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|Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of |
justice, equality, freedom, and dignity within a democratic nation state
| | Islamic Legal Theory Website Introduction The Rights at Home project aims at moving the debate about Human Rights in Muslim communities beyond the confines of states and legal structures. This meant that human rights would be rooted in local practices, institutional capacities and local knowledge concepts. And one of the consequences of such a move was to move the struggle into the important but sensitive areas of Shariah, Islam and human rights.
The current debate about Shariah and Human Rights has become a debate more generally about Islam and Human Rights. And the two have been placed in opposite and antagonistic camps with cultural and ideological implications. The Rights at Home respects this debate, but does not see how it can advance the plight and suffering of individuals or groups. If we follow this debate to its final conclusion, we might develop a systematic idea of Islam and Human Rights but not necessarily address the problems and challenges on the ground.
The reality of the matter is that both Islam and Human Rights, as abstract and ideological pronouncements, have lost touch with the actual need for rights against states, groups, powerful international lobbies and armies, and local leaders. Our challenge, then, lies in developing strategies and concepts that bring out the resources of the history of Shariah in order to address the plight of the marginalized.
The first part of the strategy is to propose a more accurate understanding of the meaning of Shariah in modern social contexts. The key essay in the Islamic Legal Theory folder on this website attempts to present a framework for such an understanding. It argues that an assessment of Shariah points to some fundamental changes in the history of Muslim understanding of the concept. We are also presently witnessing some critical questions being posed that forces us to rethink some ways and norms that have been accepted as the essence of Shariah. The materials in this section provide some substance to this claim.
From a slight different perspective, but making a similar argument, is Professor An-Naim’s article where he calls for an approach that does not neglect any of Islam, Human Rights and Secularism. In a related article, he urges Muslims not to take up the challenge of Human Rights, and not to sit on the sidelines. The debate is never over, and ongoing and active engagement through campaigns and rigorous intellectual debate will help societies.
Another person who has made a significant contribution to thinking about Shariah and general values like social justice is Professor Khalid Masud. In this interview with Abdulkader Tayob, he speaks about his own life-long quest for thinking about a critical and creative reading of Shariah in our times. Prof. Masud has underlined the importance of maslaha as a general principle for thinking about Shariah, rather than a set of specific rules and regulations.
The folder Fiqh Resources contains some materials challenging accepted notions of fiqh, and some constructive materials for rethinking and reconstructing the values of the historical legacy. Prof. Masud documents the many ways in which justice was applied in earlier conceptions of the Shariah. The article is promising for a creative application of social justice in modern contexts. Then we have a file with an extensive list of terms used in fiqh that elaborates the meaning of terms with notes on their earlier and current usage. Another article that is very useful is the meaning and structure of a fatwa, also from Prof. Masud. And finally, an article of Kecia Ali exposes the particular sexual basis of marriage contracts in early legal theory.
This is but a short list of articles that will eventually be posted on the website. We urge you to use the website in a constructive and engaging manner that will advance the plight of the marginalized and voiceless wherever and whoever they might be.