Changing the Perception of Islam

Changing the Perception of Islam in the West: Rehabilitating the Essence of Religion
by Dr. Robert D. Crane

I. Challenge and Response

One of the major challenges in the world today is to rehabilitate the role of religion as a primary cure for conflict and oppression, rather than as its primary cause. One of the major obstacles to reviving appreciation for transcendent reality as the source of peace and freedom is the current academic fascination with deconstructing religion by denying that all religions have the same essence or that any religion even has an essence.

In the case of Islam, the major obstacle to rehabilitation has been the ideological movement of modernization, one trend of which seeks to hijack Islam for political purposes under the fraudulent disguise of returning to origins. The extremists in this defacto modernization movement are assisted by the so-called Islamophobes who claim not that there is no essence of Islam but rather that the true essence of Islam denies truth, love, and justice, and that therefore in Islam truth, love, and justice do not and cannot exist.

This de facto alliance between the Muslim extremists and the extremist opponents of Islam poses a challenge to all religions, but especially to Muslims who want to rehabilitate Islam from the most common Muslim perversions of it in order to bring out the best of Islam and counter the worst of its Islamphobic challengers.

Every challenge brings on a response. The biggest challenge is how to be properly responsible, that is, how to become able to respond. The rise and fall of persons, communities, and entire civilizations depend on challenge and response. The challenge to religion in the world, and especially to Islam, requires a response adequate to the challenges both from within and from without.

Muslims are all familiar with the blatant distortions by professional Islamophobes of the Qur’an and of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and practice. My book, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice: An Islamic Perspective, written more than two years ago but published only this past January, devotes its second half to counter these distortions in great detail.

Any knowledgeable Muslim can easily counter the simplistic claims that Muslims are bandits and are programmed by their vicious cult to kill the infidels, meaning anyone who opposes their plans of global conquest. More important as a fundamental challenge is the more sophisticated new generation of articles and books that attack the essence of Islam or claim that there is no such thing.

This issue of whether there is an essence of any religion, much less a common essence among all religions, has been addressed by perhaps the most profound Christian theologian in the world today, Hans Kung, in his trilogy on the paradigmatic periodization of religion, especially in his 767-pate book, Islam: Past, Present, and Future. His conclusion is attractive, namely, that Islam is necessarily different from one century to the next and from one country to another, and that therefore Islam does not exist either ontologically or epistemologically qua religion as either a subject or object in human history.

This relativistic approach is best evidenced in the popular advocacy by so-called “progressivist” or “liberal” or “secular” Muslims, who say that Islam must be reformed. Marshall Hodgeson in his magisterial set of tomes, entitled The Venture of Islam, forty years ago properly distinguished Islam from Islamdom, just as one distinguishes Christianity from Christendom. Certainly Muslims should be reformed, because Muslims are the actors in Islamdom, but reforming the timeless essence of Islam would remove the basis for any greatly needed reformation of Muslims in the world.

My purpose today is to address this issue of essence in the context of Islamic normative jurisprudence, known as the maqasid al shari’ah. Within this format I want to do so by focusing on one of the eight irreducible principles common to all religions, namely, group rights or community self-determination, known as haqq al nasl or respect for the family and for all levels of community, including the organic nation. This, in turn, relates to the normative principle of haqq al hurriyah, which requires respect for political self-determination, otherwise known as political freedom. This, in turn, is dependent on the principle of haqq al mal, which emphasizes respect for universal access to individual ownership of productive property as a basic human right, either individually or jointly in such institutions as community investment corporations, based on interest-free, pure credit (backed by future profits), because whoever owns the means of production, either as a political elite or a corporate elite, controls the government.

The danger in conflating Islam with Muslims by denying the possibility of any essence in religion derives from the academic passion for deconstructing anything that might have absolute meaning or reflect absolute truth as an object of heuristic exploration. If Islam is strictly contextual, it can be manipulated to become whatever individual Muslims might conceive it to be in order to justify their actions, no matter how un-Islamic other Muslims may claim them to be.

The Islamophobes say that Islam does have an essence, and that this essence is evil. The more sophisticated argument is that Islam, like all religions, evolves or devolves in response to the changing needs, threats, and opportunities of time and place. This argument stands behind the claims even by Muslims that Islam must be reformed into a more appropriate religion for the modern world, in contrast to those Muslims, the majority, who say that Muslims must be reformed, not the religion.

