Social Change and the Potential for Flexibility in Islamic Law: the Shari’a between Ethics and Politicisation

  • Bassam Tibi


In most religions, religious scholars are basically theologians. In contrast, learned men of religion in Islam are sacral jurists/faqihs (in Arabic: fuqaha), not theologians (mutakallimun). In medieval Islam a religious tradition of kalam (theology) was unfolded, but it never succeeded in becoming mainstream. The fiqh (Islamic sacral jurisprudence) possessed and continues to possess a monopoly over the interpretation of religious affairs in Islam. Despite the central place of law in Islam, I refer to the text of the Koran in which the term shari’a occurs only once (sura 45, verse 18) with an ethical, not a juridical meaning. Historically, I maintain that the shari’a, as a legal system, is a postKoranic construction. In the course of Islamic history, the shari’a became an integral part of the everyday culture of Muslims, but not yet politicised. Of course, there are some exceptional cases. It is, therefore, basic to refer to the shari’a to understand why most Muslims perceive their religious beliefs in terms of legal instructions. A pious Muslim is thus a lawful person.


Legal Norm Legal Tradition World Peace Islamic Civilisation Islamic Ethic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityUSA

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