The Islamic Theory of International Relations New Directions for Islamic Methodology and Thought By AbdulHamid AbuSulayman. (Islamization of Knowledge, series 3, no. 1). Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1987, 184 pp.

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Glenn E. Perry



This book provides a remarkable reformist approach to Islam in general
and to the Islamic theory of international relations in particular. The author
begins by attributing the tragic condition of the modem Islamic world to its
stagnation, brought about by the predominance of taqlid. Only with a resolution
of the ”time-place issue” p. 4), a phrase that recurs throughout the book in relation
to the necessity of distinguishing between what is permanent and what is
a mere dated application in another time and place, does AbQSulaymzin believe
that “the badly needed original dynamic and realistic policies” (p. 4) can be
The author distinguishes between the Shari’ah and fiqh (writings of Islamic
jurists), which he maintains has been inaccumtely considered to be “law in itself
and not a secondary source of Islamic law” p. 4). The siyar (i.e., juristic writings
related to international relations), AbuSulayman argues, is not “an Islamic law
among nations’’ that constitutes “a sort of unified classical legal code” (p. 7).
He also criticizes some writers for overlooking the diversity of classical opinion,
saying that Majid Khadduri in particular presented only the “strict position”
of al Shifi‘i while ignoring “the equally authoritative opinion of Abu Hanifah”
AbuSulayman insists that it is necessary to understand the Qur’an and the
Sunnah “in the context of conditions at a time when the early Muslims were
confronted by unceasing aggression and persecution” (p. 35) and criticizes the
use of abrogation (naskh) to exclude a more tolerant outlook. It is necessary
for today‘s Muslims, the author says, ”to go back to the origins of Muslim thought
. . . . and reexamine and reform their methods and approaches” (p. 49). The
task of developing the required new methodology, he argues, must not be left
to the ulama alone, because they “no longer represent the mainstream of Muslim
intellectual and public involvement” and are not educated in “the changes. . . in
the world today” (p. 76).
Characterizing “modern Muslim thought in the field of external affairs”
- particularly an “aggressive attitude involved in the classically militant approach
to jihad” in the case of “a people who are [now] weak and backward ...

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