One answer to the contention that there is no such thing as a classical Islam and therefore no such thing as the essence of the Islamic heritage is to look at Islam from the axiological perspective of jurisprudence, namely, ‘Ilm al ‘Adl. This discipline of thought and action is merely a product of a higher dimension of reality, known as taqwa or loving awe of God as the source of truth, love, and justice. These two elements of the Islamic ’aqida, emphasized especially in the Jafari madhhab, are the key to all that follows.

The Prophet Muhammad emphasized the importance of seeking truth and justice, but he posited the motivation for the search in the constant Qur’anic emphasis on love, as developed in my book published in January, 2010, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice. A favorite prayer of Prophet Muhammad, salla allahu ’alayhi wa salam, and of Imam Ali, ’alayhi al salam, and of millions of Muslims ever since was Allahumma, asaluka hubbaka wa hubba man yuhibbuka wa hubba kuli ‘amali yuqaribuni ila hubbika, “O Allah, I ask you for your love, and for the love of those who love you, and for the love of everything that can bring me closer to your love.”

II. The Spiritual Basis of Community Self-Determination

The search for truth, love, and justice is basically the issue of human responsibilities and rights, which has been developed in Islamic thought over the centuries more systematically than in any other religion or culture as the secret to civilizational rise and fall. Classical Islamic thought of the third through seventh Islamic centuries recognizes at least eight transcendent issues that serve as secondary paradigms in the search for truth and its translation into justice. Each of them serves to articulate the essence of Islam, because they are universal in one way or another in every world religion. These issues and the response to them shape the rise and fall of civilizations.

This issue on which I want to focus in this essay, namely, haqq al nasl, as one of the eight, requires respect for the sacredness of the family and of the communities that derive from it. This is developed in my forthcoming book, Rehabilitating the Role of Religion in the World: Laying a New Foundation on the Natural Law of Faith-Based, Compassionate Justice. This was posted in three parts in the ezine on May 30, 2009, but is now being expanded before publication.

This issue of “group rights” is slowly gaining recognition in international law, but it has powerful opponents in those whose self-interest is based on state sovereignty as the source of ultimate authority. This principle of manmade sovereignty provides the justification for the concept that might makes right. It therefore delegitimizes the wisdom that right makes might.

One of the biggest questions in both foreign and domestic policy is whether the drive for stability through uniformity should triumph over the search for peace, prosperity, and freedom through diversity. Should the imposition of centralized government through the monopoly of coercion inherent in state sovereignty crush the human search for both personal and group identity? And who has the right to decide on these issues, and on what basis?

Specifically, do the Shi’a and the Kurds have a right to exist as autonomous nations in Southwest Asia, or the Chechens in the Caucasus, or the Pushtuns and Baluchi in Central Asia, or the Tibetans and the Uighur in East Turkestan, more recently known as West China, or the Nagas at the intersection of Tibet and Burma in India, or the neighboring peoples, including the Shan, in Burma, or the descendents of the Anzanian Empire in what was known as The Sudan at least until the elections of April, 2010, for southern autonomy and the elections of 2011, in sha’a Allah, on independence. And how about the Palestinians and the Jews in the Holy Land, each of whom has a right to call that home, but not to the exclusion of anyone else, perhaps in an Abraham Federation?

Denial of the family and of its expression in larger communities as the moral basis of human life is seen most clearly in those who ascribe collective guilt to Muslims as inherently terrorist, or to Germans as inherently Nazis, or to Jews or to any other human community as genocidal. Such moral collectivists, who deny the legitimacy of any natural or organic community of human beings by ascribing guilt to all because of the crimes of a few, are attacking the right of communities and of their component individual persons not only to existence but to the much more important right to dignity as creations of God.

In the current era of incipient totalitarianism, those who want to use force to stamp out the existing or imagined “other” are no less totalitarian than their imaginary enemy.

Muslims are no exception. Some want unity in their own organizations by imposing uniformity. Some want to impose a global caliphate to impose their own view of justice, even though this would violate all the basic premises of classical Islamic jurisprudence on human responsibilities and human rights.

