ExcerptIn his insightful book Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Michael Ignatieff observes that “[t]he challenge of Islam has been there from the beginning.”1 Ignatieff is not alone among Western observers. And in this context, I would like to begin by stating up front that I am neither an opponent of human rights per se nor among those tradition-bound Muslims—though that I am–who abstain from either endorsing the construct or rejecting it outright, presumably as an exercise of sorts in “passive (...) resistance.” Similarly, I do not believe, as another scholar characterizes the position of revealed religion, that “human rights are a secular usurpation of the rights of God.”2 In fact, as I will show, for well over half a millennium, Muslims have theorized on what could only be considered a concept of human rights, while simultaneously recognizing the “rights of God.” Nor do I believe, contrary to popular perception, that the purportedly “secular” roots of human rights necessarily place them outside the reach of Islam, unless, of course, one assumes, as I do not, that the dominant understanding of “secular” in the West is the only meaning the term can legitimately carry. These are among the reasons why, for me, the idea of summarily rejecting human rights seems so unnecessary if not misguided. (shrink)
Abu Hamid al Ghazali, one of the most famous intellectuals in the history of Islam, developed a definition of Unbelief (kufr) to serve as the basis for determining who, in theological terms, should be considered a Muslim and who should not. Jackson's annotated translation is preceded by an introduction that reconstructs the historical and theoretical context of the Faysal and discusses its relevance for contemporary thought and practice.