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.