Political Freedom as an Islamic Value

Political Freedom as an Islamic Value Abstract The esteemed scholar Michael Cook has recently argued that political freedom is “not an Islamic value” but is in tension with Islam. This paper contends that Cook is mistaken. It moves in four steps. First, I consider the very idea of an “Islamic value,” sketching a nonessentialist way of conceiving such a thing. Next, I show that the particular “liberal” notion of political freedom that Cook rightly claims is absent is but one of three distinct conceptions of political freedom: he neglects to consider the possible presence of an alternate “republican” conception. Then, taking some of the very evidence Cook cites along with the case of al-Ghazālī, I show that this republican conception figures in Islamic thought and practice. I conclude by considering some broader interpretive issues that bear on this matter and have wider significance. Political freedom, it turns out, is an Islamic value after all. FEW MATTERS are more contested in contemporary politics than the relation of Islam to the West. And few values are more closely identified with the West than freedom. Many public figures would have citizens believe that Islam is incompatible with or even antithetical to political freedom. If political freedom is incompatible with Islam, then there is a fundamental opposition between Islam and the West. This perspective is familiar. Still, consider a few examples. Donald Trump famously declares that “Islam hates us.” “There is,” he says, “an unbelievable hatred” (Schleifer 2016). The clear implication is that this hatred has to do with values like freedom, and that such values belong to “us”—that is, Westerners—not to Islam or Muslims. Embrace or rejection of freedom thus marks a fundamental divide between Westerners and Muslims, good and evil. His calls for Muslim registries, bans on Muslim immigrants, and “extreme vetting” merely extend this basic logic. While at the time of writing it remains to be seen what the Trump administration will actually do, just the last few years have seen no less than seven US states move to ban Shariah. Whether such legislative performances are anything more than convenient vehicles for anti-Muslim prejudice, they gain their symbolic purchase and popular appeal partly thanks to the fear that many non-Muslims have that Shariah and Islam somehow threaten freedom. Such perspectives are not confined to politicians and their constituents. Though often expressed with less vitriol or more sophistication, they are present within the academy as well. To take but one example, at an urbane, post-lecture dinner a soft-spoken Oxford lecturer who holds two doctorates proclaimed to a table of scholars that Islam posed an existential threat to freedom—and insisted that it was all too easy for Americans like me to hold otherwise, having not seen the “true” oppressive face of Islam on display in Europe. And perhaps most famously, in an essay cited some eleven thousand times and massively influential in both foreign policy circles and popular imagination, the late Samuel Huntington claimed that “Western ideas of . . . equality, liberty, [and] rule of law . . . have little resonance with Islamic . . . cultures” (Huntington 1993, 40). While such hostility and oversimplification generally find little support among scholars specializing in Islam, the idea that political freedom is somehow un-Islamic or that Islam is opposed to or ambivalent about freedom is hardly foreign to the study of Islam—not just in previous times but in our own. To the extent that distinguished scholars of Islam seem to teach that Islam is hostile to or incompatible with political freedom, this threatens to have serious implications for public discourse and government policy.1 To be sure, many of those with anti-Muslim agendas would hardly let scholarly opposition stand in their way, nor would they balk at distorting scholarly claims for their purposes. But for nonspecialist scholars and fair-minded lay folk, it matters immensely what respected scholars of Islam say or seem to say on these topics. Especially in the current sociopolitical moment, such voices have the capacity to make a difference far beyond the walls of the academy. But even setting these broader ramifications aside, the question of how best to understand and characterize the relationship between Islamic traditions and visions of political freedom is a matter of enduring and intrinsic historical and philosophical interest. Given all this, when one of our era’s most esteemed, learned, and judicious scholars of Islam contends that political freedom is not an Islamic value, such a claim demands careful consideration and close scrutiny—not only as a matter of scholarly import but as something with significant potential to impact public discourse and global affairs. Such consideration and scrutiny are just what I mean to provide in this article. The scholar in question is none other than Professor Michael Cook. Cook has recently and forcefully argued that political freedom is not an Islamic value (Cook 2013).2 As Cook has it, Muslim interest in political liberty represents, at best, an embrace of alien principles, at worst, a betrayal of Islam. If Cook is right about this, the outlook for global affairs is even bleaker than it already seems, anti-Muslim politicians and activists can appropriate a genuinely authoritative voice for their agenda, and efforts to argue that political freedom is an Islamic value can be dismissed as dangerous and “politically correct” exercises in wishful thinking. But political freedom is indeed an Islamic value.3 More specifically, political freedom, in the sense of security against domination, is an Islamic value. That is the central claim of this article. I believe that Cook’s insistence that political freedom is not an Islamic value rests on faulty assumptions about what political freedom is. By clarifying the differences among three distinct conceptions of political freedom, I try to explain Cook’s error. Cook is right to think that Islamic traditions largely reject the sort of political freedom he has in mind. But he is wrong to claim that political freedom as such is not an Islamic value. Cook comes to this mistake by an exponentially more thoughtful, learned, and serious route than the countless pundits, politicians, and citizens who would also claim that Islam and political freedom are opposed. But at least for those who are willing actually to listen, the response to their claims is one and the same. By answering Cook, I incidentally answer them as well.4 I proceed in four basic steps. First, I briefly consider the very idea of an “Islamic value” and whether and how, with Cook, it makes sense to talk in those terms. Next, I show how Cook conceives of freedom in an essentialized, overly narrow way. Then, I show how some of Cook’s own evidence along with an additional example drawn from my own research supports not his denial of political freedom’s place in Islam, but my affirmation.5 Finally, I elucidate some philosophical issues relevant to Cook’s conclusions and those that other scholars might be tempted to draw. “ISLAMIC VALUES”? To begin, consider the very idea of an “Islamic value.” If talking about