The Rights of God

The Rights of God: Islam, Human Rights, and Comparative Ethics

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    The Rights of God
    Book Description:

    Promoting Islam as a defender of human rights is laden with difficulties. Advocates of human rights will readily point out numerous humanitarian failures carried out in the name of Islam. In The Rights of God, Irene Oh looks at human rights and Islam as a religious issue rather than a political or legal one and draws on three revered Islamic scholars to offer a broad range of perspectives that challenge our assumptions about the role of religion in human rights. The theoretical shift from the conception of morality based in natural duty and law to one of rights has created tensions that hinder a fruitful exchange between human rights theorists and religious thinkers. Does the static identification of human rights with lists of specific rights, such as those found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, make sense given the cultural, historical, and religious diversity of the societies in which these rights are to be respected and implemented? In examining human rights issues of the contemporary Islamic world, Oh illustrates how the value of religious scholarship cannot be overestimated. Oh analyzes the commentaries of Abul A'la Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, and Abdolkarim Soroush-all prominent and often controversial Islamic thinkers-on the topics of political participation, religious toleration, and freedom of conscience. While Maududi and Qutb represent traditional Islam, and Soroush a more reform and Western-friendly approach, all three contend that Islam is indeed capable of accommodating and advocating human rights. Whereas disentangling politics and culture from religion is never easy, Oh shows that the attempt must be made in order to understand and overcome the historical obstacles that prevent genuine dialogue from taking place across religious and cultural boundaries.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-463-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Defining Dialogue
    (pp. 1-11)

    Promoting Islam as a defender of human rights is fraught with difficulties. Many advocates of human rights readily point out the numerous examples of humanitarian failures carried out in the name of Islam: the Taliban in Afghanistan, female genital mutilation in Africa, the penal code in Saudi Arabia, genocide in Darfur, and the September 11 attacks in the United States. As a result, human rights proponents are often tempted to blame Islam, if not religion generally, for human rights violations. The avoidance of Islam and religion in human rights dialogue presents a serious problem for the advancement of universal human...

  5. 1 Conversations about Human Rights and Islam
    (pp. 12-35)

    The form of dialogue about human rights reflects the content of human rights. The way in which we converse about a topic affects the way in which we understand it. With regard to Islam and human rights, an approach to dialogue that is committed to understanding, openness, and fairness establishes necessary conditions for articulating universal norms of human rights. Unfortunately, such conversations about Islam and human rights have often been compromised by misperceptions of Islam, historical circumstance, and political considerations. Awareness of the way in which we come to such conversations, however, is an important first step toward establishing ideal...

  6. 2 Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush: Humanity and History
    (pp. 36-54)

    If in conversation we wish to seek, as Gadamer describes, a “fusion of horizons,” we must understand each other as people who have reasons for thinking as we do. We must accept each other first and foremost as people who come from backgrounds with unique histories and traditions. We must see the other as having a human face. Humanizing the authors of foreign ideas minimizes the objectification that prevents genuine dialogue from occurring.

    Although one can certainly read the works of Islamic religious scholars without knowledge of their individual histories or of the environments in which they write, awareness of...

  7. 3 Envisioning Islamic Democracies
    (pp. 55-73)

    Although Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush agree that democracy is a human right and that Islam supports democracy, they conceive of Islamic democracies in different ways. Their individual visions of democracy derive from their unique religious, historical, and political views. In entering into conversation with these thinkers about democracy as a human right supported by Islam, we hope to come to an understanding about this subject matter by first accepting their views of democracy as arising out of traditions different from our own. We also bring to this dialogue sensitivity to the historical circumstances that may affect their visions of democracy...

  8. 4 The Free Conscience: “No Compulsion in Religion”
    (pp. 74-92)

    By engaging in dialogue with Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush on the subject matter of freedom of conscience, we begin to see this human right from new perspectives based in Islamic thought. We commence with the fortunate agreement that freedom of conscience is, indeed, a human right, but how one comes to this conclusion varies. The particulars of freedom of conscience differ according to each thinker and the unique context in which he understands this human right. That we understand the paths these Islamic thinkers take to their conclusions about freedom of conscience and the nuanced ways in which they comprehend...

  9. 5 Toleration . . . and Its Limits
    (pp. 93-111)

    The concept of toleration underlies the project of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given the disagreements that inevitably arise when persons of different worldviews engage in dialogue over the details of human flourishing, they agree to accept some differences among them in order to create a universally acceptable set of norms. Questions may also arise regarding the extent to which one may tolerate differences without compromising one’s own values. Acts of toleration, which can be practiced in different ways, as well as the attitude of tolerance, which assumes multiple forms, are subject matters ripe for interreligious and cross-cultural conversation.¹...

  10. CONCLUSION: Advancing Human Rights Dialogue
    (pp. 112-118)

    Even though the relatively recent concept of “human rights” is not native to traditional religious texts such as the Qur’an, the pervasiveness of human rights as a subject of discussion among Islamic traditionalists suggests that even the most conservative thinkers modify their discourse to incorporate compelling extrareligious ideas. In part because Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush have accepted the relevance of human rights to Muslims and share the common subject of Islam, they are able to engage in dialogue with each other across time and space concerning the appropriate role of religion in human rights.¹ Variances in geography, history, and the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 119-142)
    (pp. 143-144)
    (pp. 145-150)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 151-158)