Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn
Chapter 6: Transparency and the Shi’i clerical elite
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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