such a thing may have once seemed entirely straightforward, it certainly does no more.6 Elucidating the notion of an “Islamic value” and untangling the complex methodological and theoretical questions the notion provokes could easily make for a book of its own. But that is not what our aims require. Most simply, for Cook and me both, to speak of an Islamic value is only to speak of a value important to Muslim figures and communities in virtue of Islamic commitments, practices, texts, traditions, and so on. What makes these commitments and practices, these texts and traditions Islamic, for our purposes, is that they regard as authoritative—in some sense and to some degree—the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet and his companions, and practices of prayer, confession, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and worship associated by practitioners with the early community who regarded the Qur’an as revelation and Muhammad as God’s Prophet.7 We can perhaps even draw the boundaries more narrowly still and venture that, for Cook, the communities and traditions whose valuing certain things for certain reasons suffices to make that value count as “Islamic” are communities and traditions that inhabit and constitute something like a “mainstream” Islamic tradition—one that roughly answers to standard depictions of Islam in the better textbooks and to which a great many individuals and communities across time and space regard themselves as belonging and see themselves as helping constitute in virtue of sharing or taking themselves to share some rough consensus on the sunnah.8 On this vision of “mainstream” Islam, groups that, say, entirely reject the authority of every madhhab, regard most other self-professed Muslims as kuffār, or regard wine-drinking as licit would, for just such reasons, count in these respects as outside the center, on the fringe, or even outside this mainstream tradition.9 Cook himself does not offer any explanation of what he means by “Islamic value”—but on the basis of the various texts, figures, and traditions he considers in the article and in his work more broadly—I take him to have roughly this in mind. Whatever exactly he does have in mind, it certainly suffices to show that several of the figures and texts to which he appeals in order to show that political freedom is not an Islamic value actually suggest the opposite. If showing these figures and texts lack a conception of freedom suffices in Cook’s eyes to vindicate the claim that freedom is not an “Islamic value,” then showing that these texts and figures in fact do endorse a conception of freedom suffices to show that freedom is an “Islamic value” in Cook’s sense—whatever we finally make of the very language or idea of an “Islamic value” or Cook’s sense of that notion. This article’s central aim is to show that political freedom is an “Islamic value” in at least Cook’s sense of that phrase. For my part, I do want to speak up briefly on behalf of the coherence and utility of this idea, even if my thesis does not finally depend upon it. It is useful to speak of an “Islamic value” in much the way and for many of the reasons that it is useful to speak of something called “Islam.” Begin with Peter Berger’s famous remark that a definition is not more or less true but more or less useful (Berger 1967, 175). At least when it comes to something as complex as Islam and articulating a conception of it, that seems roughly correct. What we are looking for in articulating a definition or sense of Islam is something that is useful to us. And what counts as more or less useful to us will always be keyed to our purposes, our aims. In considering some proposed definition of Islam, what Berger would have us ask is not, “Does this adequately or faithfully capture the essence of Islam?” but “Does this adumbrate a sufficiently bounded and determinate object for inquiry, given our interests and aims. Does it include and exclude enough of the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways for it to serve our purposes?” Those are very different questions. They are very different kinds of questions. They represent different ways of thinking about concepts, history, the world, and scholarship. Call the former “essentialist”; the latter “dialectical.” Definitions advanced under the former “essentialist” flag are open to an almost infinite variety of defeaters, counterexamples exemplifying something that could in some sense plausibly be considered part of Islam but which the proposed definition fails to include. So long as exercises in definition-giving are conceived as exercises in essence-capturing—indeed, so long as we imagine there are such things as essences when it comes to complex human traditions and concepts like Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, art, liberalism, or modernity—then a single counter-example to a proposed definition suffices to sink it. Alternatively, efforts to include every imaginable counterexample yield definitions so inclusive and unwieldy as to be useless. Too little is ruled out, too much of the wrong thing is included, and we struggle to recognize anything important in common among all the definition encompasses. Debates about essentialist definitions of such things are, in principle, interminable and irresolvable.10 Yet so long as one imagines or searches for an “essence” of Islam, such debates will seem both meaningful and resolvable: work hard enough and, eventually, we will arrive at the true definition. The tantalizing notion of an essence that, however elusive, could one day be captured—if only the scholarship is good enough, the examples sufficiently comprehensive, and the theorizing adequately sophisticated—drives the pursuit. But the pursuit is finally coherent only if there is such a thing as the essence of Islam. Such an idea seems to me not only mistaken, but itself essentially contestable: contestable between essentialists and nonessentialists and among competing essentialists. Yet where nonessentialists can regard the very fact of such contestation as evidence of their basic point, essentialists cannot. Instead, they need to tell us why, if there is an essence of Islam, we cannot after all this time agree on what it is, while hydrologists, chemists, and many others, say, do have firm consensus on water’s “essential” identity as H2O. Moreover, among rival essentialists, it will always be a reasonable question to ask of some proposed definition, “Why think this counts as the essence and not this other thing? And in virtue of what do your reasons count as authoritative?” and some interesting, hitherto neglected counterexample will eventually be forthcoming. The way to coherently be an essentialist about Islam is either to be a theologian or to think that Islam is saliently like water, phosphate, or plant cells. Berger’s remark, in contrast, pushes us in a nonessentialist, dialectical direction. Islam, like religion, art, person, Hinduism, or economy, is a polysemic term. It is meaningfully and correctly deployed in a variety of distinct contexts to identify different things. On this view, which has its roots in philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wilfrid Sellars, and Michael Dummett, a concept’s