The doctrine of Islam and the change in the image of Muslims as seen from the perspective of Christian theology
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been among the countries experiencing the greatest struggle to cope with Muslims, both at home and abroad. For this very reason, great many research projects have been undertaken to explore the possibilities of the coexistence of Christianity and Islam. In the United States, we will conduct joint research with Hartford Seminary to analyze the causes of Islamophobia and consider how we can overcome it.
Date: 10th – 11th October, 2013
Located: Hartford Seminary, Connecticut, USA
Workshop report Islamic Low and Ethics in a Multi-Religious World
Researcher: Kazunori Hamamoto (Doctral Student of the Graduate School of Theology, Doshisha University)
Conflict between Revelation and Reason in the Theory of the “Purposes of Sharia”
In arguments over dialogue between Christianity and Islam, it is often pointed out that these two religions share the thought of natural law, and this can be a basis for dialogue between them. According to this view, both Christian and Islamic traditions hold the belief that the law that men should observe constitutes part of the world order established by the Creator, which can be recognized by reason. Therefore, the view concludes that Christians and Muslims can work in cooperation regarding the basic issues of human life, such as social justice and human rights.
The representative proponent of the Christian natural law theory is St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), and a strong influence of his thought of natural law seems to be behind the abovementioned view. However, it is questionable that a similar thought can be found in the Islamic tradition. A view that has been traditionally dominant among Muslims holds that it is through revelation from God that men know how they should behave and that reason is just a tool to understand such revelation. It is true that some researchers have recently published books that discuss the thought of natural law seen in the Islamic tradition, or insist on the necessity of incorporating such a thought in the interpretation of sharia. Still, the authors of these books are not simply supportive of the compatibility of the natural law theory with the Islamic tradition; instead, they seem to be aware of the significance of the revealed law for Muslims, which makes their arguments somewhat weak.
Meanwhile, the theory of the “Purposes of Sharia” is recognized as part of the Islamic thought of natural law. This legal theory places greater importance on the purposes behind revelation than the literal meaning of revelation itself. In this theory, therefore, reason is given a somewhat important role compared with other legal theories that center on literal interpretation. Even in this theory, however, reason is not given a position superior to revelation. The five purposes of sharia defined by al-Ghazālī (d. 1111)―religion, life, reason, offspring, and property―are often cited still today, but al-Ghazālī himself relied on this theory only in special cases. In addition, while al-Shātibī (d. 1388) further refined legal theory with these purposes at the core, we may say that his main aim in doing so was to explain the appropriateness of the revealed law. An exceptional case is the challenging argument held by Tūfī (d. 1316), such that reason should be given priority over revelation in certain cases; but he was regarded as heretical in pre-modern times for this argument.
Since modern times, however, the validity of the argument of Tūfī has been recognized anew, thus gradually garnering greater support. Today, some even maintain that the purposes of sharia can be known not only through revelation but also from nature and history. Of course, such a trend does not instantly indicate that sharia can be regarded as natural law in its entirety, but it does allow for the expansion of the role of reason and therefore can contribute to making inter-religious dialogue easier to some degree.
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