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Asien-Orient-Institut UFSP Asien und Europa (2006–2017)

Shari’a and Human Rights: Theory and Practice

Responsible for the doctoral project: Noureldin Abdou, MLaw, LLM
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


This project introduces an analytical study for the concept of human rights from the perspective of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence through two levels; the first being the general theory. Whereas the second addresses the application by discussing the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and expression in two Arab states, i.e.; Egypt and Tunisia.

The purposes of the study are: 1. to provide a critical analysis for the Sunni human rights schemes, 2. to track historical and legal development of ‘blasphemy and apostasy’ as criminal offences, which were further utilized to undermine freedom of speech and freedom of religion on religious basis in Arab states.

The importance of the study evolves from the universal nature of human rights; even if it stands as an international soft law, it remains widely accepted. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and expression are cornerstones of a democratic society respectful of human rights. Furthermore, Shari’a is of paramount importance where 57 states, if not with a majority, having a considerable Muslim population1. Whether it is fully or partially incorporated in the relevant legal systems, Shari’a remains a vital factor influencing the position of society over different issues.

The dissertation approaches the subject through historical and legal frames. It synthesizes literature derived from primary and secondary sources, in particular, classical treatises and modern publications of Sunni Jurisprudence in Arabic language. It engages critically with the dialectic discourse of modern Sunni human rights schemes, which were founded as a defensive reaction to the western model.

The dissertation aims to reach the following outcomes: 1. to mitigate the impact of the dogmatic approach with the purpose of reform and setting a wider common ground between the Sunni model and the western model, 2. establishing the discrepancy between the ideal principles of Islam as a religion and the applications of Sunni jurisprudence with regard to human rights.