Some of these Muslims invoke the teachings of the great scholar Ibn Khaldun by perverting his essential teachings on justice in order to support their caliphatic delusions. Ibn Khaldun wrote at the time of the Mongol invasions when the political rulers of the day insisted that their own tyrannical power was the only way to maintain what we nowadays would call “national security”. He was imprisoned for life by teaching that the Islamic caliphate was not a military institution, nor even a political one. He taught that the Islamic global caliphate was exclusively the consensus of the leading scholars and wise men on the purpose of human life. Destruction of a civilization by its own leaders was no way to save it.

What was the solution to the chaos of his day? He was not alone in insisting that the ultimate salvation to the global chaos of his or any other century lies in the unending search for truth, love, and justice. The question whether there is an essence of higher religion, especially Islam, can be addressed as the subject of Islamic normative law, which is a product of truth, love, and justice.

Known subsequently as the maqasid al shari’ah, this system of jurisprudence was first pioneered by the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ’alayhi wa salam, together with his student, ‘Ali ibn Ali Talib, ’alayhi as-salam, as basic to the ordering of society in the pursuit of justice. The origin of normative law in Islamic thought, according to Shaykh Taha Jabbir al Alwani, a member of the World Fiqh Council in Makkah, in his book first published in 1991 by the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Usul al Fiqh al Islami: Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence, can be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad and to Imam ’Ali. The Prophet used to gather his knowledgeable companions or sahaba and put to them for judgement test cases, both actual and hypothetical. When each gave his judgement, the Prophet would comment, “I care less about what you have concluded than about how you reasoned to your conclusion”. Imam ’Ali, ’alayhi as salam, always traced his judgement back to basic principles.

Some early jurists, beginning with Imam Jafar al Sadiq (died 148 A.H.), the founder of the first madhdhab or school of Islamic law, used rationally derived principles to explain specific verses of the Qur’an, and from the very beginning the early Muslim scholars examined the substance or matn of important ahadith in order to evaluate their coherence with the Qur’an. Nevertheless, according to Dr. Jasser Auda, in his erudite and comprehensive, 347-page, systems analysis of the maqasid, entitled Maqasid al Shari’ah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach, IIIT, 2008, page 16, “The first known monograph dedicated specifically to the maqasid was written by Ibn Babawayh al Saduq al Qummi, one of the main Shi’a jurists of the fourth Islamic century, who wrote a book of 335 pages on the subject, entitled ’Ilal al Shara’i”. This was translated into English, but never published, by Nasir Shamsi, who was a founder of the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMMA) and can reached in New Jersey, USA, at

This iterative inductive/deductive systems analysis was the central focus of classical Islamic thought of the third through seventh Islamic centuries, but has been moribund or even dead for six centuries until recent times in most of the Muslim world.

In undertaking the exploration of normative law as perhaps the clearest expression of the Islamic essence, we need, like Ibn Khaldun, to look at the big picture and ask the big questions of purpose, which go far beyond the purview of modern science. Does any of us have a purpose other then mere survival? Does the world have any purpose? Do persons and communities have any purpose in the larger world? We cannot avoid such questions, because to ask them is part of our human nature.

It is no accident that the most popular poet and teacher of purpose everywhere in the world today is Maulana Jalal al Din Balkhy, known as Rumi. He lived in an era similar to our own, an era of chaos and destruction, which was brought on by the Mongol invasion of his homeland in what is now Afghanistan. This is said to have brought on the destruction of all civilization and all purpose in life other than simple survival.

What was his reaction to all of this? He spent a lifetime teaching that there is no death, that life is an everlasting journey through time and space within this universe and then beyond in timelessness. This current life is like a dream and when our bodies die, it is then that we feel awake. Rumi wrote, “My religion is to be alive from Love. Being only physically alive is a disgrace.” He taught that the unending and open-ended search for ultimate truth is universal and that this search is a product of love. As explained in the translation and commentary by Majid M. Naini in his book, Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi’s Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love, Universal Vision and Research Press, Florida, 2002, Rumi declared that love is the reason for the creation of the universe. Rumi ended one of his poems with the words, “Were it not for love, the world would perish.” This was Rumi’s answer at a time when Ghenghiz Khan was carrying out a holocaust that wiped out half the population of Persia.

This is one of many paradigms of purpose in human life. Another is known as Secular Humanism, which is an ideology that calls for worship of the Imperial Self. Another is Cosmic Humanism, which worships the physical cosmos as a sentient being, of which we are an indissoluble part. Another was Marxism-Leninism, which may be defined as worship of collective man in the form of the State, which may be regarded as the “perfect storm” in the assault on human dignity and group identity.

