Islamic Political Ethics

Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict

Edited by Sohail H. Hashmi
With a foreword by Jack Miles
Copyright Date: July 2002
Pages: 264
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    Islamic Political Ethics
    Book Description:

    One of the most dynamic aspects of the Islamic revival during the past two centuries has been the rethinking of Islamic political thought. A broad range of actors, ideas, and ideologies characterize the debate on how Islamic ethics and law should be manifested in modern institutions. Yet this aspect of the "return to Islam" has been neglected by policymakers, the media, and even many scholars, who equate "political Islam" with merely one strand, labeled "Islamic fundamentalism." Bringing together ten essays from six volumes of the Ethikon Series in Comparative Ethics, this book gives a rounded treatment to the subject of Islamic political ethics.

    The authors explore the Islamic ethics of civil society, boundaries, pluralism, and war and peace. They consider questions of diversity, discussing, among other subjects, Islamic regimes' policies regarding women and religious minorities. The chapters on war and peace take up such crucial and timely issues as the Islamic ethics of jihad, examining both the legitimate conditions for the declaration of war and the proper conduct of war.

    In their discussions, the contributors analyze the works of classical writers as well as the full range of modern reinterpretations. But beyond these analyses of previous and contemporary thinkers, the essays also reach back to the two fundamental sources of Islamic ethics--the Qur'an and traditions of the Prophet--to develop fresh insights into how Islam and Muslims can contribute to human society in the twenty-first century.

    The authors are Dale F. Eickelman, Hasan Hanafi, Sohail H. Hashmi, Farhad Kazemi, John Kelsay, Muhammad Khalid Masud, Sulayman Nyang, Bassam Tibi, and M. Raquibuz Zaman.

    From the foreword by Jack Miles:

    "Western foreign ministers and secretaries of state may have to learn a little theology if the looming clash between embattled elements both in the West and in the Muslim umma is to yield to disengagement and peaceful coexistence, to say nothing of fruitful collaboration. . . . It is, then, no idle academic exercise that the thinkers whose work is collected here have in hand. The long-term practical importance of their work can scarcely be overstated."

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2537-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword: Of Theology and Diplomacy
    (pp. vii-x)

    Western foreign ministers and secretaries of state may have to learn a little theology if the looming clash between embattled elements both in the West and in the Muslim umma is to yield to disengagement and peaceful coexistence, to say nothing of fruitful collaboration. If al-Qa‘ida is a Muslim movement with military designs both on the umma itself and on the West, then it must be understood, in the first place, for what it is—namely, a deviant form of a major world religion and not simply a latter-day species of organized crime. To say this is not to dignify...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • 1 Civil Society and Government in Islam
      (pp. 3-37)

      A few comments on terms seem appropriate. Thus, civil society can mean many things. One way to summarize involves tying the term to a specific set of institutions or organizations that are held to “mediate” between private and public life. Churches and synagogues fit, as do labor unions, political parties, and such associations as the People for the American Way, the ACLU, the Rotary Clubs, and the National Organization for Women. For those influenced by Hegel, in particular, organizations like these are critical for the development of the type of people who can participate as full citizens in the political...

    • 2 Perspectives on Islam and Civil Society
      (pp. 38-55)

      Civil society has become an important issue in Islamic politics in recent years and a central topic of discourse for scholars, policy makers, and other observers. Its renewed relevance is a reflection of a set of two relatively recent international and domestic developments. On the international side, these developments included the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, the initial movement toward democratization in several parts of the world, and what appeared to be major progress toward resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. The external environment seemed to be moving away from a preoccupation with festering international and...

    • 3 Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society: A REFLECTIVE ISLAMIC APPROACH
      (pp. 56-76)

      Contemporary Muslims articulate a number of alternative conceptions of civil society. First, there are some who reject the very idea of civil society as alien to Islam, a concept coming from the West: secular, antireligious, and aiming at Westernizing Muslim societies. This is the radical fundamentalist position. Second, there are some who affirm the concept of civil society as a universal concept, a global ideal irrespective of its Western origins. They accept it as a model, a norm of practice, and an ideal in lifestyle for individuals and societies. In this view, Islamic tradition becomes an archaic expression of bygone...


