Islamic International Law and Public International Law: Convergence or Dissonance?

Sohail Hashmi
Professor of International Relations at Mount Holyoke College
2005 Carnegie Corporation of New York Scholar
March 22, 2006 | Washington, DC

"While there is a small fraction of Muslim theorists and activists who deny the compatibility of Islamic law and public international law, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and all Muslim majority states, or the elites who run these states, generally accept prevailing international norms in both theory and practice. This acceptance is qualified, however. The consensus is that Muslim states can and should abide by international law in their relations with non-Muslim states. However, a significant number of contemporary Muslim theorists and political leaders argue that Muslim states should abide by Shari'ah principles in their mutual relations with each other. In other words, a Muslim international society ought to be created according to this view as a subset within the broader international society.

Now having made this claim, I need to make two immediate and important qualifications. First, the details of an Islamic international subsystem and the legitimate means to bring it about remain at best only vaguely defined in the works of those who espouse it. With regard to Shari'ah in particular, there is no clear consensus today on what exactly the Shari'ah enjoins for a Muslim community divided into some 50 states, each claiming to be sovereign. Second, there is no clear consensus on the legal principles today and it is unlikely that there will be such a consensus anytime in the near future because there is no authoritative body to move in that direction." ~Professor Sohail Hashmi


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