim jurists from North/West Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. This is a similar time period to when the revival of this approach to the law was promoted by Muhammad ‘Abduh (d. 1905) in Egypt, but my main scholars of focus, Muhammad Yahya al-Walati (d. 1913), and Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Wazzani (d. 1923) were not connected to this reform movement. Instead, they were widely respected traditional scholars within the Maliki school of Islamic law, which remains widely known for developing and using these concepts historically.

My interest is in how these authors remained connected to the Islamic legal corpus and heritage, whilst also dealing with tremendous socio-cultural change taking place in their time due to colonialism. This is contrasted with more modern and contemporary approaches that seek to dismiss the textual corpus.

Why I chose CSU?

I have known of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation since its inception, through their tireless community work and outreach. I have known a number of staff members professionally for many years, so when the opportunity to undertake my PhD opened up, I decided to commence it in the supportive and collegial environment at the Centre.

Engagement and memberships

Australian Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies [AAIMS]
Australian Association for the Study of Religions [AASR]
International Society for Islamic Legal Studies [ISILS]


“A Knowledge Tree of Maliki Fiqh Texts and Authors”, Medium, 15 November 2020, https://medium.com/@dawood.drennan/a-knowledge-tree-of-mālikī-fiqh-texts-and-authors-eba3962f773f.

“Studying Fatwas: Global and Local Answers to Religious Questions”, In Studying Islam in Practice, edited by Gabriele Marranci, 49-59. London: Routledge, 2014.

“An Introduction to Islam” La Trobe Journal, no. 89 (2012): 9-19, 169-174.

Current candidate profiles