The theory of Islamic law concerning the political unity of religious communities and the theory’s regional influence
Malaysia, though having Islam as its state religion, has been endeavoring to strike the right balance between religion and politics in its process of developing as a modern nation, and it has created a well-balanced society in terms of various social aspects, including relations with other religions. For this reason, we selected Malaysia as the focus of our research on coexistence and dialogue among different religious communities in East Asia, and we have partnered with the International Islamic University of Malaysia.
“Shariah, Governance and Interreligious Relations”
Date: 8:30-17:15 Sat. 26th October, 2013
Located: International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: 9:30-17:00 1st March, 2013
Located: Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan
Workshop report: Shariah, Governance and Interreligious Relations
Date: 9:00-16:30 Sat. 29th February, 2012
Located: International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Researcher: Yohei Matsuyama (Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science)
Methodologies Used in the Discussion of “Islamic Law for Muslim Minorities”
The purpose of this research is to make a typological analysis of the methodologies used by scholars in discussing “Islamic law for Muslims in non-Muslim countries (Muslim minorities)” (fiqh al-aqallīyāt al-muslimah), a topic that has been controversial since the end of the 20th century.
The concept of Islamic law for Muslim minorities has been adopted and discussed by a wide range of scholars with different geographical and philosophical backgrounds—not by members of specific groups or schools of thought. This paper outlines the theoretical approaches taken by these scholars in discussing Islamic law for Muslim minorities by analyzing the methodologies they use in their books and their opinions on matters of Islamic law (fatwā) and by shedding light on their theories from a topological perspective.
In this process, I focused on the stances of these scholars toward the interpretation of classical Islamic law in their respective arguments, and accordingly, I divided them into scholars independent from classical ijtihād and those dependent on classical ijtihād. The former group seeks to establish new Islamic law for Muslim minorities based on new ijtihād, or their own independent interpretation of law, while the latter group bases their interpretation of law on the outcome of classical ijtihād.
Typically, scholars independent from classical ijtihād are unbound by classical doctrines in theorizing and practicing Islamic law for Muslim minorities. Exemplary representatives of this group of scholars are Ṭāhā Jābir al-‘Alwānī, the advocate of the concept of Islamic law for Muslim minorities, and Tareq Oubrou, active in France. In developing arguments specifically tailored to Muslim minorities, they distinguish between superior law of a universal nature and inferior law of a variable and probable nature, namely between sharia and fiqh, thus categorizing laws into classes. By doing so, they see individual legal provisions of the past as variable and historical provisions, while drawing out modern and regional legal provisions from sharia, a superior law that is comparable to natural law (Al-Alwani 2003; al-‘Alwānī 2005; Oubrou 2004).
On the other hand, a certain number of scholars seek principal ways to practice Islamic law for Muslim minorities by exploring a huge amount of data of classical ijtihād. Like scholars independent from classical ijtihād, they also recognize the necessity of interpreting laws flexibly, without being bound by conventional academic theories. However, they also attempt to carefully keep the continuity from classical theories in discussing Islamic law for Muslim minorities, which is characteristic of this group of scholars. Exemplary representatives of this group are Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī and ‘Abdullāh Ibn Bayyah, who place focus on legal particulars (furū‘) and legal theory (uṣūl) of Islamic law, respectively. Despite this difference in focus, however, both of them are characterized by their attempt to argue that their interpretations rely on and are rooted in classical theories (al-Qaraḍāwī 2005; Ibn Bayyah 2006).
As discussed above, scholars have taken various approaches to form convincing theories on Islamic law for Muslim minorities, while, at the same time, addressing an important issue of how classical theories could be interpreted and practiced today, on which heated discussions have taken place. In this light, we may say that the study of Islamic law for Muslim minorities now constitutes one of the most advanced fields of research concerning Islamic law reform (Matsuyama 2013).
Research on the theological basis for multiculturalism in Islam: With focus placed on the Maturidi school
he purpose of this research is to examine the theological basis for religious dialogue between contemporary Muslims and non-Muslims in non-Muslim regions. To achieve this purpose, I have studied the theological literature of the Maturidi school, one of the Sunni schools of theology, to find out how non-Muslim parties of religious dialogue are viewed in the theological context.
The Maturidi school embraces a doctrine that is useful for religious dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in non-Muslim regions, which are known as the land of idolatry (ard al-shirk). The land of idolatry refers to regions where Islamic teachings are not known or practiced.
According to the doctrine of the Maturidi school, even people who have not been introduced to the Islamic teachings have an obligation to “know” the existence of the Creator by reason (al-Ūshī 2010: 301; al-Nasafī 2000: 82–83; al-Bazdawī 2003: 214–217; al-Sābūnī 1969: 150–151). This doctrine eventually results in an attitude that accepts the faiths held by non-Muslims in the land of idolatry even if they do not know the basic Islamic teachings or do not have faith in Islam—a positive religion in a narrow sense. In fact, the Greatest Wisdom (al-Fiqh al-Absat), one of the most important classical theological epistles of the Maturidi school that is attributed to Abū Hanīfah al-Nu‘mān bn Thābit, explicitly mentions that the people of the “land of idolatry” are also regarded as authentic believers (mu’min) only if they recognize the existence of the Creator, even if they do not know the basic Islamic teachings found in the Quran and propagated by the Prophet and have never performed religious obligations (Abū Hanīfah 2004: 600-601). This principle has affected the entire doctrines of faith held by the Maturidi school (al-Nasafī 2004: 38–61; al-Lāmishī 1995: 135–144; al-Bazdawī 2003: 154–155), while it is deeply related with the rules for conversion from a polytheistic religion to Islam in the Hanafi school of law, which is closely associated with the Maturidi school of theology (al-Mawsilī 1998 vol. 4: 424).
Under this principle, there is only a very vague distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims in non-Muslim regions where authentic Islamic teachings are not known, and it makes no sense to differentiate between “us, Muslims” and “them, non-Muslims.” According to the argument of the Maturidi school, Muslims in the “land of idolatry” are theologically justified to have dialogue with all people who share a belief in the Creator, as fellow believers.
Another argument of the Maturidi school that bears special importance for this research is that the distinction between right (hasan) and wrong (qabīh) or between beauty and ugliness can be recognized by reason, which is in contrast with the argument of the Ash‘ari school that such a distinction is recognizable only through revelation from God (Ibn al-Humām 2002: 151–152; Ibn Abī Sharīf 2002: 151–152). This Maturidi argument supports the theological possibility and validity of Muslims having dialogue with non-Muslims in the ethical and moral contexts even if they do not share the value of revelation. While the Ash‘ari school holds that Muslims, in principle, cannot reach an agreement on what is right and wrong with non-Muslims who do not believe in revelation from God, the Maturidi school maintains that such an agreement is attainable because reason allows us to distinguish between right and wrong.
As discussed above, we can provide a partial outline of the theological basis of Islam for coexistence of and religious dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in non-Muslim regions by employing the argument of the Maturidi school.