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Sources of Moral Obligation to non-Muslims in the "Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities" (Fiqh al-aqalliyyāt) Discourse

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This article surveys four approaches towards moral obligation to non-Muslims found in Islamic legal thought. I refer to the first three approaches as the "revelatory-deontological," the "contractualist-constructivist" and the "consequentialist-utilitarian." The main argument is that present in many contemporary works on the "jurisprudence of Muslim minorities" (fiqh al-aqalliyyāt) is an attempt to provide an Islamic foundation for a relatively thick and rich relationship of moral obligation and solidarity with non-Muslims. This attempt takes the form of a fourth "comprehensive-qualitative" approach to political ethics that appeals not to juridical reasoning of the type "is x permissible and in which conditions?" but rather to Islamic ideals of what it means to live a good life, of what believing, normatively-committed Muslims want to pursue in this world. This meta-ethical approach builds on and goes beyond the first three. This fourth "comprehensive-qualitative" approach to moral obligation to non-Muslims is novel, emergent and not found in the writings of outright reformers but in those of conservative, "neo-classical," sharī'a-minded—even Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated—Muslim scholars. What adds to the force of this argument is that the other meta-ethical discourses, particularly of contract and utility (maslaha), already get these scholars quite far towards a doctrine of "loyal resident alienage" in non-Muslim societies. That even orthodox Muslim scholars go further shows that they have some interest in giving a theological or principled foundation to a much thicker and richer form of moral obligation to non-Muslims, a relationship which involves recognizing non-Muslims qua non-Muslims and contributing to their well-being.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06520


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