meaning is a matter of its use (Wittgenstein 2009; Sellars 2007; Dummett 1991).11 As usage and context vary, so too does meaning. When there is sufficient variance in these usages and corresponding meanings, we speak of the term as having different senses—as being polysemic. Given its myriad usages, the countless things to which it has been and can be applied, Islam and its cognates (Muslim, Islamic, etc.) are polysemic terms. To the question, “Is wine-drinking Islamic?” the dialectical response is: “It depends on what you mean by Islamic: If you mean X, then no it’s not. If you mean Y—which is not a particularly widely used meaning but not beyond the pale—then perhaps yes it is. But don’t think we can settle whether X or Y is ‘the true definition of Islam.’” Now, this does not mean that Islam or religion or art can just mean whatever someone wants them to mean. If I decide that by Islam I henceforth mean espresso and proceed to order a “medium Islam” at the coffee shop, I will generate bewilderment or offense; likewise if I decide that Islam involves finding nirvana by seeking refuge in the Buddha and the sangha or involves baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. On no extant usage of Islam that I know of would these things correctly or intelligibly be described as Islamic. We would regard someone who said or thought these things to be confused, ignorant, or misspeaking. At the same time, wine-drinking, for reasons Shahab Ahmed documents, can be and has been described as Islamic—and not just by one person deciding to use that word or concept in a totally idiosyncratic way but by a community linking that (at some originary point) novel usage with a sufficiently common bank of precedent usages and underlying practices, texts, traditions, and so on, so that this innovative usage and practice comes, for them, to be part of what they mean in describing themselves as Muslim or describing something as Islamic. But on most other conceptions of Islam, most other usages of the concept and term—including by self-professed Muslim communities and individuals—it is false to say that wine-drinking is Islamic and true to say that wine-drinking is un-Islamic, indeed prohibited by Islam. And it is easy to see that any dispute about “which is right”—which conception of Islam answers to “the true essence of Islam”—quickly becomes theological in character, for it becomes a dispute about who truly obeys or is faithful to Islam, which is the true version of Islam, and so on. Because language is public and social, so too is meaning. And it is thanks to the public, social character of language, that, without supposing there is an “essence” to Islam, we can say that some things are not Islamic on some or even every extant conception, and even, notwithstanding Berger’s remark, that some definition of Islam is incorrect.12 Given how human beings talk and behave in the present and how they have talked and behaved in the past, it is incorrect, untrue, to say that Islam involves appeal to the three refuges of Buddhism and affirmation of anatta, no-self. So, the dialectical view is not to be confused with a relativist view—one that blithely says, “Islam just means whatever anyone says it means” or “We can’t say anything true or determinate about what Islam is or what is or isn’t Islamic.” The dialectical view inherits the strengths of the relativist and essentialist approaches while avoiding their weaknesses. It embraces the polysemic, multiple meanings that Islam has, meanings that, by dint of the way language works and changes, typically have some family resemblance to one another even if there might be truly different senses, without embracing the absurd, unhelpful idea that Islam means both everything and nothing in particular. This is how and why I think it makes sense to speak of Islam and Islamic values and to ask questions such as the one animating this article. Even so, readers can reject this sketch of concepts and meaning while wholeheartedly embracing this article’s central argument. What is essential, for our purposes, is whether political freedom can or cannot be regarded as an Islamic value, understood in the way Cook seems to use it: an ideal valued by Muslims and their communities in virtue of Muslim commitments, practices, texts, traditions; or, more narrowly, an ideal so valued by (and finding roots and support in) something like a “mainstream” tradition of Islam. Whatever exactly Cook means by “Islamic value,” I seek to show that several of the very figures and traditions he cites to contend that political freedom is not an Islamic value actually suggest just the opposite. Whether this suffices to show that political freedom is an Islamic value, it certainly suffices to show that it is mistaken to declare that it is not. COOK’S CONCEPTION OF FREEDOM Cook denies that freedom is an Islamic value. But we need to examine just what exactly this freedom is that has nothing to do with Islam. In what follows, I show that several features mark Cook’s conception. When we consider these features, we can recognize that his conception of freedom is but one among many. Not only that, it is an unusually narrow vision. Failing to find this particular conception, Cook claims Islam has no conception, no love for political freedom. But this is mistaken. Lacking a vision of freedom that few aside from Cook identify as freedom is hardly the same thing as lacking a vision of freedom. We can distinguish three broad paradigms of political freedom: positive, liberal, and republican. Each has important and vibrant historical legacies. Each claims proponents such as Plato and St. Paul, Thomas Hobbes and John Rawls, Sallust and John Milton. Cook’s vision fits within the liberal strand. Yet even within that strand it is marginal. Should Islam fail to endorse this conception it would join much of political philosophy and any religion I can think of. Still, suppose we simply identified Cook’s conception with the liberal paradigm. This would be a massive concession to Cook and rather unfair to proponents of liberal paradigms, but suppose we grant it. Even so, it remains that there are two importantly distinct paradigms of freedom. These Cook neglects entirely. Yet we find proponents of these other paradigms throughout the history of Islam. That is my claim. First, consider the paradigms—positive, liberal, and republican. These are distinct conceptions of freedom. They are linked in regarding freedom as having something to do with the capacity to effect the shape, character, and direction of our lives and communities and unfreedom as having something to do with the partial or complete thwarting of that capacity, of agency or self. They are distinct because they account differently for what exactly this means—what is authentic freedom, what is its imitation, and what is something else altogether.13 Positive liberty, familiar from ancient sources and the likes of Rousseau, grasps freedom in terms of self-mastery and collective action. Freedom is realized in attaining the human good, which requires escaping bondage to the lower self or false visions of the good. These baser instincts or mistaken views are at odds with what a person or community at its best wants—or should want. And they