Publications

Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a

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  • Format: Book
  • Published: 2008, Harvard University Press
  • ISBN: 0674027760
  • 336 pages
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What should be the place of Shari‘a—Islamic religious law—in predominantly Muslim societies of the world? In this ambitious and topical book, a Muslim scholar and human rights activist envisions a positive and sustainable role for Shari‘a, based on a profound rethinking of the relationship between religion and the secular state in all societies.

An-Na‘im argues that the coercive enforcement of Shari‘a by the state betrays the Qur’an’s insistence on voluntary acceptance of Islam. Just as the state should be secure from the misuse of religious authority, Shari‘a should be freed from the control of the state. State policies or legislation must be based on civic reasons accessible to citizens of all religions. Showing that throughout the history of Islam, Islam and the state have normally been separate, An-Na‘im maintains that ideas of human rights and citizenship are more consistent with Islamic principles than with claims of a supposedly Islamic state to enforce Shari‘a. In fact, he suggests, the very idea of an “Islamic state” is based on European ideas of state and law, and not Shari‘a or the Islamic tradition.

Bold, pragmatic, and deeply rooted in Islamic history and theology, and the Secular State offers a workable future for the place of Shari‘a in Muslim societies.  The volume was released in Arabic in 2010 by Merit Publishing, Cairo, Egypt and also is being prepared for translation and publication in Bahasa, Bengali, Persian, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu.

About the Author: Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University. Prior to joining Emory in 1995, he was Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Africa. In February 2009, An-Na`im received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve) and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U. Leuven, Leuven), Belgium. He also served as Global Legal Scholar at the Law School, University of Warwick, UK (until August 2010); and Extraordinary Professor at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (until December 2010). An-Na`im has published more than 60 articles and book chapters on human rights, constitutionalism, Islamic law and politics. As a 2009 Carnegie Scholar, he is working on a book manuscript for Oxford University Press, tentatively entitled: “What is an  American Muslim,” in which he is applying the thesis presented in his 2008 book, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a.  This book is available for download free of charge in eight languages of Islamic societies at (http://sharia.law.emory.edu).

 

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