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Book: Coercion and Responsibility in Islam

The book traces accounts of coercion and responsibility in several of the most important Muslim theological and juridical schools. That contribution is impressive enough. Syed ranges more widely, however, proposing that we explain certain features of these differing accounts by way of the factors he calls “constraint” and “contingency”. In addition, Syed opens the door for comparison between Muslim and Anglo-American approaches to his subject. He thus makes contributions to the comparative study of law and ethics, as well as to the history of Muslim tradition.

In Coercion and Responsibility in Islam, Mairaj Syed explores how classical Muslim theologians and jurists from four intellectual traditions argue about the thorny issues that coercion raises about responsibility for one’s action. This is done by assessing four ethical problems: whether the absence of coercion or compulsion is a condition for moral agency; how the law ought to define what is coercive; coercion’s effect on the legal validity of speech acts; and its effects on moral and legal responsibility in the cases of rape and murder.

Through a comparative and historical examination of these ethical problems, the book demonstrates the usefulness of a new model for analyzing ethical thought produced by intellectuals working within traditions in a competitive pluralistic environment. The book compares classical Muslim thought on coercion with that of modern Western thinkers on these issues and finds significant parallels between them. The finding suggests that a fruitful starting point for comparative ethical inquiry, especially inquiry aimed at the discovery of common ground for ethical action, may be found in an examination of how ethicists from different traditions considered concrete problems.

Key Features:

  • Aids understanding of the legal and ethical problems involving coercion through the use of hypothetical scenarios
  • Compares schools of thoughts, disciplines, and intellectuals from different cultures and times
  • Conducts synchronic and diachronic analysis of legal and theological thought
  • Offers a new model for how scholars should evaluate ethical thought produced by intellectual traditions in a pluralistic environment

About the Author

Mairaj U. Syed is an Assistant Professor in the department of religious studies at the University of California, Davis. His research explores the history of Islamic legal and ethical thought, particularly areas dealing with public law, family law, and politics. He is also interested in the development of hadith literature and the social network that transmitted and preserved it in the first 250 years of Islamic history. Syed holds Ph.D. in religion from the Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from University of Texas, Austin.

Table of Contents

1. Compulsion and Moral Agency in Mu’tazilism
2. Coercion and Moral Agency in Ash’arism
3. Defining Coercion in Hanafism
4. Defining Coercion in Shafi’ism
5. Coerced Speech Act Jurisprudence in Hanafism and Shafi’ism
6. Coerced Harm Jurisprudence in Hanafism and Shafi’ism

Bibliographic Information

Title: Coercion and Responsibility in Islam

Author: Mairaj Syed

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Language: English

Length: 275 pages

ISBN: 9780198788775

Pub. Date: 24 January 2017

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