threaten to thwart realization of a person’s or community’s best aspirations or most authentic fulfillment. True freedom is the capacity to pursue and attain the true human end. The paradigm of unfreedom here is the addict: someone enslaved to passion or the lower self, or in thrall to something less than the true final end. Whatever external constraints do or do not obtain, she is not free to do as she judges best or become who and what she is meant to be. She is not free even to recognize what is best.14 Here, a political community is free when it enables or impels members to attain the highest human good. Liberal liberty, whose proponents include Hobbes and Rawls, conceives freedom in terms of noninterference. To be free is to be unfettered in our action by external constraints. I am free just to the extent that options and possibilities are open to me, with no obstacles in the way, just to the extent that “in those things which by [my] strength and wit [I am] able to do, [I am] not hindered to do what [I have] a will to do” (Hobbes 1985, 262). What matters is whether others interfere with my capacity to do as I choose. The paradigm of unfreedom here is the prisoner. Whether by chains or walls, the prisoner is physically constrained from doing as he chooses. Here, a polity is most free when all can do as they please so long as they do not interfere with others so doing. It is hard for me to imagine anyone denying that Islam, like almost any religious tradition, shows affinity for positive liberty. While we may join most recent theorists in regarding positive liberty with suspicion for the ways it can seem to authorize paternalism, collectivism, or oppression in the name of “helping” citizens attain their higher selves, it is a vision of political freedom nonetheless. And it seems to me perfectly clear that there is ample evidence that this vision has been an Islamic value. What could be more Islamic than claiming that human beings are created for a purpose—submission to and service of God—and fulfill their nature to the extent that they do this individually and collectively? Even if only this is the case, then Cook’s claims are mistaken. Still, this would be a poor reply to most of those who claim that Islam and freedom are opposed. Positive liberty is, by the lights of many moderns, no liberty at all. So, in what follows I primarily pursue the much more interesting claim that a third vision of liberty—republican liberty—is also an Islamic value. Republicanism finds expression in the likes of Cicero, Italian city-states, the early Dutch republic, Milton and English “commonwealthmen,” such as James Harrington, and the American founders. Here, liberty is freedom from mastery, security against domination, not being subject to another’s whims. The paradigm of unfreedom on this view is the slave. The slave lives under the master’s power, in fear of what the master might do. The master may not interfere, he may not beat or chain her, but he can. And the slave lives in perpetual terror of this fact. This is domination. Republicans conceive of freedom as nondomination. A person is dominated when someone is in a position to exercise arbitrary power over her. If power is the capacity to produce effects worth caring about, we need to explain two other features of this conception: arbitrariness and position.15 The power is arbitrary when, for instance, it fails to meet a reciprocity test (e.g., dominator would not trade places with dominated); it is not governed by norms that are required for or constitutive of relations of mutual respect; the power differential lacks a rational basis, unlike that between teacher/student or parent/child; the dominator is not accountable to the dominated or her representatives; and so on. On my view, republican liberty and determinations about arbitrariness are best approached in holistic, pragmatic, dynamic, and dialectical terms. I see this as both more philosophically defensible and more in keeping with republican tradition than alternatives that attempt to adduce necessary and sufficient criteria, formalized one-and-for-all tests, and the like.16 Thus, the examples and considerations mentioned above are but several among a whole host of ad hoc considerations in view of which we might deliberate about whether some power asymmetry ought to be regarded as arbitrary. In addition to such tests and formulations, the master/slave relational paradigm stands as more important still. Indeed, until quite recently, thinking and theorizing with that relational paradigm has been the primary way in which republican traditions have proceeded. To the extent that some power asymmetry resembles this paradigm that power asymmetry is judged arbitrary and thus dominating. This is so regardless of whether one can additionally articulate some abstract principle, theoretical test, or set of necessary and sufficient criteria in relation to which it so counts. Vitally, the difficulty or impossibility of adducing such tests or criteria is no excuse for or obstacle to offering good reasons and mounting arguments as to why the alleged resemblance ought to be considered authentic and relevant – and such claims are themselves subjected to contestation.17 As further relations are recognized as dominating, they are added to the stock of precedents against which we deliberate and debate about yet novel arrangements, while also aiding in efforts to adduce still more refined ad hoc formulations and tests.18 The whole process is dynamic—corresponding both to the dynamic character of social arrangements themselves and the dynamic character of our ongoing efforts at ethical discovery and growth. None of this renders the concept problematically vague or indeterminate any more than a dialectical conception of Islam plunges that concept into relativism. For we have an ever-growing stock of determinate paradigm cases and the various ad hoc principles these can be taken to authorize. Nor does it place the concept in some realm beyond reason. On the contrary, it ensures precisely that the concept itself remains open to ongoing contestation, correction, and development, and it embraces the form of rationality and practices of deliberation best suited to track the truth in regard to this sort of case.19 Vitally, power differentials alone do not constitute domination. Other things equal, bosses, teachers, and parents do not count as dominating employees, students, and children in virtue of their superior power. Rather, domination pertains to power differentials that are arbitrary in the ways just detailed. The positional component names the fact that, even under a benevolent master, a slave is hardly free, for he lives under perpetual threat that the master could at will effect violence with impunity. Whether the master actually harms the slave, he can, and this constitutes a deep form of unfreedom. On a liberal conception of freedom, so long as the master does not interfere, the slave is free. Republicans highlight another key difference. For liberals, interference violates freedom. It is permitted only to prevent worse forms of interference. So, the law compromises my freedom to steal your car in order to preserve everyone’s freedom to enjoy their property.20 As interfering, law