Author: NOUH EL HARMOUZI & LINDA WHETSTONE
Throughout human history, religious leaders, philosophers, scholars, academics, community elders and ordinary citizens have tried to make a better world in which the human community can develop and flourish. They have done this in diverse ways, for example, through religion, philosophy, tradition and law. The prevention of despotism, totalitarianism, injustice and the abuse of the inherent rights of individuals has often been considered a priority by religious and most philosophers.
Throughout the history of Islamic societies the Sharia has formed the main framework of socio-economic and even the political life of the Islamic Peoples. During the golden age of Islam (800-1200 AD) the Sharia always seemed compatible with a free society, and this was the experience of Muslim communities. The emergence of a pluralistic intellectual climate, the growth of several schools of thought in Islamic societies (theology and jurisprudence), scientific achievements in chemistry, medicine, agriculture, music, poetry, philosophy and astronomy, together with the development of commerce and trade, went hand-in-hand with Muslims engaging freely with non-Muslims societies. A robust context for the promotion and the protection of property rights in the light of the economic engagement of Muslims with other ancient traditions led to the establishment of well-respected and well-supported enterprises.
The legal and juridical principals of Islamic law recognized individual freedom and rights (along with the responsibilities of individuals) in a society that provided an appropriate context for an independent judiciary and the defense of individuals rights through the courts. Islam insists on freedom of movement and in principle, does not recognize boundaries between Islamic societies. Islam shared these characteristics with other progressive legal system and religious in the world and it also promoted business and trade with all non-Muslims.
Muslims comprise a major segment of the human community, making up 23 percent of the world’s population clustered in 54 Islamic countries. There is a need to bring prosperity and greater welfare to Muslim societies. This will only happen if Muslims reflect on the golden age in their history when freedom and co-existence with other communities, including a pluralistic intellectual climate, existed and if they draw the right lessons from it. This comprehensive book is an excellent, unique and valuable initiative for intellectuals, civil society activists (including university students), journalists and ordinary people who want to understand the basic elements of a free society and their compatibility with Islamic traditions and thought. I am sure it will be very useful for those who promote freedom in countries where these principles are not well understood. I would particularly like to encourage its Muslims readers to read it carefully in order to develop their knowledge of Islamic principles, so that they can understand more clearly the consistency of free society values with Islamic Sharia. Furthermore, this book will be useful for non-Muslims who wish to understand the richness of Islamic thought especially given the number of Muslims who live in Western countries and who are sometimes seen as a threat, As such, this book is being published at a vital time in world history and, if properly understood and promoted, can help bring about again a better world in which the human community can develop and flourish.