Religion and civility: a study of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimma and a comparative reading from the Ḥanbalī and Ḥanafī schools of law


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Hoque Miah, Muhammed Ikramul (2020). Religion and civility: a study of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimma and a comparative reading from the Ḥanbalī and Ḥanafī schools of law. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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This thesis asks, what does the Islamic legal tradition say about maintaining civil relations with non-Muslims? This thesis advances a hypothesis to this question using traditional hermeneutics in interpreting Islamic law by engaging with three distinct legal epistemologies: Ibn al-Qayyim’s Ḥanbalī-fundamentalism as well as the Ḥanbalī and Ḥanafī discursive traditions. As the primary text, I translate and engage with Ibn al-Qayyim’s ‘On Social Interactions with the Protected People’ in his Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimma. The Aḥkām’s case-studies from this chapter rule on rudimentary forms of social interaction and engagement with non-Muslims, from which a theory of religious civility can be established. Some examples include greeting non-Muslims, attending their funerals, visiting them when they are sick and offering congratulations and commiserations for their achievements and losses.

I then compare Ibn al-Qayyim’s purport with the discursive traditions of the Ḥanbalī and Ḥanafī school. This thesis argues that the Ḥanbalī school offers a limited scope of interaction with non-Muslims, where the scholars of its later epoch (muta’akhkhirūn) have almost always opted for the position of prohibition. For example, the strongest opinions of the school relay that one is not allowed to initiate a non-Muslim with any form of greeting, nor visit them when they are sick, congratulate them for their achievements nor offer commiserations for their losses. While scholars from the early-middle epoch took non-committal stances on most of these rudimentary forms of social interactions, references of the late Ḥanbalī epoch opined the position of prohibition, almost wholesale. It is only through the opinions of outliers, such as Ibn al-Qayyim and his mentor, Taqī al-Dīn Ibn Taymiyya, that a positive case for civility with non-Muslims can be established. For the Taymiyyan duo, kindness is enacted to win the hearts of non-Muslims and to entice them to Islam. For Ibn Taymiyya, one enacts civility and equity for the preponderate benefit (maṣlaḥa rājiḥa) it provides the Muslim community.

In stark contrast, the Ḥanafī school is profoundly permissive as legal considerations for the emotional well-being of non-Muslims routinely feature in their jurisprudence. Similarly, positive social relations are theorised as recommended good deeds. Nonetheless, these three distinct strands argue for religious and theological obligations that are not to be negotiated. Herein, I present a hypothesis of tolerant restraint in social interactions, which entails restraining oneself respectfully and courteously when one is presented with a non-negotiable theological paradox or religious prohibition. In such situations, a religiously sound alternative can be legitimately offered, while enacting tolerant restraint to refuse or avoid the prohibited action. Crucially, the Ḥanafīs encourage civility as a good deed in and of itself, while for Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim, it is the pragmatic means to a much loftier goal: proselytisation, conversion and/or winning the hearts of others. As Islamophobic far-right political voices gain widespread popularity across Europe, the pragmatic benefits of civility cannot be overstated as it serves to humanise an especially othered European minority.

In the last chapter of this thesis, I reconcile this hypothesis with the doctrine al-walā’ wa l-barā’ from Qur’ānic exegetical sources. This doctrine demands that Muslims should display loyalty to God, the Prophet and the Muslim community, and dissociate themselves from sin and unbelief. While some argue that this doctrine problematises civility with non-Muslims, I demonstrate that this doctrine does not outlaw civil relations. In fact, there is a near consensus of exegetes who argue that equitable, just and kind relations with non-Muslims are justified and legitimate. Moreover, with specific reference to Q. 60:8, God explicitly permits civil relations so long that they are not hostile combatants.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Aziz Foundation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc


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