The Maqsad of Hifz al-Din: Is Liberal Religious Freedom Sufficient for the Shari'ah?

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Andrew F. March


This article examines some treatments of the meaning and extension of the Islamic legal purpose (maqsad) of protecting religion (hifz al-din), with an eye towards Islamic legal theorists’ explicit or implicit encounter with modern liberal and secularist understandings of what it means to ‘protect religion’. The theory of the ‘purposes of divine law’ (maqasid al-shari'ah), which the author refers to as a form of ‘Complex Purposivism’ in legal interpretation and argumentation, is often viewed as a panacea for modern reformers and pragmatists who want to establish Islamic legitimacy for new substantive moral, legal and political commitments in new socio-political conditions, because it allows Muslims to ask not whether a given norm has been expressly endorsed within the texts, but whether it is compatible with the deeper goods and interests which God wants to protect through the Law.

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