The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulations

  • Book Title:
 The Islamic Law Of War
  • Book Author:
Ahmed Al-Dawoody
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It is my privilege to introduce the outstanding scholarship of Ahmed Al-Dawoody on the law of war in Islam as the second volume of the Palgrave Series on Islamic Law and Theology. This series is dedicated to publishing original and transformative scholarship in Islamic Studies and to raising the threshold for the standards of scholarship in the field.

I feel fortunate to introduce this gifted scholar to Western readers because his work is not just timely and reliable, but he is the kind of academic whose scholarship is so masterful that it is bound to command the subject for the foreseeable future. Al-Dawoody’s background and training equip him with the skills necessary for making a transformative contribution to the understudied but overgeneralized and grossly essentialized topic of Islamic law and warfare.

Al-Dawoody was trained in Islamic theology and law at Al-Azhar University, the oldest Muslim seminary and also the oldest surviving university in the world. He combined this traditional classical training with a Western graduate education from the University of Leiden and the University of Birmingham. Therefore, he is able to combine an encyclopedic knowledge of classical Islamic sources and contemporary analytical methodologies.

Al-Dawoody speaks with commanding ease and relevance to the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, and his book satisfies a pressing need for both Muslim and non-Muslim readers.

The subject of Islam and war has been at the forefront of current events and interests, and there has been a virtual deluge of commentary and writings on the topic. Surprisingly, however, despite its relevance and importance, the subject has received precious little scholarly attention from qualified specialists, and what little has been published in academic sources has been narrow and limited in scope and focus.

 Especially when it comes to Islamic law and jurisprudence, much of what is published on the regulation and conduct of war has been so superficial and methodologically flawed to the point of being not just unhelpful but positively misleading.

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This is not the place to investigate why so much of what has been published about Islamic law and war, whether in the Western or the Muslim worlds, has been so wanting or deficient. Al-Dawoody has written the most exhaustive and thorough book to date on the regulation and con- duct of war in the Islamic legal tradition.

Not only has he written the authoritative reference source on the subject, but he has set the standard for future discourses in this field.

Al-Dawoody has examined and analyzed numerous legal and histori- cal sources, which enabled him to trace the progression and trajectories of juristic discourses on the conduct and regulation of war providing a nuanced and dynamic exploration of the laws of war in the Islamic legal tradition. Al-Dawoody’s command of original sources and sheer range of his research is very impressive.

 For practical reasons related to cost and marketability, Al-Dawoody was forced to trim his copious citations but without compromising the quality of the scholarship. It is important to note, however, that Al-Dawoody has performed the most comprehensive and rigorous review of original sources accomplished to date.

Therefore, his book should replace earlier academic publications that, although widely cited and influential, were based on a very limited study of just a few original sources, and that were usually taken out of historical context or without the benefit of a broad comparative approach.

 After the publication of this book, in my view, it will become simply unacceptable to write or speak about the subject of war and Islam without first having read and studied this authoritative work. Al-Dawoody’s book is essential reading for any person with an interest in this topic, and it is definitely required reading for all students of Islamic law and theology, political and religious violence, and the just war tradition. This book will continue to occupy this well-deserved venerable position for a long time to come….

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