Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism

Article excerpt

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, by Abdulaziz Sachedina. Oxford, UK and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. xii+139 pages. Notes to p. 161. Bibl. to p. 168. Index to p. 175. $25.

Abdulaziz Sachedina's goal in The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism is "to demonstrate that the essential message in the Qur'an about the unity of human beings through God's creation can become a positive source for harmony and cooperation" (p. 27). The book develops this argument through study of Islamic beliefs regarding religious diversity, war with unbelievers, rebellion, apostasy, jihad, and the relationship between religious and political authority. The analysis draws on the Qur'an, several classical commentaries, and the works of two contemporary Islamic scholars (Sayyid Qutb and `Allama Tabataba'i).

Sachedina gives careful consideration to Islam's seemingly contradictory invocations regarding religious tolerance. The Qur'an clearly calls for tolerance of Judaism and Christianity in passages such as, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is good, shall receive their reward from the Lord;" (2:62) and, "To you your religion, and to me my religion" (109:5). And yet, the Qur'an also contains passages that express a much different view: "Fight those among the People of the Book who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day" (9:29); "Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him;" (3:85) and, "Kill the idolators wherever you find them" (9:5).

For many centuries, Muslim jurists held that the more belligerent passages of the Qur'an abrogated the tolerant ones. As a consequence, Muslims had an obligation to challenge the non-believers and convert them to Islam. Sachedina convincingly refutes this view (pp. 29-30). He proposes that medieval jurists intentionally misinterpreted the Qur'an in order to legitimize corrupt and aggressive regimes. …

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