Islam and Constitutions

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Tengku Ahmad Hazri


Across the Muslim world, constitutions frequently make reference to Islam. These references assume various forms. In some constitutions, Islam is declared as a state religion, official religion, or something similar, such as in Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, which proclaims Islam to be “the religion of the Federation.” In others (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya), the Sharia is promulgated as a source—if not ‘the’ source—of legislation. Yet others (Iraq, Afghanistan) include ‘repugnancy clauses’, i.e. clauses declaring laws that run contrary to Sharia to be invalid, null and void. Still others require the head of state or government to be a Muslim (e.g. Syria). The various ways in which Islam is incorporated into these constitutions reveals the centrality of religion to public life in most Muslim societies. But they also point to another important aspect, namely the negotiation of Islam and modernity. This is a recurrent leitmotif that runs throughout the constitutional history of the modern Islamic world.

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