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A Critical Review Essay of Anver M. Emon’s Islamic Natural Law Theories

  • Author(s): Koujah, Rami
  • et al.

The concept of “natural law” is not one that is commonly associated with Islamic law. In his monograph, Islamic Natural Theories, Anver M. Emon attempts to shed light on this issue and uncover a natural law tradition in the legal theories of a number of premodern Muslim jurists. In doing so, Emon draws a distinction between the Hard Naturalists and the Soft Naturalists, two schools of natural law that differ on theological points but ultimately find common ground in their conclusions. For Emon, the conception of natural law concerns the extent to which reason is granted the ontological authority to determine norms, as opposed to a textualist approach to producing law. This essay investigates the primary sources relied on by Emon in his study and questions his reading of the texts, his arguments, and his conclusions. I conclude that Emon’s study, ambitious in its goals and important as a first step, presents a strained reading of the texts and struggles to convince the reader of the genuineness of a natural law tradition in Islamic legal theory as he presents it.

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