Khurūj in Contemporary Islamic Thought: the Case of the “Arab Spring”
The “Arab Spring” has challenged contemporary Muslim religious scholars (ʿulamāʾ) to address the popular issues of opposition to the ruler (al-khurūj ʿalá l-ḥākim). It seems that these ʿulamāʾ, from various schools of Islamic thought, are unable to reach a consensus on these matters. Their positions range from wide recognition of the right to nonviolent civil protest, e.g., protest rallies, strikes, civil unrest, etc., to the strict prohibition of all expressions of popular protest, as being foreign to Islam. This picture is even more complex when one discerns the ambivalent approaches of various religious institutions and figures, both official and private that have supported protests in certain countries, but objected to protest in others. This article investigates these religio-legal positions regarding popular protest against the ruler: What are the boundaries of the permissible and the forbidden in regard to popular protest against the ruler from the vantage point of contemporary Sunnī scholars? My central claim here is that a significant gap exists between the different current Islamic legal positions on the issue of popular protest against the ruler and its restriction. These positions are mostly derived from the general understanding of the different schools of Islamic legal thought today regarding the theory of the Muslim state, especially of the relationship between the ruler and his subjects.
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