compromises freedom but is permitted in view of preventing still more or worse interference. Republicans see the matter differently. There is no compromise of freedom here. There is not, because this interference is itself nonarbitrary and so nondominating. There is good reason for it. As nondominating, it is no violation of freedom. Likewise, laws that require drivers to be licensed or prohibit driving while intoxicated interfere with our lives and projects. They limit options: because only licensed drivers can legally drive, Uncle Bob cannot pick the kids up at school, so I have to leave the gym early; I cannot have a third martini and drive home without potential arrest and imprisonment. For liberals, these forms of legal interference represent losses of freedom, however good the reasons for them. For republicans, the good reasons for these laws vis-à-vis the life and flourishing of individuals and communities within the polity—protection of life or property, for instance—and the opportunity for them to be contested, say, mean that however much they do constitute interference, they do not compromise or lessen freedom, for they are nonarbitrary.21 In contrast, a racist law prohibiting members of some minority group from driving on the basis of their race constitutes domination, for here the interference is arbitrary in the salient sense. For republicans, good or just laws do not compromise freedom but help constitute it.22 There is a vital point here. It concerns the difference between republican and liberal attitudes toward families, religious communities, and the like. These are high interference relationships. They bind us in webs of obligation.23 They require sacrifice. They prescribe limits. For liberals they are thus relations of unfreedom—tolerated, at best. For republicans, they need not be relations of unfreedom at all, for they need not be dominating.24 For republicans, such relations are not tolerated but celebrated—both because they help foster a society where liberty is prized and enjoyed and because they express and realize the good of mutuality and nondomination.25 To be sure, these are ideal types, and there are longstanding debates about how best to describe the nature of the differences among these conceptions. But, however these differences are exactly characterized, no one doubts their reality or importance. Now, consider three features of Cook’s account of freedom. First, it is essentialized and extremely narrow.26 Cook holds that there is a single Western vision of freedom. He calls it “the” Western theory of freedom. On one page, her refers to “the European idea of freedom” five times (Cook 2013, 296). There are two issues here. First, as we have just seen, there are at least three importantly distinct visions of freedom that have animated Western political thought. And even within these visions there is a great deal of very important diversity. Most simply, there is no more a single Western vision of freedom than there is a single Western vision of beauty, justice, or wisdom.27 Further, Cook identifies this Western vision of freedom with political freedom as such. Even if there were just one Western vision of freedom, it would hardly follow that this was the only vision of freedom that was possible or important.28 Second, Cook portrays freedom as hyper-individualistic and “selfish.” European freedom is “an individualistic paradise” (Cook 2013, 295). It “makes a virtue of selfishness” and helped cause the rise of “European individualism” (Cook 2013, 296). Unsurprisingly, Cook finds this in sharp tension with Islam. For Cook, political freedom is inherently individualistic and anticommunitarian, celebrating and encouraging selfishness. While such a vision fits within liberalism, it is alien to positive and republican visions alike. Indeed, both of these are partly distinguished by their rejection of such hyper-individualism. Indeed, positive visions are regularly critiqued for failing to sufficiently value individual autonomy, for subsuming the personal to the collective. And, republicans understand freedom as inescapably social. Wedding liberal and communitarian ideals, republican freedom is constituted by a certain sort of relationship: it is realized when individuals and groups stand in a relation to one another of mutual recognition and nondomination. Finally, Cook depicts political freedom as amoral and even licentious. Political freedom is “the right to do as one pleases” (Cook 2013, 306, 296), “freedom to…do ungodly things” (Cook 2013, 307) and to overthrow the Qur’an or God’s law. Again, this is antithetical to positive and republican liberty alike. Doing whatever one wants—unless one wants what is truly good—is what positive liberty identifies as bondage. It is just what positive liberty is liberty from. For their part, republicans do not locate freedom in license but in protection from arbitrary power. Being constrained from doing evil or suffering does not compromise republican liberty; it helps constitute it. Indeed, Cook’s conception here stands as marginal even relative to many liberal conceptions.29 No less a paragon of liberalism than John Locke explicitly contrasts liberty with license and explains, “that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from [dangers] and precipices” (Locke 1821, paragraph 57).30 Even Locke hesitates to regard freedom as compromised when one is constrained from doing wrong or suffering wrong. Thus, Cook has staked out and claimed as universal a position that even a great many liberals would reject.31 Is it any surprise that he does not find it in Islam? Cook’s brief treatment of Milton epitomizes his argument’s problems (Cook 2013, 308). Cook cites Milton’s claim that freedom requires submission only to “such laws as [we] choose” as evincing radical disagreement between Christianity and Islam on freedom. This, he suggests, displays just how far apart these traditions, or the West and Islam, are when it comes to freedom. Yet in Eikonoklastes, where Milton makes this claim, his intent is precisely and exclusively to critique tyranny by opposing and contrasting rule by men with the ideal of rule by law. Charles the First has idolatrously substituted his will for God’s, Milton holds. And he appeals to divine law against the discretionary, arbitrary rule of one he regards a tyrant. My point is not to fault Cook for his interpretation of Milton. Rather, my point is that in Milton, far from a perspective foreign to Islamic traditions, we have a seminal republican who regards obedience to God as constitutive of freedom and sees rulers as bound to legislate in accord with God’s law. We have, in other words, arguments that parallel those of countless Muslim figures, not least al-Ghazālī, as we will see shortly. There are all sorts of deep differences between Islam and Christianity. But what Cook here cites as a rift is actually a cardinal case of resonance. In sum, Cook assumes there is a single Western conception of political freedom. He identifies it with freedom as such. But his conception is actually a hyper-individualist, licentious version of liberal freedom—one marginal even by liberal lights, let alone republican or positive visions. Failing to find this in Islam, Cook claims political freedom