The Islamic Secular: Comments

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Humeira Iqtidar



Professor Sherman A. Jackson, an authority on Islamic legal and intellectual
history, has claimed in this article that a particular form of the secular is internal
to Islam. For him, the secular is primarily a manifestation of the differentiation
of spheres of human life. The Islamic secular, he argues, is revealed
through a close reading of the boundaries that the Sharia self-imposes upon
its jurisdiction and that implicitly operationalizes a type of differentiation. His
argument rests upon a distinction between Sharia and the wider religion of
Islam. This allows him to claim that the Sharia’s self-limitation supported a
recognition of other modes of reasoning and argumentation within Islam, and
that it is this space of non-Sharia reasoning that constitutes the space of the
secular within Islam. Arguing for such a relationship between Sharia and the
secular, then, leads him to point out that the distinction between the Islamic
and the Western seculars lays not so much in the substance, but in their function.
In other words, substantively both versions of the secular seem to support
rational, empirical thought; however, in the case of Islam, the function of the
secular is not to reduce of religion.

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