The case against Abou El Fadl

I understand that in some “Progressive Muslim” circles it is almost blasphemous to criticise Khaled Abou El Fadl, but I am going to to do it anyway. Let me state first off that I think all Muslims and non-Muslims should read ” A Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam”. It is a moving, well written, collection of essays that will forever change the way one thinks about Islam. I will read anything by El Fadl and consider him to be one of the foremost thinkers on Islam today. He is a great legal scholar and one of the few rational voices that speak with any coherence on Islam in the media.

My unease with El Fadl is his reliance on Shariah. It makes me uncomfortable. I am not sure why and I rarely express this discomfort to my friends, but nonetheless, its there. Browsing through Muqtedar Khan’s Ijtihad Site I came across an essay entitled “The Priority of Politics: A response to Khaled Abou El Fadl”. I believe that this was part of the debate published in the Boston Literary Review in 2002. In the essay Khan states “…Past legal opinions must not subvert contemporary political reflections. We will be free only when we can freely determine for ourselves what is the Shari‘ah. There is no mediation in Islam and the Islamic jurists must step aside. As long as the colonial tendencies of Islamic jurisprudence persist there will be no Islamic democracy.” Khan expresses my discomfort with El Fadl better than I could. I do not trust Muslim Jurists, the education system they were trained under, nor the politics that slant their opinions on matters of law. Give it a read, its a good article.

2 thoughts on “The case against Abou El Fadl

  1. Conference of the Books is one of my favorites, and I echo your praise of Abou El Fadl. My first thought in response to your posting was to interject that I believe that Abou El Fadl’s reliance on Shariah is probably a result of: 1. his legal education, and 2. indicative of a general point of view of non-Shia Muslims (who do not believe in a living, law-giver after the Prophet (PBUH)). However, after reading the Khan article, I’m not so sure. The Khan article was quite well chosen and has begun to change my perspective on the role of Shariah, especially in non-Shia contexts.

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