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This article was published in the Brill journal Die Welt des Islams (vol. 47, issue 2, 2007) under the title, "Maqasid al-Shari'a: Epistemology and Hermeneutics of Muslim Theologies of Human Rights

 

Abstract:

This essay explores the purposive strategy of modern Islamic legal theory (i.e., based on maqāsid al-sharīa, with public benefit, or maslaha, as the sharīa's main purpose) and its use in articulating an Islamic theology of human rights. After a synopsis of contemporary research on Islam and human rights, the essay highlights the main issues involved in the twentiethcentury turn to a purposive approach in usūl al-fiqh (Islamic legal theory). The “maqāsidī ” strategy as it is applied to human rights is then monitored in three distinct currents: traditionalists (Muhammad al-Ghaz¯lī and Muhammad 'Amāra); progressive conservatives (Muhammad Talbi, Muhammad al-Mutawakkal, and Rāshid al-Ghannūshī); progressives working with a postmodern epistemology (Ebrahim Moosa and Khaled Abou El Fadl). In conclusion, this move toward ethical objectivism and an epistemological favoring of ethical values over particular formulations of the text could enable a greater number of conservatives and progressives to converge on some of the burning questions of human rights today.

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