The teachings of Rumi may be known in Islam as the paradigm of ihsan, which is loving awareness of Allah through awareness of one’s own transcendent self, the ruh, so that one’s actions will aim not toward the good but toward the best. This paradigm of purpose was described by Pope John Paul II as “personalism”, which is the dignity of the person as a manifestation of the divine created by and in the image of the Source, otherwise known as God. This reflects the transcendent wisdom of St. John of the Cross, Maimonides, and the Lord Buddha, who represent the other three major world religions as invoked in the Qur’an.

This paradigm of purpose was best described perhaps by the Trappist monk, with whom as a Franciscan I used to correspond forty years ago, Thomas Merton. He declared, “Your true identity is the person that God created you to be. So become it.” This is your purpose. And the same is true of the communities that reflect the identities of their members. This is true therefore of entire civilizations. Just as every person has a transcendent purpose, so too do entire civilizations.

Civilizations fall when they are exploited by hypocritical, unjust, and vengeful persons organized in institutional centers of organized power, corruption, and oppression, especially when all this is done in the name of religion and God. This is why so many people say they do not believe in God. Whenever any persons say that they do not believe in God, we should reply, “Tell me about this god that you do not believe in.” The result may be agreement on our love of truth, beauty, justice, mercy, and freedom as the transcendent reason for our existence and both the cause and purpose of every flourishing civilization.

III. Civilizations and Community as a Framework for Understanding

This raises the question, what is a civilization. A civilization is the highest form of human self-identity other than our human species. Toynbee stated that the first person ever to have looked at entire civilizations as actors in history was the Muslim, Ibn Khaldun, who lived a century after Rumi. Modern Western scholars consider Ibn Khaldun to be the first secular sociologist and historian, but, in fact, he was profoundly spiritual and a great Islamic scholar.

He introduced the concepts of both civilizational essence and civilizational interchange. He said that the dynamic of civilizational rise is community identity or asabiya. This can be destructive if it takes the form of exclusivist tribalism, which is the pursuit of one’s own power at the expense of others. In contrast, community identity can be constructive if it takes the form of learning from others in competition to benefit everyone.

The Qur’an emphasizes this positive aspect of group identity inherent in diversity, beginning with the smallest community in pairs. Surah Ya Sin 36:36 addresses the polarity and mutual attraction in all physical creation: “Limitless in His glory is He who has created opposites in whatever the earth produces, and in men’s own selves, and in that of which they as yet have no knowledge”. Surah al Dhariyat 51:47-49 tells us, “And it is We who have built the universe (sama’a) with Our creative power, and verily it is we who are steadily expanding it. And the earth we have spread out wide - and how well we have ordered it. And in everything have we created pairs (zawjayn) so that you might bear in mind that God is One”. Some linguists translate zawjayn as “opposites”, but this word as an abstract noun, zawjiyah, means harmony or the mutual interdependency of opposites as the foundation of the universe.

Surah al Ra’d 13:3 states, “And it is He who has spread the earth wide and placed on it firm mountains and running waters, and created on it two sexes of every kind of plant; and it is He who causes the night to cover the day. Verily, in all this are messages indeed for people who think”. In Surah al Shura 42:11, we read, “He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle. By this means he multiplies you. There is nothing whatever like Him, and He is the One that hears and sees all things”.

The dialectic of opposites produces a unity of attraction in larger communities, which, in turn, produces a still higher dialectic and a still higher unity. In Surah al Nahl 16:68 we are reminded not merely of pairs but of entire communities as building blocs of nature. “And your Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in human habitations”. One of the key verses in the Qur’an, Surah al An’am 38 reads: “.. There is no beast that walks on the earth and no bird that flies on its two wings that is not a community like yourselves”.

In Surah al Hujurat 49:13, we read, “O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other.” Surah al Ma’ida 5:51 teaches us: “To each among you have we prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If God had so willed, he would have made you a single Community (umma), but His Plan is to test you in what He has given you, so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God”.

In Surah Al-i ’Imran 3:103, God urges the different tribes of the interfaith umma in Madina to join in a single federation: “And hold fast together, by the rope which God stretches out for you, and do not be divided among yourselves”. In the same surah, verse 200, we are advised, “O you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance. Strengthen each other, and remain in loving awe of God so that you may prosper”.

