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Sources of Moral Obligation to Non-Muslims in the Fiqh Al-Aqalliyyat (Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities) Discourse

Islamic Law and Society, Vol. 16, pp. 34-94, 2009

Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 08-48

61 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008 Last revised: 27 Jul 2009

Andrew F. March

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Abstract

This article surveys four approaches to moral obligation to non-Muslims found in Islamic legal thought. The first three approaches I refer to in this article as the "revelatory-deontological," the "contractualist-constructivist" and the "consequentialist-utilitarian." The main argument of this article is that present in many of the contemporary works on the "jurisprudence of Muslim minorities" (fiqh al-aqalliyyat) is an attempt to provide an Islamic foundation for a relatively thick and rich relationship of moral obligation and solidarity with non-Muslims. This attempt takes the form of a fourth "comprehensive-qualitative" approach to political ethics in that it appeals not to juridical reasoning of the type "is x permissible and in which conditions?" but rather to Islamic ideals of what it means to live a good life, of what believing, normatively-committed Muslims want to pursue in this world, not only what they may pursue without fear of punishment. This meta-ethical approach builds on and goes beyond the first three. The force of this argument is that this fourth "comprehensive-qualitative" approach to moral obligation to non-Muslims is novel, emergent and not found not in the writings of outright reformers but in those of conservative, "neo-classical," shari'a-minded - even Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated - Islamic scholars. What also adds to the force of this argument is that the other meta-ethical discourses, particularly of contract and utility (maslaha), already get these scholars quite far towards a doctrine of "loyal resident alienage" in non-Muslim societies. That even orthodox Islamic scholars go further shows that they have some interest in giving a theological or principled foundation to a much thicker and richer form of moral obligation to non-Muslims, a relationship which involves recognizing non-Muslims qua non-Muslims and contributing to their well-being.

Keywords: Islam, Islamic law, Muslim minorities, Islamic ethics, comparative ethics, moral obligation

Suggested Citation

March, Andrew F., Sources of Moral Obligation to Non-Muslims in the Fiqh Al-Aqalliyyat (Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities) Discourse. Islamic Law and Society, Vol. 16, pp. 34-94, 2009; Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 08-48. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1264272

Andrew F. March (Contact Author)

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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