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Authors: Syed, Mairaj
Advisors: Marmon, Shaun E
Zaman, Muhammad Q
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Coercion
Intellectual History
Islamic Law
Islamic Studies
Islamic Theology
Moral Philosophy
Subjects: Middle Eastern studies
Islamic culture
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Contemporary legal theorists and philosophers struggle to formulate standards for the identification of legitimate claims of coercion and specify its effect on moral and legal responsibility. This dissertation is a historical and analytical examination of the juristic and theological debates on the problem of coerced acts in the formative and classical periods (1st/7th-5th/11th centuries) of Islamic thought. It begins with a textual analysis of the main Qur'anic verse and Prophetic tradition (hadith) dealing with the issue of coercion, along with a historical analysis of the circumstances surrounding the emergence of the first extensive dispute in Islamic legal history involving coercion: the validity of coerced pronouncements of divorce and coerced undertaking of divorce-contingent oaths. It then analyzes the treatment of compulsion and coercion in two classical theological traditions, Mu'tazilism and Ash'arism. The Mu'tazilites held that compulsion undermines moral agency. The Ash'arites held that it does not. Both traditions were driven to their respective positions by commitments to core values about God. The Mu'tazilites construed their systematic conception of God as just to mean that He could not hold human beings responsible for acts that they do not freely commit. They developed the most extensive psychological theory in the classical period to explain what constitutes fully volitional acts, and what constitutes compelled acts. In contrast, the most important systematic value in the Ash'arite conception of God was His monopoly on creative agency in the universe. For the Ash'arites, God creates all things and events, including volitional human action. To admit that coercion undermines moral agency would be to admit that God's creation of volitional human action should likewise undermine moral agency. The dissertation then engages in a comparative examination of the coercion jurisprudence of two classical legal traditions, Hanafism and Shafi'ism. It analyzes jurists' struggles to develop and justify coherent legal definitions of coercion, and their reasoning about its effect on different types of speech acts and the moral and legal responsibility for acts involving causing harm to innocent bystanders. While theologians reasoned systematically from a few core values, jurists were working with a cumulative tradition of rules covering a much wider swath of human experience and attempting working out coercion's effect on a variety of different acts in much greater detail. Thus the jurists had to balance a number of values, not to mention the material interests of different parties on any given question of law. Contrary to much of recent scholarship on Islamic law, this dissertation shows that legal reasoning consisted of much more than interpretation of scriptural texts. Jurists cited legal principles, developed conceptual tests for future unprecedented cases, deployed metaphors, and formulated specific empirical accounts of coercion's impact on an agent's psychology in order to reason through the thorny problems coercion posed to moral and legal responsibility for action.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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