ISIS’ Appropriation of Classical Islamic International Law

May 08

Brookings’ 2015 US-Islamic World Forum invited me recently to contribute to Will McCants’ series of discussions regarding ISIS’s relationship to the Islamic tradition which he initiated in response to the now (in)famous Atlantic piece by Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants“. I wrote about ISIS’s appropriation of classical concepts such as dar al-islam and dar al-harb to justify their actions against their enemies, domestic and foreign, while ignoring over 1200 years of the concepts’ evolution, including, in the post-World War II era where leading Muslim jurists have concluded that the distinction is irrelevant in the modern world.

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The Fate of Non-Muslims in the Next Life According to 20th Century Azhari Reformist Theologians

Apr 08

I’m not quite sure who this Islam al-Buhayri fellow is, or why he has suddenly become controversial in Egypt.  His facebook page describes him modestly as a an “A Reforming [lit.: “correcting”, musahhih] Islamic Researcher.” One issue that seems to have stirred the pot is his claim that it is impossible to describe the People of the Book, i.e., Jews  and Christians, as kuffar, i.e., non-Muslims, from the perspective of the Quran.  Here is a link to a very interesting fatwa by Yusuf al-Qaradawi on this question.  Qaradawi’s basic position is that kafir — disbeliever or non-Muslim — has two meanings in Islam.  The first is a legal category, and applies to anyone who has not affirmatively embraced Islam.  The second is a theological category, and applies for purposes of reward and punishment in the next life.  In the second case, a person is only a kafir and subject to divine punishment if the person, despite subjectively recognizing the truth of Islam, refuses to become a Muslim out of obstinacy and spite. As for this life, Muslims and non-Muslims according to him are supposed to cooperate on the basis of justice, not whether they have the same belief.  This view itself grew out of a series of theological debates that took place in the Azhar in the second-half of the twentieth-century.  I have written on this debate in a paper titled, “No Salvation Outside Islam: Muslim Modernists, Democratic Politics, and Islamic Theological Exclusivism.”  That paper was one chapter in the larger book. “Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation and the Fate of Others,” edited by Mohammad Hassan Khalil.

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God Hates Ishmaelites

Aug 04

Or so says Mormon theology, if this article from TruthOut is to be believed. So it turns out that Romney was not only kissing Sheldon Adelson’s butt for money, but also because he thinks they are part of a holy if not sacred lineage. Adelson’s holy lineage apparently makes it OK for the family values party to accept millions of dollars from a casino magnate: who cares what you do if you have the right descent? This is just another good reason, I’d say, to favor the exclusion of religion from public debate.

And, I will happily say, thank God I am a Muslim, where God teaches us that the only relevant distinction among human beings is in moral excellence:

“Ya ayyuha al-nasu, inna khalaqnakum min dhakarin wa untha wa ja`alnakum shu`uban wa qaba’ila li-ta`arafu inna akramakum ‘inda allahi atqakum” — “O people! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. The noblest among you in God’s sight is the most mindful of God.” Quran, al-Hujurat (the Chambers), 49:13.

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The Implications of Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat (jurisprudence of minority Muslims) for Non-Muslim Minorities in Muslim Majority States

Jun 15

I presented this paper in the fall of 2009 at a conference on minorities and Islamic law in Kuala Lampur sponsored by the Muslim World League and the International Islamic University.  It was my first time in Malaysia, but given the time difference (13 hours), I didn’t get much of an opportunity to see much of Malaysia.  In any case, it appears that my paper will be published along with some of the other papers presented at that conference.  This amounts to a pleasant surprise.

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Qaradawi on Muslim Views of Non-Muslims

May 16

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential and controversial contemporary Sunni clerics.  He may have the distinction of being loathed equally by  the anti-Muslim right and the Islamic right, whether jihadi or non-jihadi. I recently have written two articles, one of which has been published, while the other is forthcoming, which deal with his views on the political rights of women and the theological fate of non-Muslims in the next life, respectively.  Here is a link to two of his fatwas that reflect his theological views on Muslim-non-Muslim relations (the substance of which I discuss in the book chapter on the fate of non-Muslims in the next life) and the other on secular relations between Muslims and Jews and Christians.  In this second fatwa, he reiterates the centrality of secular “justice” as being the touchstone that governs Muslim relations with Jews and Christians, going so far as to mock those Muslims who view the Arab-Israeli conflict as a kind of religious conflict over contradictory religious views.  At the same time, he insists on the inviolability of Palestinian rights as a matter of justice, and that, if the Jews wish to stake their claim to Palestine on religious grounds, then Muslims have the right to oppose them on Islamic grounds.  I hope to translate these two fatwas at some point in the future, but for now, I hope simply to make the Arabic versions of the two fatwas more widely available.

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