Contested Universalities of International Law: Islam's Struggle with Modernity
Journal of the History of International Law, Vol. 10 (2008) pp. 259-307
49 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2008
This article explores the validity of Muslim claims for a particularistic Islamic law of nations. Such claims include the normative rejection of current international law in whose creation and continued development colonised peoples had little active role. Yet irrespective of its geographic origin and alleged normative shortcomings, international law is primarily a modern phenomenon serving functional needs not attainable by pre-modern precursors. Discussing the nature of religious law and examining the incomplete reception of the institutional “package” of modernity, the article aims to highlight why historical models of Muslim international relations share the same shortfalls as other unilateral attempts by “universal states” to regulate inter-group relations. The demand for greater recognition of religious law both domestically and internationally is a phenomenon driven by dissatisfaction with the costs of the modernisation process. The appeal of religious law is based on its perception as a language of justice. Nevertheless, reliance on religious law is unlikely to yield satisfactory results in either practical or intellectual terms, and is unlikely to resolve the contradictions of the global modernisation process.
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