    • 4 Islamic Perspectives on Territorial Boundaries and Autonomy
      (pp. 79-101)

      At this time in history, when the world is divided into nation-states with few virgin tracts of land to be claimed, it seems the task of defining territorial boundaries should be quite an easy one. However, the task becomes somewhat arduous when we try to approach it in terms of ethical perspectives that have religious sanctions. After all, if ethics is “the study of the right and the good, i.e., right conduct in the affairs of human life and the pursuit of the good life,”¹ then the question arises whether or not the current territorial boundaries that determine the position...

    • 5 Religion and the Maintenance of Boundaries: AN ISLAMIC VIEW
      (pp. 102-112)

      Religion is one of the oldest sources of boundaries among human beings. It remains one of the most important means of demarcating and maintaining boundaries in our time. The necessity of taking account of religious values is particularly acute for men and women living in states and societies where notions of boundaries—geographical and metaphysical—are related to notions of divine will, expressed through revelation of a sacred law, as is the case in Islam. M. Raquibuz Zaman’s review of the Islamic tradition in the preceding chapter highlights this way of thinking, for he cites several Qur’anic verses and Prophetic...


    • 6 Islam and Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 115-134)

      The Qur’an offers a distinctly modern perspective on the role of Islam as a force for tolerance and mutual recognition in a multiethnic, multicommunity world: “To each among you, We have ordained a law and assigned a path. Had God pleased, He could have made you one nation, but His will is to test you by what He has given you; so compete in goodness” (5:48).¹ Other verses reinforce the concepts and practices of tolerating religious difference: “Had your Lord willed, He would have made mankind one nation: but they will not cease differing” (11:118). Another reads: “O mankind! We...

    • 7 The Scope of Pluralism in Islamic Moral Traditions
      (pp. 135-147)

      Dale Eickelman argues in the previous chapter that the Qur’an offers a modern perspective of a multiethnic and multicommunity world. Despite the fact that over time localisms have resisted the full realization of this Qur’anic perspective, Muslim societies have nevertheless continuously demonstrated their belief in this principle, as illustrated by the thought of the jurist Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi in fourteenth-century Spain, the Mughal ruler Akbar in sixteenth-century India, and the Nurculuk movement in twentieth-century Turkey. Eickelman has very significantly noted that on various Islamic issues, the point of departure in contemporary debates is the Qur’an itself, not the interpretations of...

    • 8 Islamic Ethics in International Society
      (pp. 148-172)

      For the past fourteen centuries, Westerners have not known quite what to think of Islam. Western and Islamic civilizations are inextricably linked in origins, histories, and even, to a large degree, ethical values, and yet the encounter has been far from easy. Medieval Europeans considered Islam, as Albert Hourani has observed, “with a mixture of fear, bewilderment and uneasy recognition of a kind of spiritual kinship.”¹ Modern Europeans puzzled over the place of Islam in their emerging “international society.” Today, Islam still remains a source of confusion and concern for many in the West. At the end of the twentieth...


    • 9 War and Peace in Islam
      (pp. 175-193)

      Islam is a system of moral obligations derived from divine revelation and based on the belief that human knowledge can never be adequate. It follows that believers must act on the basis of Allah’s knowledge, which is the exclusive source of truth for Muslims. Ethics in Islam, though concerned with man’s actions, always relates these actions to the word of God as revealed to the Prophet, Muhammad, and as collected in the Qur’an. This understanding of ethics is shared by all Muslims, Sunni or Shi‘i, Arab or non-Arab.¹

      In this chapter, I first identify the Qur’anic conceptions of war and...

    • 10 Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace
      (pp. 194-216)

      If their discourse on the Persian Gulf War is any indication, Muslims are hopelessly divided on the Islamic ethics of war and peace. One graphic indication of this division is found in the deliberations of the People’s Islamic Conference, a group of Muslim activists and scholars from several countries originally convened to find a resolution for the Iran-Iraq War. During January 1991, in the weeks immediately before the Gulf War air campaign against Iraq, the conference was meeting simultaneously in Baghdad and Mecca, with the Baghdad group demonstrating sympathy with the Iraqi position and the Meccans supporting the anti-Iraq coalition....

  9. Glossary
    (pp. 217-218)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 219-220)
  11. Index
    (pp. 221-227)