Description:  This is a substantially expanded edition of the author's seminal work The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses: A Contemporary Case Study. Beginning with the case study of a Muslim basketball player who refused to stand up while the American national anthem was playing, the author documents the disintegration of the Islamic juristic tradition, and the prevalence of authoritarianism in contemporary Muslim discourses. The author analyzes the rise of what he describes as puritan and despotic trends in modern Islam, and asserts that such trends nullify the richness and diversity of the Islamic tradition. By declaring themselves the true soldiers of God and the defenders of religion, Muslim puritan movements are able to degrade women, eradicate critical thinking, and empty Islam of its moral content. In effect, the author argues, the self-declared protectors of Islam become its despots and oppressors who suppress the dynamism and vigor of the Islamic message. Anchoring himself in the rich Islamic jurisprudential tradition, the author argues for upholding the authoritativeness of the religious text without succumbing to authoritarian methodologies of interpretation. Ultimately, the author asserts that in order to respect the integrity of the Divine laws it is necessary to adopt rigorous analytical methodologies of interpretation, and to re-investigate the place of morality in modern Islam.



"...I have always been intrigued by the Qur'anic expression in the chapter known as al-Muddaththir, “And none can know the soldiers of God except God....” (Qur'an 74:31) The Qur'an talks about nineteen angels guarding Hell, and Qur'anic commentaries explain that this verse refers to the fact that only God knows why precisely nineteen angels (and not twenty or eighteen) guard Hell. Yet, the verse is phrased in the most interesting way. Only God can know God’s soldiers. The language is expansive enough to express a general principle and is not necessarily limited to the matter of the nineteen angels guarding Hellfire. Furthermore, the verse is not necessarily limited to addressing why only God knows why nineteen angels guard Hell. Rather, the verse seems to be saying that only God knows who God’s true or real soldiers are, and, by implication, that no one else can know who are God’s true or real soldiers. If this is the meaning of the verse, then it is a magnificent negation of the authoritarian. One can aspire to be a soldier of God, and one can strive with the utmost exertion to achieve this status, but only God knows God’s soldiers. Everyone has access to God’s authority but no one is assured of receiving it..."



I  The Short Legacy of a Short Book: Justification and Confession


II  The Problem of Authority: An Anecdotal Experience

III  The Text and Authority: A Case Study

IV  The Case Study: The Fatwa

V  The Construction of the Authoritarian

VI  Publication Afterthoughts 

  • Authority and the Determination of Meaning: One God, One Book, and One Meaning 
  • Choosing a Case Study: Pick on Someone Your Own Size 
  • Raising the Bar: Are We Going to Need a Jurist to Go to the Toilet?
  • The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition
  • Lecherous Suspicions: Do You Dare Question the Hijab? 
  • Is Morality a Bad Word? 


Glossary of Terms

Works Cited



"This short, brilliant, and timely book distinguishes between the authoritative and authoritarian in Islamic discourses. . . a brilliant use of the traditions of Islamic jurisprudence in arguing for an anti-authoritarian and anti-elitist position in Islamic hermeneutics. . .. Extensive footnotes and bibliography; HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for upper-division undergraduates and above." (L.H. Mamiya, Choice)


"Overall, the book is informative, educational, and interesting." (Muhammad Tahir Mansoori, Islamic Studies)


"...provocative, brave, and compelling...The book is highly recommended for all interested in Islamic law and contemporary Muslim progressive thought? (Andrew Rippin, Religious Studies Review)


"Scholars of all legal, religious, and historical persuasions are urged to read this text, for it offers a multi-layered, painless introduction to the crux of a contemporary legal power struggle." (D.A. Spellberg, Choice)