Human Rights and New Jurisprudence in Mohsen Kadivar's Advocacy of “New-Thinker” Islam

in Die Welt des Islams
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In 2001, Mohsen Kadivar (1959-), a Qom-trained Shi'ite mujtahid, began advocating what he has alternately termed “spiritual Islam”, “goal-oriented Islam”, and “new-thinker Islam”. No longer just a critic of the “rule of the jurisprudent” (wilāyat-i faqīh) doctrine, Kadivar started to set forth his version of postrevivalist Islam, a kind that characteristically highlights its spiritual aspects but is nonetheless self-consciously anchored within the framework of Islamic jurisprudence. In this article, I will first examine Kadivar's arguments about the fundamental conflict between the traditional exegesis of Islam and modern human rights norms, the inadequacy of traditional Islamic jurisprudence as a means to tackle the conflict, and his proposed approach to solving the problem. I will then critically discuss certain controversial aspects of the new exegesis that Kadivar has proposed—particularly, the issues surrounding the abrogation of accepted precepts of sharī'a and the newly introduced conception of the intrinsic rights of human beings—as well as its significance and cogency. These examinations will highlight the unique emphasis that Kadivar has put on jurisprudence as the means to come to terms with the challenges of modernity, in contrast with more explicitly hermeneutic approaches preferred by some of his peers within the emerging postrevivalist current in Iran.

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