In his footnote 5461 to verse 62:9 of Surah al Jumu’a, The Assembly, Yusuf Ali beautifully explains the beauty of community identity and coherence embodied in the Friday Prayer and in the Hajj as central to Islamic belief and practice, wherein the diversity of human beings and their separate communities serves to glorify the Oneness of their Creator.

Ibn Khaldun also pioneered the interactive approach to the study of civilizations by showing that civilizations do not exist as separate entities but borrow from each other in a process of civilizational enrichment. This indeed is the dominant motif throughout the five-thousand-year history of the Holy Land. Ibn Khaldun warned against the clash of civilizations, but taught that such clash was the exception rather than the rule.

IV. The Natural Law of Faith Based Justice

The three major purposes that transcend the pursuit of power, privilege, prestige, and wanton pleasure in any civilization are: 1) justice, known in Qur’anic Arabic as ‘adl; 2) balanced order, known as mizan; and 3) freedom of religion, known by some as haqq al din.

Islam is known as a religion of peace, salam, which comes from submission to the only Being worthy of human submission, namely, God. In classical Islamic thought, as developed from the third through sixth Islamic centuries, peace as the essence of Islam results from justice, and justice is merely the expression of truth. The most profound verse in the Qur’an as a source of faith-based justice is Surah al An’am 6:115, “The Message of your Lord is completed and perfected in truth and in justice.” This teaches that justice is an expression of truth and that truth originates in the transcendent order of reality, indeed from the Being of God, not in man-made law.

Perhaps the second most profound verse is Surah al Shura 42:17, which emphasizes the concept of balance, known as mizan. This is central to all classical Islamic thought in every aspect of both personal and social life. “It is God Who has bestowed revelation from on high, setting forth the truth, and [thus given man] a balance [wherewith to weigh right and wrong].” This verse of the Qur’an teaches that divine revelation through the various prophets in human history is considered to be a balance, an instrument placed by God in our hands by which we can weigh all issues of conscience.

A third profound teaching of the Qur’an is the importance and power of choice, of which the most important instance is freedom of religion and the freedom to interpret divine guidance in the practice of justice. The concept of choice is central, because, without freedom to choose, neither balance nor justice would have any meaning. The power to choose between good and bad is the greatest gift from the Creator to the created, but it is also a profound test for every person, every community, and nation, every civilization, and humanity itself.

The Qur’an emphasizes the importance of the basic power to choose between purposes or higher paradigms of thought, because the choice shapes the governing agendas of both persons and communities and thereby controls action. According to the Qur’an, the choice that has determined the rise and fall of entire civilizations throughout human history is between the pursuit of transcendent justice and the pursuit of material power as an ultimate goal in life. This should provide the governing paradigm of every Muslim think-tank in its efforts to network with other think-tanks in shaping the agendas that ultimately control public policy.

The balance to be maintained in every civilization as embodied in every world religion is among order, justice, and freedom. This paradigm of balance teaches that order, justice, and freedom are interdependent. When freedom is construed to be independent of justice, there can be no justice and the result will be anarchy. When order is thought to be possible without justice, there will be no order, because injustice is the principal cause of disorder. When justice is thought to be possible without order and freedom, then the pursuit or order, justice, and freedom are snares of the ignorant.

Without consensus on the proper nature of order, and of justice and freedom as essential parts of a single whole, rather than as independent pursuits, no civilization can continue to exist. The twin roles of religion in all of its traditionalist manifestations, including the monotheistic and “revealed religions”, and especially Islam, are the spiritual well-being or happiness of every person and the maintenance of consensus on the responsibilities and rights necessary to live in an ordered society.

V. The Essence of Transcendent Justice?

Students of comparative legal systems differ on whether there is an essence to any particular religion and to any given legal system, or whether each religion is an accumulation of human practices and every legal system is a composite of accidentals developed in response to changing exigencies.

Islam is by far the best example of a religion that has very self-consciously developed a sense of its own essence and sharply distinguished this from any perverted interpretation and practice by self-professed Muslims. Whereas in Christianity the essence is considered to be love, in Islam the essence is considered to be justice as a derivative of love. As Michiel Bijkirk put it in an email on May 18th, 2008, “Law in Islam has a soul or spiritual side. Without that spiritual side, there is only the law, not justice.”

