Perhaps no other Western writer has more deeply probed the bitter struggle in the Muslim world between the forces of religion and law and those of violence and lawlessness as Noah Feldman. His scholarship has defined the stakes in the Middle East today. Now, in this incisive book, Feldman tells the story behind the increasingly popular call for the establishment of the shari'a--the law of the traditional Islamic state--in the modern Muslim world.
Western powers call it a threat to democracy. Islamist movements are winning elections on it. Terrorists use it to justify their crimes. What, then, is the shari'a? Given the severity of some of its provisions, why is it popular among Muslims? Can the Islamic state succeed--should it? Feldman reveals how the classical Islamic constitution governed through and was legitimated by law. He shows how executive power was balanced by the scholars who interpreted and administered the shari'a, and how this balance of power was finally destroyed by the tragically incomplete reforms of the modern era. The result has been the unchecked executive dominance that now distorts politics in so many Muslim states. Feldman argues that a modern Islamic state could provide political and legal justice to today's Muslims, but only if new institutions emerge that restore this constitutional balance of power.
The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State gives us the sweeping history of the traditional Islamic constitution--its noble beginnings, its downfall, and the renewed promise it could hold for Muslims and Westerners alike. In a new introduction, Feldman discusses developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and other Muslim-majority countries since the Arab Spring and describes how Islamists must meet the challenge of balance if the new Islamic states are to succeed.
Noah Feldman is the Bemis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Scorpions, What We Owe Iraq, and After Jihad.
"The growing clamor for a return to Shari'a law in the Muslim world has often been met with alarm by the West. But Feldman remains coolheaded, placing the movement in a historical context and suggesting that its ideal of 'a just legal system, one that administers the law fairly,' is an understandable goal in a region dominated by unchecked oligarchies."--New Yorker
"In a short but masterful exposition, The Fall and Rise of The Islamic State, Noah Feldman seeks to answer a question that puzzles most Western observers: Why do so many Muslims demand the 'restoration' of a legal system that most Occidentals associate with 'medieval' punishments such as amputation for theft and stoning for sexual transgressions?"--Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books
"In a short, incisive and elegant book, [Feldman] lays out for the non-specialist reader some of the forms that Islamic rule has taken over the centuries, while also stressing the differences between today's politican Islam and previous forms of Islamic administration."--The Economist
"[A] concise and thoughtful history of the evolution of the Islamic legal system from the time of the first caliphs (the successors to the prophet Muhammad) to our own....Feldman thinks that the restoration of the authority of sharia in modern Muslim-majority nations might be the only way for them to move beyond their current democracy deficits....Feldman is not so naive as to give them a free pass. Nor does he ignore the democratic deficiencies of the two nations, Iran and Saudi Arabia, that have sharia as the law of the land. While saying that principles of sharia will have to become part of the constitutional fabric of modern Islamic states, he adds that this will work only if Islamists find new institutions to give life to sharia."--Jay Tolson, U.S. News & World Report
Table of Contents:
PART I: What Went Right? 17
PART II: Decline and Fall 57
PART III: The Rise of the New Islamic State 103
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Noah Feldman:
A Council on Foreign Relations Book