View Printable Version :: Email to a Friend
Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism and Conflict
Book Review
Muhammad Ali Sumbal

Edited by: Sohail H. Hashmi1

Publisher: Oxford University Press  

Year: 2002


Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict is a collection of essays written by renowned scholars. The essays collected in the book address some of the most difficult and urgent issues facing the Islamic world today. Although most of the essays collected were written before September 11 attacks but they collectively highlight issues that have been illuminated by the recent events. The essays first try to highlight that the rethinking of Islamic political theory has been one of the most dynamic aspects of the Islamic revival during the past two centuries. Basically, the essays in this volume argue for the relevance of classical Islamic theory and what they demonstrate clearly is that Islamism cannot be equated with “Fundamentalism” or “Radicalism” instead it is a broad term, and that the rifts among Islamists are often as deep as those separating Muslims from non-Muslims. The book conveys a number of important messages and dispels many misgivings about the Muslim tradition and its approach towards civil society and pluralism.

This volume has been divided into four parts, each of which contains essays written by present day scholars. The parts deal with the basic Islamic Political Ethics, from civil society to war and peace.  Namely the parts are:

1.    State and Civil Society

2.    Boundaries and Distributive Justice

3.    Pluralism and International Society

4.    War and Peace.

The first section includes three essays on Civil Society. In the first essay titled “Civil Society and Government in Islam”, John Kelsay gives a brief summary of the life of the Prophet to show its relevance for Muslim political thought, and refers to “din wa dunya” as religion and politics, which should be translated more properly as religion and the world because politics is only one of the ways in which one manages his/her worldly life. He also explains the complementarily thesis, that is, the religion and politics play distinct, though mutually supportive, roles in the life of a Muslim society, suggests one way to develop an Islamic perspective on the civil society. In this essay, Kelsay has suggested that one might view a class of scholars, the ‘ulama and khilafah relation to that of civil society and government. In his article, Kelsay tries to draw the complementary behaviour of civil society and government in the reader’s mind. He uses the example of the Prophet (sws) to illustrate the Islamic political thought. He points out that Prophet’s career encompasses both religious and political leadership. He further states that “The Prophet called human beings to faith by means of beautiful preaching. He also pursued the cause of Islam by means of statecraft, including warfare.”

The second essay included in Part I is on “Perspectives on Islam and Civil Society” by Farhad Kazemi. He highlights the citizenship issue and stresses that it falls most heavily on religious minorities, women etc.

Hasan Hanafi’s essay “Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society” takes up the same issue as Kazemi’s essay and argues for the possibility of deriving an Islamic concept of civil society from the basic teachings and practices of Islam. Hanafi takes a very critical position called the “reformist” in the case of civil society in his article since he denies to take either side i.e. for or against.

The second part of the book includes two readings on “Boundaries and Distributive Justice”. M. Raquibuz Zaman’s article “Islamic Perspectives on Territorial Boundaries and Autonomy” provides a useful survey of the concepts of boundaries, ownership, distribution, and the norms of religious coexistence. Zaman has also responded to some Western historians who present the views of certain jurists, especially those of Shafi‘i and Sarakhasi, on jihad.

In the fifth essay by “Religion and the Maintenance of Boundaries: An Islamic View” Sulayman Nyang continues Zaman’s discussion by throwing light on the religious and physical conditions of making boundaries. Similar to that in Zaman’s discussion, Nyang’s main aim is to argue for religious differentiation without discrimination.

Part III of the book contains essays revolving around “Pluralism and International Society”. Dale F. Eickelman’s “Islam and Ethical Pluralism” presents the most convincing and philosophical analysis of the main theme of the book and argues that Islam’s “remarkably modern” origins allows for a theology of ethical and cultural pluralism. To show the awareness of Muslim societies of other religious and cultural traditions, he cites a number of examples from the history of Islam and makes some interesting observations on the flourishing and transformation of the various zones of Islamic culture. Eickelman’s main point is that although religious intolerance and radicalism cannot be absolutely prevented, the theological foundations and cultural experiences of Muslim societies enable them to promote a genuine culture of pluralism and co-existence.

“The Scope of Pluralism in Islamic Moral Traditions” by Muhammad Khalid Masud, the seventh essay continues Eickelman’s discussion by concentrating on ethical theories in Islam. He presents two grounds, basis for pluralism. Firstly, he thinks because it appeals to human reason; secondly, he says, it is the social acceptance of the Islamic values as understood by different people and communities.

The Editor Sohail Hashmi himself has contributed an essay titled “Islamic Ethics in International Society”. He examines key issues as justice, human rights, democracy, distributive justice, and diversity from the point of view of an Islamic political body.

Hashmi concludes by emphasizing the positive role that religion has played in building a just and moral human habitat.

The fourth and final part of the book constitutes two essays on “War and Peace” as their basic theme. The ninth and a fairly different essay is by Bassam Tibi on “War and Peace in Islam”. It is different because it is a little critical in nature. Tibi’s main argument is that Islam, a violent religion bent on including all humanity to its outdated worldview, has been historically alien to notions of international peace and human rights and is thus incapable of accommodating their underlying values. It seems that Tibi is assuming that Muslims are misguided in believing that their religion is one of peace, and it is his duty to teach them that they have been woefully misled by their sacred book.

The last essay of the book is also from Sohail Hashmi and is titled “Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace”. Hashmi attempts to give a reinterpretation of jihad in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and argues that the medieval Muslim jurists have understood jihad primarily in legal terms and thus failed to express its primarily ethical content. He calls the Qur’an’s position towards war an “idealistic realism”. In discussing the modern interpretations of jihad, he refers to “fundamentalists” and “modernists” as the two competing views in the modern Islamic world.


This edited volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature of Islamic political ethics. It is quite a contribution to the ongoing debate on Islam and political rule in the world. Reading selectively both the Islamic tradition and the modern notions of open society is not sufficient for the reconstruction of an Islamic political ethics that will be legitimate in the eyes of the majority of the Islamic world. In the discussions and the numerous essays, works ranging from classical writers to modernists’ works have been analyzed.  It is a great effort on Sohail Hashmi’s part to collect works of different scholars who are well-versed in the subject, and present it in book form. This book actually presents the reader with different views, and helps them understand the major terms associated with Islam in the present day and helps a great deal in understanding the basic differences and removing popular misunderstandings. 








1. Sohail H. Hashmi is Alumnae Foundation Associate Professor of International Relations at Mount Holyoke College. He is the co-editor, with David Miller, of Boundaries and Justice (Princeton University Press), and is currently co-editing, with Steven Lee, a book on ethics and weapons of mass destruction.

For Questions on Islam, please use our

Replica Handbags Bottega Veneta fake Bvlgari fake Celine fake Christian Dior fake Gucci fake Gucci Bag fake Gucci Wallet fake Gucci Shoes fake Gucci Belt fake Hermes fake Loewe fake Louis Vuitton fake Louis Vuitton Belt fake Louis Vuitton Calf Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Graphite Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Infini Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Quilt lamb fake Louis Vuitton Embossed Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton Epi fake Louis Vuitton Game On Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Jewellery fake Louis Vuitton Key Holder fake Louis Vuitton Mahina Leather fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Denim fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Eclipse Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Seal fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Shadow fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Watercolor fake Louis Vuitton New Wave fake Louis Vuitton Shoes fake Louis Vuitton Since 1854 fake Louis Vuitton Strap fake Louis Vuitton Taiga Leahter fake Louis Vuitton Taurillon leather fake Louis Vuitton Transformed Game On canvas fake Louis Vuitton Utah Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton X Supreme fake Mulberry fake Prada fake YSL fake