In this article, the author examines two considerations that are critical to a full and meaningful assessment of the degree to which Islam, and Islamic law in particular, can find authentic expressions of themselves under what may reasonably be considered a democratic form of government. The first of these has to do with the scope of Islamic law, or more properly, the scope of the interpretive authority of Muslim jurists, and whether a State that is governed by Shari‘ah must necessarily give priority to the views of religious scholars over those of all others in every aspect of life. Does establishing speed limits, formulating economic policy, or setting standards for medical licensing all fall under the legal authority of the jurists? If not, is there any basis other than political fiat upon which the scope of this jurisdiction might be defined? The second consideration is connected to the question of whether in contemplating the relationship between Islam and democracy, we have not conflated the framework within which modern democracy is packaged, namely the Nation-State (and some would insist on adding capitalism), with the spirit and essence of democratic rule. If we could imagine a State structure whose integrity was not equated with the ability to exercise an absolute monopoly over law-making and the concomitant imposition of a uniform standard of conduct on all of its citizens, would the idea of Islamic democracy present as many apparent difficulties as it presently does? The author’s objective is to add a dimension to the discussion on Islam and democracy that will render future assessments and proposals more nuanced and circumspect.
Sherman A. Jackson,
Shari'ah, Democracy, and the Modern Nation-State: Some Reflections on Islam, Popular Rule, and Pluralism,
27 Fordham Int'l L.J. 88
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