Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict

Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict

Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict

Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict

Synopsis

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 theEthikon 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."

Excerpt

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. If alQa‛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 al-Qa‛ida. It is rather to suggest that containing the threat to world peace that it poses may entail constructing and promoting a viable and authentically Muslim alternative to its fatally appealing political vision.

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. the West has been eager to see more democratic political systems emerge within the Muslim world but—for reasons rooted deep in Western history—slow to recognize that the task of creating such alternatives must involve Islam itself. Although President George W. Bush did well after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to declare that Osama bin Laden did not represent true Islam, the American State Department seems little interested in asking who does represent true Islam. This question—directly involving, as it does, the study of religion—is one that officially secular Western military and diplomatic institutions are designed never to ask, one that they rarely even notice they are not asking. This silence marks the knowledge gap that must be closed if peace is to be achieved, and the authors of this volume may well be a part of closing it.

At the end of World War I, as historian David Fromkin cogently demonstrates in A Peace to End All Peace, Britain and France vastly overestimated the importance of Arab nationalism and correspondingly underestimated the importance of Islam as an organizing principle in the polity they sought to construct on the ruins of the Turkish . . .

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