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Human Rights, Universality and Sovereignty: The Irrelevance and Relevance of Sharia

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In this article I argue that the paradoxes of universality and self-regulation by the state are inherent to the human rights paradigm itself in its application to every cultural, religious and ideological context. By the paradox of universality I refer to the expectation of global agreement on universal human rights norms among peoples of radically different cultural (including religious and ideological) traditions around the world. The paradox of self-regulation by the state is in expecting any state to adopt human rights norms to limit its own powers, and then to effectively enforce those limitations against the officials of the same state. This article focuses on the internal dimension of this process in relation to Islamic societies. The case of Sharia is examined here to illustrate how the paradoxes of universality and self-regulation can be mediated through an internal discourse within Islamic societies. I examine the prospects of Islamic reform in light of the cultural relevance and the legal irrelevance of Sharia norms and the possibility of their internal transformation from an Islamic point of view.

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Islamic Family Law in a Changing World London: Zed Books. An-Na'im, A. (2008) Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia The Sanhuri Code, and the Emergence of Modern Arab Civil Law A History of Islamic Law
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An-Na'im, A. (2002) Islamic Family Law in a Changing World. London: Zed Books. An-Na'im, A. (2008) Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bechor, G. (2008) The Sanhuri Code, and the Emergence of Modern Arab Civil Law (1932 to 1949). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers Coulson, N. (1964) A History of Islamic Law. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Averroes) (2001) Fasl al-Maqal bayn al-Shara wa al-Hikmah min Itsal [The Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection between the Law and Wisdom
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Rushd, I. (Averroes) (2001) Fasl al-Maqal bayn al-Shara wa al-Hikmah min Itsal [The Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection between the Law and Wisdom] (Charles E. Butterworth, trans). Provo, UT: BYU Press.
Between God and Sultan: a History of Sharia Author Information Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is Professor of Law at Emory Univer-sity. His research focuses on developing a liberal modernist under-standing of Islam, with a view to showing Islam's coherence with a commitment to universal human rights
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Vikor, K. (2005) Between God and Sultan: a History of Sharia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Author Information Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is Professor of Law at Emory Univer-sity. His research focuses on developing a liberal modernist under-standing of Islam, with a view to showing Islam's coherence with a commitment to universal human rights. © 2013 University of Durham and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Global Policy (2013) 4:4 Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na ' im
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