Emory International Law Review


Upendra Baxi


Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im makes a spirited call for reformation of the Shari’a human rights, democracy, and constitutional compliance. He does so not as the problem of any metaphysical framework, or everydayness of the “fatigue of the Sharia,” but as accentuating a moral duty of non-humiliation itself as a human right to live with dignity as the core of Islam and all other religions. He crafts Islamic traditions of dialogue in a world that increasingly only knows the demagogic soliloquies of power. An-Na’im follows the “moderate revolutionary” Ustadh Mohamad Taha, who offered the Second Message of Islam, espousing the Mecca school over the Medina school in, at the least, ameliorating practices of discrimination against women and non-coreligionists. But An-Na’im is best understood as offering a Third Message, showing how the traditions of pious interpretation can be further deployed creatively in making religious thought and practices compliant with the ideas of democracy, contemporary pious interpretation, and classical liberal constitutionalism. His favorite strategy for this is “dialogue,” defying the world of power and propaganda relentlessly pursuing monologues. Indeed, “dialogue” glides into accommodation, mediation, and institutionalization. However, it never embraces theocratic state formations. This Essay generally explores: (1) the multifaceted aspects of spiritual and reformist legacies of An-Na’im; (2) the role of theopolitics in promoting cross-cultural dialogue concerning Shari’a, constitutional secularism, and human rights (non-hegemonic human rights thought and practice); (3) the role of “civic reason;” and, very briefly, (4) the tasks ahead.