Research Handbook on Transparency
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Research Handbook on Transparency

Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn

In the last two decades transparency has become a ubiquitous and stubbornly ambiguous term. Typically understood to promote rule of law, democratic participation, anti-corruption initiatives, human rights, and economic efficiency, transparency can also legitimate bureaucratic power, advance undemocratic forms of governance, and aid in global centralization of power. This path-breaking volume, comprising original contributions on a range of countries and environments, exposes the many faces of transparency by allowing readers to see the uncertainties, inconsistencies and surprises contained within the current conceptions and applications of the term.
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Chapter 6: Transparency and the Shi’i clerical elite

Haider Ala Hamoudi


If we are to understand how the value of transparency is understood in Islam, and particularly Shi’i Islam, let us begin with a perhaps obvious but insufficiently internalized observation. Doctrine, be it religious or legal, is hardly interesting on its own. It is susceptible to multiple interpretations and manipulations, particularly over the course of centuries. That doctrine might be deployed to serve one salutary aim or another in any given society—be that aim transparency, anti-corruption, abolition of slavery or care for the poor—seems obvious, almost banal. This is particularly so in the case of Islamic religious doctrine, developed in a world of caliphs, sultans and slave-girls, and its putative use in the modern nation-state, with its very different biases and presuppositions respecting state function and organization, to say nothing of radically different normative premises respecting the nature of human dignity. It suffices to say that at some level of abstraction, classical Islamic doctrine has resources from which to develop an anti-corruption ethic that might include some notion of transparency. And yet to draw on such resources so as to render them relevant in modernity requires such a great amount of concretization through the liberal use of legal imagination that the result is almost as invented as it is derived.

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