Review of ‘Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari‛a’ by Abduallahi Ahmed An-Na‛im
Ancient Traditions, New Conversations, 2011
6 Pages Posted: 18 May 2011 Last revised: 21 May 2011
Date Written: May 16, 2011
This is a review of “Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari‛a” by Abduallahi Ahmed An-Na‛im. An-Na‛im’s book is an important and interesting effort to build a case, grounded in Islam itself, for why Islamic societies need to establish “secular” states that are “neutral regarding religious doctrine” and do “not claim or pretend to enforce … the religious law of Islam.” An-Na‛im’s multi-faceted discussion draws on a variety of arguments, but is most compelling in its account of the distinct discursive demands of the state and the religious legal community. The analysis has some distinct weaknesses and leaves open some important questions. But it does prompt the thought that there might be a larger underlying religious logic to something like the separation of religion and state. Particularly in the context of the modern state, this is a logic to which all faith traditions might be wise to pay heed.
Keywords: Islam, Shari‛a, Sharia, Islamic states, Islamic Societies, Religion and the State, Secularism, Public Reason, Civic Reason, Liberalism, Christianity and Law, Religious Law, Colonialism, Robert Cover
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