Islamic Rationalism and the Foundation of Human Rights
Georgetown University Law Center
PLURALISM AND LAW: Proceedings of the 20th IVR Congress, Arend Soeteman, ed., Global Problems, Vol. 3, pp. 61-70, March 2005
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 777026
The question I address is whether the rationalist tradition in Islamic jurisprudence has the conceptual resources to explicate and justify contemporary human rights discourse. A common theme of many commentaries on Islam and human rights is that there is something intrinsically "Western" about human rights, where "Western" is thought to exclude "Islamic." As a result, scholars are sometimes reluctant to apply human rights norms to Muslim societies. Some even suggest that those who evaluate Muslim societies on this basis are guilty of "moral chauvinism and ethnocentric bias." This paper questions the validity of any strong epistemological contrast between Western and Islamic jurisprudence in this respect by arguing that several principles lying at the foundation of Western accounts of human rights have important counterparts in Islamic rationalism. Far from being exclusively Western, the philosophical foundations of human rights appear to be shared by both Western and Islamic theories of law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 11
Keywords: Human rights, rationalism, nativism, empiricism, deontic logic, natural liberty, practical reason, Mutazilite, Abd' al-Jabbar, Hourani, Aquinas, Ockham, Suarez, Leibniz, Langdell
Date posted: August 5, 2005