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Abdullahi An-Na'im: Human Rights and Sharia

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Published on Apr 22, 2012

"If a state claims to be Islamic and imposes a particular view of Islam, it is denying my freedom to disagree. And that is why we need a secular state", says Abdullahi An-Na'im, a leading scholar of law and Islamic jurisprudence. Resetdoc interviewed him during the 2011 edition of our Istanbul Seminars.
"Shari'a is a human endeavor to understand the divine, but it remains human, and every believer is accountable for her or his understanding," explains Dr. An-Na'im. "Hence, any honest Muslim needs human rights: freedom of belief, freedom of association, freedom from oppression, the right to debate, to contest and to dissent. Since every Muslim is only supposing or guessing, none has a superior claim to the truth of what Shari'a is."
In fact, "in the intellectual Islamic tradition Shari'a was understood as zanni, i.e. suppositional. This is a good state of being," says the Sudanese-American philosopher, "because certitude would inevitably tend to authoritarianism, oppression and domination of others because 'you' have the truth as Got revealed it. And logically, the possibility of being a Muslim, the possibility of belief requires the possibility of disbelief : if I am not free to believe, there is no value do my belief. For this reason, creating conditions in which I keep the freedom to believe or not to believe is critical to the possibility of being a Muslim. I need the state to be secular so I can be the Muslim I choose to be by conviction."

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