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Islamic International Law: Formation and Development

Today, the father of international law is considered to be Grotius from the Netherlands, while Islam, with its Quranic rules in the international arena, is undoubtedly the creator of law in all its aspects, including international law.

However, if we want to name the stages of the development of Islamic international law, we can refer to three stages: the stage of formation of international relations and law during the life of the Prophet (PBUH), the stage of expansion and then the decline of the Islamic world, the modern stage of international law of the Islamic world.
In the first stage, the formation of international law, like other parts of the modern Islamic civilization in the two dimensions of establishment and prophecy (signification), began gradually after the Prophet’s (PBUH) invitation to the people became public. Accordingly, the Prophet (PBUH) stated the general and detailed framework of relations between Muslims and other civilizations, both religious and non-religious, based on the Quran and the narrations that presented in its explanation and interpretation.
At this stage, the collection and writing of the Holy Quran and hadiths was done by the Katibeen-e-Wahi (Writers of the Revelation) and the Sahabah (Close companions of the Prophet (PBUH)). This stage can be considered as the period of explanation of the Quran and Sunnah by the infallible Imams (A.S) because from the Shias’ point of view, their explanation of the Quran and Hadith is also worth the description of the Prophet (PBUH).
The next stage, is the stage of Ijtihad in the Quran and Hadith which began with the Sunnis earlier than the Shias, because in the presence of the infallibles, the Shias did not need to study Islamic issues scientifically because the infallible commentators interpreted it with their divine knowledge, while, the Sunnis did not go to them because they did not believe in the guardianship of the infallibles, but sought jurists to receive their scientific answers, although all Sunni jurists were students of the infallibles and acquired knowledge from them, and people turned to their students instead of referring to them.
However, after the formation of Ijtihad, the stage of compiling Islamic jurisprudence was formed by writing jurisprudential books and presenting written Ijtihad arguments. At this stage, of course, we can refer to the famous book “Al-Siyar Al-Kabir” by the great Sunni jurist, Muhammad ibn Al-Hassan Al-Shaybani (132-189H), one of the prominent jurists of Damascus, in which he introduced the rules of international law.
This book may be considered the first book of international law in the world, because in those years, the non-Islamic world did not believe in international law and based their relations on power and territory. In the literature of international law, Al-Shaybani is referred to as the Grotius of Islam, although Grotius should have been originally referred to as the Al-Shaybani of the Christian world, because more than 700 years after Al-Shaybani, Grotius wrote the book of “The Law of War and Peace (De Jure Belli ac Pacis)” without regard to Islamic law. Al-Shaybani’s book with the commentary written by Muhammad Ibn Sarakhsi (400-490 AH) introduced Western jurists to international Islamic law.
In the Shia world, the book “Jihad and the Sira of the Imam” in the field of international Islamic law was written by Sheikh Tusi (385-460 AH). Therefore, at the stage of the formation of jurisprudence, Islamic international law was immediately considered by Shia and Sunni jurists. The next stage, is the stage of compiling methods of inference and separation of the chapters of jurisprudence and the division of jurisprudential and legal issues and rules in the history of jurisprudence.
The formation of chapters on “Jihad” that deal specifically with issues of war and peace, and other chapters such as “Oghood (Bilateral contracts)”, “Eghaat (unilateral obligation)” and “Ahkam (rulings)” have directly and indirectly raised issues related to international law, but because of the fall of the Islamic World, the issues of international law have never been raised independently, and in principle the chapters of jurisprudence have been divided according to the different tastes of the jurists on certain bases, paying no attention to the internal or external (international) rules of jurisprudence (domestic and international law).
We consider these stages as the historical stages of compiling Islamic law, which also includes international law. But in the contemporary era in the Islamic world, numerous debates have caused Islamic scholars to feel the need to further compile independent books on Islamic international law. Professor Hamidullah Muhammad (1908-2002) from India has been introduced as the first contemporary author of Islamic international law for writing “A textbook in Islamic International Law”.
Majid Khadduri (1909-2007) with his book “War and Peace in the Law of Islam” and Ahmad Rashid (1974) with his book “Islam and public international law” were among the first professors to leave important works in this field.
In Iran, Jalāl Ad-Dīn Farsi may have been the first to write on “Islam and the Law of Nations”, but we can also refer to Sayyed Khalil Khalilian with “Debates on Commercial and Public International Law”, Mohammad Reza Ziaei Bigdeli with “Islam and International Law” and Ayatollah Amid Zanjani with his book of “Political Jurisprudence” (Volume 3: Islamic International Law).

The article was written by Dr. Mohammad Saeid Taheri Moosavi, a specialist in Public Law and Political Sciences, and published by Shafaqna.

About Ali Teymoori

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