is not an Islamic value. Clearly, such an argument is unsuccessful. REPUBLICAN VISIONS IN COOK’S SOURCES AND ISLAMIC TRADITIONS In this section, I want to show how some of the key evidence Cook adduces to show that political freedom finds no place in Islam actually shows just the opposite. This evidence displays concern and support for republican freedom springing from Islamic sources.32 In particular, we’ll consider two of Cook’s primary examples: various traditions surrounding Abu Bakr and the thought of the extremely influential twentieth-century Pakistani Islamist thinker Abu’l-A’la Mawdūdī. Recall that the point of considering Cook’s evidence is to show that, even on his own vision of the sort of evidence and consideration needed to make determinations about whether something is or is not an Islamic value, we can see that political freedom is an Islamic value—in his sense at least. Of course, as noted at the outset, in general and in respect of both the relevant terms, there are different ways of conceiving an “Islamic value.” There are different things we might imagine that to be, and, even among these different conceptions, still further distinctions to be drawn concerning some value’s relative importance. Depending on just how someone addresses these questions in some case—how someone conceives an Islamic value—the work of discerning the place of a given value in the tradition will vary accordingly, demanding consideration of different evidence or kinds of evidence. To make the strongest case possible for political freedom as an Islamic value—in the very strongest sense of that notion—would require a more detailed and expansive analysis of a far greater range of figures and movements than any single article (or, perhaps, book) could possibly afford. But, again, my aims are not so ambitious as that. And I also struggle to see the point of that sort of effort—at least for a scholar who is not working internal to the tradition with the aim of marshaling or claiming its authority in support of her or his views or to persuade co-religionists. Instead, I mean to show that political freedom is an Islamic value in some important and worthwhile sense. I think Cook’s sense is such a sense. But in case others doubt that, I go a step further and, to round out the case that political freedom is an Islamic value in some sense worth caring about, I add to two of Cook’s examples one of my own: the medieval jurist and theologian al-Ghazālī. These three enduring examples are not only diverse; they span the history of Islam. They are hardly marginal to the tradition.33 What we see in each is a commitment to freedom as nondomination. First, consider Islamic visions of Abu Bakr. And here, we are concerned not with the historical figure but the Islamic community’s early and enduring conceptions of him, particularly as a paragon of righteous, just governance. Whatever their roots in actual history, traditions surrounding Abu Bakr evidence the community’s ideals and self-understanding. This answers perfectly to our aims, for such traditions reveal what Islamic communities have prized and valued almost from the beginning. Abu Bakr, Cook says, was “self-consciously not a despot” (Cook 2013, 292). This understates things drastically. Upon becoming caliph, Abu Bakr famously demanded that the people always correct him if he did wrong and only obey him if his commands reflected God’s. “If I do well, help me, and if I do ill, correct me . . . Obey me,” he says, “as long as I obey God and his Prophet. And if I disobey God and his Prophet, you do not owe me obedience” (Lewis 1974, 5). These are quintessentially republican commitments: accountability and rule of law. Preventing domination requires ensuring that power is not arbitrary but duly constrained. Accountability constrains power by making its possessor answerable for what he does. Rule of law constrains power by grounding it in and limiting it to determinate, objective, transparent, and just standards. Such governance is not a matter of self-interest or caprice, but of clear public standards that seem just to those under them and apply to and bind the ruler as much as the people. Should the caliph transgress either in behavior or legislation, he will be both disobeyed and censured. In the most extreme case, he will lose not only his office but his life. Consider in this context political philosopher Jeremy Waldron’s distinction between forensic accountability and agent accountability (Waldron 2014). Forensic accountability is accountability to an external standard: one holds another to account against a standard governing both. Think of one company suing another for contract violations or a student citing the syllabus against a teacher. Agent accountability is accountability to a principle by an agent. The agent is charged with acting on the principle’s behalf to serve the principle’s interests. The principle can ask the agent to give an accounting for himself, and she can judge and even dismiss him, depending on his performance. In this case, think of firing a realtor who never listens or voting a lazy scoundrel out of office. On traditional Islamic tellings, both Abu Bakr and the “rightly guided” caliphs generally display commitment to and prizing of both forms of accountability. Most obviously, they display commitment to forensic accountability—ruler and people are accountable to God’s law. But they display esteem for agent accountability too, for, in both his speech and other traditions, Abu Bakr regarded himself accountable to the people’s interests and subject to their evaluation and judgment.34 As Cook himself explains, on Abu Bakr’s understanding, “it is for his subjects to judge the Caliph’s performance of his duties” (Cook 2013, 292).35 In this context, Abu Bakr explicitly declares that the relatively weak and disempowered have special authority over and claim on him. They will, he says, be “strong in my eyes until I secure [their] right,” until I obtain justice for them (Ibn Isḥāq 1955, 687). To these, the most vulnerable, he is especially bound to listen, obey, serve, and fear. Not only does he demand that the people correct and rebuke him when he does wrong, but he paves the way for them to do so with the very first words he speaks upon assuming the caliphate, confessing himself less than the best or most virtuous among them.36 This truth-telling and humility signal an expectation of correction, his recognition that he will need the people’s oversight, evaluation, and help and that he will gladly receive it. Agent accountability is a special hallmark of republican liberty. It is on full display here. Such prizing of accountability under rule of law, of liberty, is hardly confined to traditions concerning Abu Bakr but is embedded across numerous hadith where, time and again, justice, truth-telling, and opposition to tyranny are prized as cardinal values. These traditions indicate not only that tyranny and oppression (e.g., jūr, جَوْرٍ, and baghī, الْبَغْىِ) are among the gravest sins and will result in eschatological condemnation but that, for this reason, the very office of judge or ruler is extremely precarious and fraught.37 To hold such a position is to be constantly and profoundly imperiled, so exacting are God’s