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Natural LawA Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Trialogue$
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Anver M. Emon, Matthew Levering, and David Novak

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198706601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198706601.001.0001

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Islamic Natural Law Theories

Islamic Natural Law Theories

(p.144) 3 Islamic Natural Law Theories
Natural Law

Anver M. Emon

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces readers to competing approaches to natural law in the classical Islamic legal tradition. The chapter narrows its analysis to a specific question, namely whether and to what extent pre-modern Muslim jurists allowed reason to be a source of law, in particular when source texts such as the Qur'an and hadith were silent. Drawing on sources from the ninth to fifteenth centuries, the chapter provides an overview of two competing natural law theories, each of which starts from distinct theological positions concerning the autonomy and omnipotence of God. However, the analysis reveals that despite competing theological starting points, both theoretical camps reach similar positions on reason's authority in the law, and as such reflect different theoretical dispositions on natural law in Islam. Moreover, it expounds upon the distinction between a natural law theory and a natural philosophy by contrasting the philosophical debate on tabi‘a with the natural law accounts it examines. The chapter concludes with a theological postlude on the Qur'an and interpretation in order to illustrate the significance of questions about moral agency and authority in Islamic thought across what are often considered distinct fields of law, philosophy, and theology.

Keywords:   Natural law, natural philosophy, causation, determinacy, authority

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