Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory
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Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory

Jonathan Crowe and Constance Y. Lee

This thought-provoking Research Handbook provides a snapshot of current research on natural law theory in ethics, politics and law, showcasing the breadth and diversity of contemporary natural law thought. The Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory examines topics such as foundational figures in Western natural law theory, natural law ideas in a variety of religious and cultural traditions, normative foundations of natural law, as well as issues of law and governance. Featuring contributions by leading international scholars, this Research Handbook offers a valuable resource for scholars in law, philosophy, religious studies and related fields.
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Chapter 9: Natural law in Islam from theological and legal perspectives

Nadirsyah Hosen


Debates over the interpretation and application of Islamic law illustrate central issues in natural law theory about the interaction between timeless principles and contemporary social norms. On the one hand, Nadirsyah Hosen notes, the Qur’an and the Hadith are considered immutable and timeless. In this sense, Muslim societies may change, but Islam never changes. On the other hand, Islamic teaching depends on human interpretation of divine sources. Those interpretations may evolve over time, reflecting shifts in human understanding. Different Islamic schools take different views of the extent to which interpretations of the Holy Books can and should change over time. The centrality of ijtihad or interpretation in Islamic law, for Hosen, illustrates the importance of reason, tradition and consensus as tools of understanding. Concepts such as istislah or public interest may also have a role to play. As a consequence, Islamic jurists and ordinary Muslims hold diverse opinions about how Islamic teaching applies in the modern world. Hosen argues for a balanced approach where scholars develop new interpretations of original sources while studying and learning from historical scholarship. In this way, contemporary interpreters can help advance human knowledge of what natural law entails today.

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