11. gods and humans

Pages241-253
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1016/S1059-4337(04)34011-1
Publication Date30 December 2004
AuthorNasser Hussain
11. gods and humans
Nasser Hussain
Inordertomarkthebeginningofthefifteenthcentury,a group of prominent Muslim
theologians and jurists assembled to draft a document that systematically laid out
the rights and duties of all human beings according to the dictates of Islam. The
year of Christ was 1981, and the occasion was formally the International Islamic
Conference, held that year in Paris. The document that these jurist produced seems
at first an odd one, titled The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights
(Universal Islamic Declaration, 1988). Odd as the document so pointedly invokes
the famed 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal
Declaration, 1999). But perhaps such an invocation is not odd at all, for the
document is first of all a symptom of and a response to two massive contemporary
facts. The first is the ubiquity of human rights talk. It is certainly proof of the
success of this discourse as a normative and normalizing force that no-one can
speak of universality or ethics or eventhe most drab topic in international relations
without paying homage, only sometimes qualified, to the idea that all humans have
rights. The second fact to which the Islamic declaration responds is the suspicion
if not outright insistence that the religion of Islam in unsuited to this new order
of civilization. Amongst the jurists themselves there is a sense that clarification
is needed of the relation of Islam to the global (to say nothing of globalizing)
discourse of human rights. This much is readily conceded by the drafters, who felt
impelled by the forces of the contemporary world scene to formulate the Islamic position in
relation to human rights (Weeramantry,1988, p. 122).
Notsurprisingly,such a position involves dethroning the sovereignsubject (entirely
different from its deconstruction) and proclaiming victory once again for God and
his absolute sovereignty, even as it involves extending a governmental interest in
An Aesthetics of Law and Culture: Texts,Images, Screens
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society,Volume 34, 241–253
© 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
ISSN: 1059-4337/doi:10.1016/S1059-4337(04)34011-1
241

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