Islam and Violence: Our Forgotten Legacy

Abou El Fadl Khaled

in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174304
Published online November 2007 |
Islam and Violence: Our Forgotten Legacy

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Born in Kuwait of Egyptian parents, he holds degrees from Yale University (B.A.), University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D.), and Princeton University (M.A./Ph.D.). Abou El Fadl also received formal training in Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt and Kuwait. He is Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law; his publications include Islam and the Challenge of Democracy; The Place of Tolerance in Islam; Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women; and Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law.

Though stressing that Islam is a religion of peace, El Fadl acknowledges doctrines in the Islamic tradition that are less tolerant or humanitarian. Though certain jurists have held that the world is divided into an Abode of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and an Abode of War (Dar al-Harb), and that the relationship between them is hostile, he notes that other jurists have maintained the existence also of an Abode of Peace (Dar al-Sulh). Although non-Muslim, this Abode has peaceful relations with the Abode of Islam. Muslims who live in the Abode of Peace are allowed to practice their faith. Other jurists even go as far as to say that the Abode of Islam exists wherever one finds justice. Because justice may be found in some lands that have a non-Muslim majority but that permit Muslims to practice their faith freely, one could consider such territories to be part of the Abode of Islam. El Fadl then urges Muslims to refocus their attention on moral discourses. He understands that because Western imperialism has been so harmful to Muslims, they are often tempted to resort to sensational acts of retaliation. But he insists that this is wrongheaded because it suspends the moral principles of religion in pursuit of political power . . . and there is [then] no room for seriously engaging [the] Islamic intellectual heritage. It is only by engaging that heritage, he implies, that solutions may be found to the Muslims most pressing problems. He also notes that the Qurnic passages invoking jihad are in the context of a striving for piety, knowledge, justice, and truth. When it is a question of fighting, the word that is used is qital (not jihad). Resort to jihad by believers is always made contingent upon specific conditions of aggression against them.

Chapter.  2534 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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