In Western positivist law, which by definition is entirely manmade, law exists only to the extent that it is enforced. In Islam, if the law has to be enforced it has failed, because the purpose of Islamic law is primarily educational as a set of guidelines for action.

What are these guidelines? Some of the best minds in human history developed this set of guidelines over a period of many centuries. These guidelines are known as the maqasid al shari’ah or purposes of the shari’ah, or as the kulliyat or universal principles, or as the dururiyat or essentials.

Very briefly, these may be categorized as the following eight: haqq al din (freedom of religion), haqq al nafs (respect for the human person and human life), haqq al nasl (respect for marriage and human community), haqq al mahid (respect for the physical environment), haqq al mal (respect for the universal right to ownership of productive property), haqq al hurriya (respect for the universal right of self-determination or political freedom), haqq al karama (respect for human dignity, especially gender equity), and haqq al ‘ilm (respect for the rights to free speech, publication, and association).

For more than three decades, ever since I first encountered the normative law of the shari’ah as a set of human responsibilities and rights, I considered that these norms or guidelines constitute the essence of Islamic jurisprudence. They provide a sophisticated methodology for understanding the Qur’an and evaluating the ahadith, so that the rules and regulations or ahkam can be applied justly.

Recently, however, I have come to the conclusion that there are two essences, one formative and the other derivative, and that they must be maintained in a dialectical balance. I was thinking of human rights as the intellectual essence, but this is an essential derivative of a prior essence, which is love, both hubb and ‘ishq, coming from beyond the human intellect. In systems terminology, there is an input/output balance. The input is transcendent, known as the batin, and the output is immanent, known as the zahr.

This is similar to the dialectic in all of creation, but especially between the theory and practice of law. In the intellectual processing, the theory should influence the practice, but the practice should also influence the theory. In Islamic jurisprudence and in Islamic thought generally, the theory itself comes from the transcendent source of divine guidance, as best human beings can understand it in the open-ended search for truth. But this understanding must also reflect the experience of practice in a changing space-time universe. The essence is indeed unchanging, but its application is or should be in constant flux, because that is the nature of reality.

The controversial question then arises, is there really a difference between thought and law, since law is the basic framework of reference in Islamic thought, whereas in the Western positivist paradigm human thought is the framework for law?

One might look at this new perspective on the shari’ah by using the analogy of the hourglass. The shari’ah is like an hourglass which transmutes the transcendent into the immanent by means of the art of intellectual processing. This processing from input to output is what Allah in the Qur’an refers to as the jihad al kabir or “great jihad,” the intellectual jihad, which is the only jihad mentioned in the Qur’an, Surah al Furqan 25:52, wa jihidhum bihi jihadan kabiran, “struggle with it [divine revelation] in a great jihad.” The other two, the jihad al akbar and the jihad al saghrir, are mentioned only in the ahadith, though they are implied throughout the Qur’an.

Following the insights of Rumi, the shari’ah would have two essences, the input of love and the output of human rights. Without eternal input there will never be any lasting output, since, as Rumi puts it, love is the reason for the creation of the universe. Quite simply, who would care about justice unless one were motivated by love? This, of course, would explain why in recent times justice has gone out of style.

In conclusion, it might be appropriate to remember the wisdom of “the throne verse,” the Ayah al Kursi, Surah Baqara 2:255, Ya’alamu ma bayna ‘aydihim wa ma khalfahum; wa la yuhituna bi shayin min ‘ilmihi illa bi ma sha’a, “He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to any of His knowledge except what He wills [them to attain].

This essay was prepared for discussion of Dr. Crane’s book, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice: An Islamic Perspective, at The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University on April 7, 2010. This essay is further developed by the Center for Understanding Islam in its 620-page textbook, Islam and Muslims, co-authored by its president, Dr. Mohammad Ali Chaudry, and by Dr. Crane as its founding chairman. The sub-title of this essay, “The Spiritual Basis of Community Self-Determination,” is an adaptation of Chapter Four on haqq al nasl, which is the universal foundation of “group rights” in Islamic law. This is one of eight chapters, each on one of the eight normative principles of Islamic jurisprudence, in Dr. Crane’s forthcoming book, Rehabilitating the Role of Religion in the World: Laying a New Foundation on the Natural Law of Faith-Based, Compassionate Justice, which was posted in three parts in the ezine on May 30, 2009.

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