Friday, December 3, 2010

Fadel, Is Historicism a Viable Strategy for Islamic Law Reform?

Mohammad Fadel, University of Toronto - Faculty of Law, has posted a new paper, Is Historicism a Viable Strategy for Islamic Law Reform? The Case of 'Never Shall a Folk Prosper Who Have Appointed a Woman to Rule Them'.  Here's the abstract:
There are at least two kinds of historicism that are relevant to Islamic legal reform, one rooted in a progressive theory of history, the other rooted in history as a source for textual interpretation. The latter has the potential to garner greater support for progressive legal change insofar as it falls squarely within the well-known jurisprudential concept known as takhṣīs al-ʿāmm (specification of the general term). In this article, I explore this reform strategy by analyzing a well-known Prophetic ḥadīth that is traditionally understood as excluding women from holding political office. By exploring literary history, Islamic legal hermeneutics, and substantive Islamic law, I demonstrate that, in this particular case, substantial egalitarian reform can be justified without fundamental changes to traditional Islamic theological doctrines. While no one rhetorical strategy offers a “magic bullet” for creating a more gender-egalitarian version of Islamic law, in my view, progressive Muslim reformers should exhaust possibilities for reform implicit in traditional methods before introducing arguments outside of that tradition - arguments which, by their nature, raise controversial theological questions that may be more intractable than the legal rules that are the object of the desired reform.