Interpreting the Qur'an and the Constitution: Similarities in the Use of Text, Tradition, and Reason in Islamic and American Jurisprudence
56 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2007
Date Written: February 2007
This article identifies parallels in interpretive theories within Islamic and American jurisprudence. It explains how, although they operate against very different cultures and legal institutions, jurists of both Islamic and American law have adopted a similar range of approaches to interpreting their founding texts, the Qur'an and the Constitution, respectively. This article traces these methodological threads by studying, side by side, Muslim and American advocates of: (1) plain meaning literalism, (2) historical understanding originalism, and (3) reference to underlying purpose and spirit. Seen in this comparative context, it becomes clear that jurists of these different legal cultures often have more in common with each other than with their fellow jurists adhering to opposing methodologies within their own system. These similarities stand as a counterpoint to the stark polarities often drawn between "Islam" and the "West." This article thus fills an empty space in the comparative law literature by identifying phenomena that have been unrecognized so far, largely because the greater Muslim and American legal communities have themselves been talking past each other for so long.
Keywords: Constitution, constitutional law, constitutional interpretation, interpretive theory, originalism, living constitution, textualism, historical meaning, original intent, original understanding, constitutional purpose, literalism, plain meaning, legal theory, jurisprudence, Islam, Muslim, Islamic law,
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