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The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State…
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The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Council on Foreign Relations)

by Noah Feldman

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Unfortunately there is no consideration of the concept of a Republic, or the distinctiveness of the American Revolution. In short, this is a disappointingly superficial examination of the Islamic state providing little coverage of Arab socialism, authoritarian Islamic states, and no global or cross-cultural analysis. Feldman does a respectable summarizing the Tanzimat and Mecelle reforms and yet the obvious point he does not draw is that the reforms are simply declared null and void by the anti-liberty forces predominate in the Ottoman Empire. Simply positing some balance, law reform, or drawing up a constitution does not necessarily reform the inability of an Islamic state to defend the liberty, since they posit justice, for the people.

The Tanzimât (Ottoman Turkish: تنظيمات), meaning reorganization of the Ottoman Empire, was a period of reformation that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. The Tanzimât reform era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire, to secure its territorial integrity against nationalist movements and aggressive powers. The reforms encouraged Ottomanism among the diverse ethnic groups of the Empire, attempting to stem the tide of nationalist movements within the Ottoman Empire. The reforms attempted to integrate non-Muslims and non-Turks more thoroughly into Ottoman society by enhancing their civil liberties and granting them equality throughout the Empire.

Unfortunately for the cause of liberty the reforms were simply brushed aside by authoritarian rule.

The Mecelle (also transliterated Mejelle, Majalla, Medjelle, or Meğelle) was the civil code of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the first attempt to codify a part of the Sharia-based law of an Islamic state.

The code was prepared by a commission headed by Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, issued in sixteen volumes (containing 1,851 articles) from 1869 to 1876 and entered into force in the year 1877. In its structure and approach it was clearly influenced by the earlier European codifications. Covering most areas of civil law, it exempted family law, which remained a domain of religious law.

The substance of the code was based on the Hanafist legal tradition that enjoyed official status in the Empire. However, using the method of preference (tahayyur), it also incorporated other legal opinions that were considered more appropriate to the time, including from non-Hanafis.

As the Mecelle was eventually applied in the secular (nizamiye) courts as well as in the Sharia courts of the Empire, Jews and Christians were for the first time subjected to Islamic law instead of their own law, but could now be called as witnesses in court.

Thus, the first instance of incorporating sharia into law relegates non-Muslims to second-class status, and subjects others as not worthy of having their own ecclesiastical rules.
  gmicksmith | Aug 15, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0691120455, Hardcover)

Perhaps no other Western writer has more deeply probed the bitter struggle in the Muslim world between the forces of religion and law and those of violence and lawlessness as Noah Feldman. His scholarship has defined the stakes in the Middle East today. Now, in this incisive book, Feldman tells the story behind the increasingly popular call for the establishment of the shari'a--the law of the traditional Islamic state--in the modern Muslim world.

Western powers call it a threat to democracy. Islamist movements are winning elections on it. Terrorists use it to justify their crimes. What, then, is the shari'a? Given the severity of some of its provisions, why is it popular among Muslims? Can the Islamic state succeed--should it? Feldman reveals how the classical Islamic constitution governed through and was legitimated by law. He shows how executive power was balanced by the scholars who interpreted and administered the shari'a, and how this balance of power was finally destroyed by the tragically incomplete reforms of the modern era. The result has been the unchecked executive dominance that now distorts politics in so many Muslim states. Feldman argues that a modern Islamic state could provide political and legal justice to today's Muslims, but only if new institutions emerge that restore this constitutional balance of power.

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State gives us the sweeping history of the traditional Islamic constitution--its noble beginnings, its downfall, and the renewed promise it could hold for Muslims and Westerners alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Noah Feldman tells the story behind the increasingly popular call for the establishment of the shari'a - the law of the traditional Islamic state - in the modern Muslim world." "Western powers call it a threat to democracy. Islamist movements are winning elections on it. Terrorists use it to justify their crimes. What, then, is the shari'a? Given the severity of some of its provisions, why is it popular among Muslims? Can the Islamic state succeed - should it? Feldman reveals how the classical Islamic constitution governed through and was legitimated by law. He shows how executive power was balanced by the scholars who interpreted and administered the shari'a, and how this balance of power was finally destroyed by the tragically incomplete reforms of the modern era. The result has been the unchecked executive dominance that now distorts politics in so many Muslim states. Feldman argues that a modern Islamic state could provide political and legal justice to today's Muslims, but only if new institutions emerge that restore this constitutional balance of power."--Jacket.… (more)

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