Issues of Muslim Minorities in Non-Muslim Societies
An Appraisal of Classical and Modern Islamic Legal Discourses with Reference to Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat
The theory of fiqh al-aqalliyyat (fiqh for minorities) that has appeared in the recent history of Islamic jurisprudence is novel yet controversial. It was propounded by scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1926) and Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani (1935–2016) in 1990s. The fiqh al-aqalliyyat aims at providing plausible solutions to the religious-cum-legal issues faced by Muslims living in predominantly non-Muslim societies, especially in the West. However, there are several technical and juristic issues that haunt this theory. The present article looks into the history and development of the idea of fiqh al-aqalliyyat and shows that though it has won approval of a substantial number of scholars and Muslim jurists, the criticism it has received cannot be ignored either. Even the use of term “fiqh” in this context has been questioned by some scholars. Particularly, the way the proponents of fiqh al-aqalliyyat deal with the classical juristic opinions and texts is problematic. Therefore, the article maintains that the challenges faced by Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim lands today can be addressed within the parameters set by the classical Muslim jurists and without downplaying their valuable contributions. However, there is no denying that certain insights underlying the contemporary discourse on fiqh al-aqalliyyat can be meaningfully utilised without challenging the foundations of classical fiqh.
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