expectations, so serious the demands of justice. “Whoever . . . is appointed judge,” the Prophet says, “has been slaughtered without a knife” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1325). Another hadith narrates Umar’s trepidation at being called to judge. Umar reports Muhammad as having said that even for a judge who acts with justice, “it still would have been better for him to have turned away from it completely” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1322). In such traditions we glimpse the community’s expectations and demands for equity and impartiality under the law, which are further underwritten by threat of accountability before God’s perfectly just and exhaustive judgment. The accountability to which rulers are subject, however, flows just as much from the people themselves, who are invited and commanded constantly to judge the judge, to rule on the ruler. “The best sort of jihad,” the Prophet said, “is [speaking] a just (عدل) word before an oppressive ruler” (al-Nawawī n.d., Book 1, hadith 194, my translation). Elsewhere, puzzled over Muhammad’s exhortation to help not only the oppressed Muslim but the oppressor, the community queries him about what this could possibly mean, how they should help the oppressor. He answers: “Prevent him from oppression” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 4, hadith 2255). Yet another hadith so takes for granted ideals of equality under rule of law that a Jew is depicted as winning a case against a Muslim under Umar’s judgment—and this victory for rule of law and nondomination merely forms the backdrop against which unfolds the hadith’s real lesson concerning the presence of angels alongside a justly judging ruler (Ibn Anas 2010, 296). Now, whether the community actually honored or realized the ideals expressed in such traditions, like the question of whether Abu Bakr actually ever gave such an accession speech, is beside the point. Our concern is with values and valuing. And precisely what is valued in the speech and in hadith like this—indeed, precisely what we see is central to the Muslim community’s founding story and aspirations—is a vision of mutual accountability under rule of law.38 Republicans have a name for this. They call it freedom. Now consider another of Cook’s examples and our second case, Mawdūdī.39 Mawdūdī trumpets Abu Bakr and what Cook himself calls the early community’s “democratic spirit” (Cook 2013, 302). Accountability was at the core, and rule of law was such, Mawdūdī says, “that the Caliph could lose a suit against a Christian” (Cook 2013, 302).40 Even beyond his interpretation and endorsement of this vision, which itself would suffice to manifest commitment to political freedom, Mawdūdī famously developed a doctrine of the caliphate of all believers. “Every believer,” he declares, “is a Caliph of God” (Mawdūdī n.d., 149). In designating someone to the official political office of caliph, the community temporarily invests the person holding that office with their collective authority. They lend that person the caliphal authority that each person bears in his own right. Vitally, this really is lending, for at any point the community can reclaim that authority, authority that is always properly their own to give and take at their pleasure. “He is answerable to God on the one hand,” Mawdūdī explains, “and on the other to his fellow ‘caliphs’ who have delegated their authority to him” (Mawdūdī n.d., 151). For this reason, the community must constantly evaluate and judge the caliph, ensuring he is stewarding their authority well by faithfully serving the common good—both by their prudential lights and always within the bounds and parameters of God’s law—for that is one dimension of what it means for the caliph be accountable to people and God alike.41 If he is not serving the common good, or if they judge the self-accounting he owes them unsatisfactory, they must dismiss him. “The Caliph,” Mawdūdī explains, was not only answerable before the parliament but also before the people; and that not only for his public acts but also for his private and personal conduct. Five times every day he had to face the people in the mosque, and…address them every…Friday… Each and every member of the public had the right to stop him in the streets…to question him on his conduct or to demand any of [their] rights from him… No such rule existed that if a question was to be asked from the government, some member of the parliament must give a previous notice about it. (Mawdūdī n.d., 241) Notably, Mawdūdī concludes his remarks by explicitly citing a “general proclamation” proper to Islamic governance—a version of Abu Bakr’s accession speech (Mawdūdī n.d., 241). And he takes this proclamation to encapsulate this whole vision he has been unfolding. On this vision, “which stands in the fullest accord with . . . Islam,” the government works at the pleasure and under the scrutiny of the people (Mawdūdī n.d., 241). Rulers are not only accountable before the law—a matter of forensic accountability—but can be called on to give an account for themselves, answering immediately to the people about whether and how they are serving the public’s interests.42 This is agent accountability par excellence, republicanism par excellence. “Democratic accountability,” Waldron says, “is predicated on a fundamental republican idea: the business of government is public business. And it adds to that the following . . . democratic idea: ordinary members of the public . . . are entitled to participate actively in supervising the conduct of government business, because it is their business conducted in their name” (Waldron 2014, 20). And here is James Madison: “Before the sentiments impressed on their minds by the mode of their elevation can be effaced by the exercise of power, they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it” (Madison 2016, 281).43 The similarities here to Mawdūdī’s vision are astounding. They go further still. Building on the central doctrine that God alone is Lord and thus that no human is another’s master, Mawdūdī puts domination and security against it near the core of his political thought, his vision of “‘theodemocracy’ . . . divine democratic government” (Mawdūdī n.d., 139). Considering Abraham’s argument with the infidel king in Surah 2:258, he explains, “The question . . . [was] who should have the right to claim the obedience of men. . . . What [the king] demanded was . . . no objection . . . [to] the absoluteness of his authority over his subjects . . . . He could do whatever he liked with the property or lives of his people; he had absolute power to [kill] or to spare them” (Mawdūdī n.d., 131). With republicans, Mawdūdī regards domination as a matter of unconstrained power, power that will not admit questioning, let alone limits. “All . . . who exercise unqualified dominion . . . are essentially claimants to godhood. . . . And those who serve and obey them admit their godhood even if they do not say so by word of mouth” (Mawdūdī n.d., 132). Domination is idolatry. Dominators make themselves gods. The claim is usually implicit, enacted in the ruler’s conduct and, eventually, the dispositions and ethical life of a people. “Whenever . . . domination (rabubiyyat) . . . [is] established . . . the human soul is inevitably deprived of its natural freedom; and man’s mind and heart and . . . growth and development . . . [are] arrested” (Mawdūdī n.d., 134). Governance necessarily helps form or de-form the character of a people. Domination stultifies. It breeds docility and fear, self-censorship and flattery. As Quentin Skinner puts it, “servitude breeds servility” (Skinner 2003, 260). Domination produces certain sorts of subjects—slavish ones. This is because survival under such conditions demands conformity, silence, flattery, and the like. Imagine a society without laws against abuse, a wife horrendously beaten and violated by her husband. He never touches her again. But he can. And she knows it. She lives in perpetual terror that he might. How will she behave? She studies her abuser’s psychology, devotes herself to pleasing him, obsessively striving to ensure everything is always “just right.” This is a crippling, stunted life. Consider three examples. In Ready and Easy Way, Milton explains that a republic aims for the flourishing and virtue of its people. What a tyrant wants from the people is wealth, which he can fleece from them, but also sheepishness of mind, servility. “Tyrants want the people well fleec’t, for thir own shearing and the supplie of regal prodigalitie; but also softest, vitiousest, servilest, easiest to be kept under; not only in fleece, but in minde also sheepishest” (Milton 2014a). Where tyrants want the people like sheep so as to shear them of goods and have them docile, Milton and Mawdūdī want polities that produce virtuous citizens and leaders who serve rather than steal.44 This is what his doctrine of the universal caliphate supplies. It also explains why he makes so much of Abu Bakr’s frugality, especially the fact that Abu Bakr received only a modest, closely monitored allowance from the public treasury—the same as any Meccan companion—and only received new clothes when his old ones grew ragged. Abu Bakr, on this telling, was in a position of perpetual dependence on and accountability to the people—even for the very clothes on his back. The just leader, the leader of a republic, cannot fleece the people but must ask them for enough to meet his needs. Moreover, while Mawdūdī does not remark on this point, in Abu Bakr’s paragraph-long speech he makes a point of explicitly calling the people to strength and warning them against weakness and the disaster that will befall the whole community if the people fail to strive mightily before and on behalf of God. As any republican ruler does, he wants his people not sheepish but strong, not slavish but virtuous. When James Cone, the founder of black liberation theology, criticizes so-called “Uncle Toms,” he has flattery and docility in view, the way servile behavior degrades black dignity and sustains white domination. And when he prohibits whites from using that term, it is because white domination makes such servility tempting in the first place (Cone 1986, 60, 115). Mary Wollstonecraft notes that women are told that to be well-treated, they must show their husbands “meekness and docility . . . yielding softness and gentle compliance” along with “respectful observance . . . studying their humours . . . giving soft answers” in a “flowing voice.” “Is this not,” she asks, “the portrait of a house slave” a “drudge whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant’s?” (Wollstonecraft 1995, 177). This is the very dynamic Mawdūdī identifies. “The root-cause of all evil . . . in the world is . . . domination,” he says (Mawdūdī n.d., 133). “The only remedy [is] the repudiation and renunciation . . . of all masters [save] God” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). The proclamation of God’s exclusive Lordship, Islam’s message, is thus “a charter of liberty and freedom” (Mawdūdī n.d., 136). The prophets “aimed at the demolition of man’s supremacy over man . . . to deliver man from this . . . slavery, . . . this exploitation of the weak by the strong. Their object was to thrust back into their proper limits those who had over-stepped . . . and to raise to the proper level those who had been forced down” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). Here, Mawdūdī explicitly identifies domination with slavery, security against domination with liberty, and liberty’s achievement with constraining the powerful and empowering the weak. To do this is to secure freedom. Domination destroys slave and master alike, robbing the master of real relationship and enchaining him in delusional idolatry. Thus, Abraham Lincoln says, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy” (Lincoln 1858). Thus, Mawdūdī says, “[the prophets] endeavored to evolve a social organization based on human equality in which man should be neither the slave nor the master of his fellow-beings” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). To teach Islam, to teach God’s Lordship, is to teach liberty and to proclaim all human mastery idolatry. For Mawdūdī, political freedom is not just compatible with Islam; it is near Islam’s very heart. Stepping away from Cook’s material and bridging the distance between Abu Bakr and Mawdudi, we turn to our third case, al-Ghazālī, perhaps the most influential and well-beloved figure in the Islamic tradition. Al-Ghazālī’s most overtly political work, Counsel for Kings (“CK”), was written as a kind of open letter to the Sultan Sanjar whom he had very good reason to believe would carefully read it.45 CK is not merely a book about how to be a good ruler. It is an attempt to produce such a ruler. Yet more than transforming a particular ruler, al-Ghazālī means to transform rulership as such and to transform the way counselors and citizens understand and inhabit their roles. Declaring at the outset that the king should devote Friday to worship, he continues, “When the sun rises, order a reader to read this book to you aloud and let him read it every Friday until it abides in your memory, and when he finishes reading praise God until noon” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 5). Al-Ghazālī is asking for the king to have this very book, CK itself, read aloud to him by his people. Thus, while the book is directly addressed to the king, it is for the whole city. He means it to have a formative role in court life and Seljuk governance: it is a book by a subject that purports to command and instruct the king—and to involve other subjects in doing the same. By its form and content alike, al-Ghazālī seeks to induct king, court, and citizens into relationships marked by respect, accountability, mutuality, and truth-telling. It is the place of subjects to teach and correct their rulers, and the place of rulers to be so instructed. Rather than deploying flattery, servile scraping, fearful pleading, desperate bribery, or any of the other telltale symptoms and stratagems of those subject to domination, citizens should confront their rulers forcefully and directly as those with equal standing under God and before God’s law. All this, CK itself enacts, drawing those who encounter it into the very relations it commends. One key way in which al-Ghazālī seeks to secure nondomination is through his focus on accountability, making rulers answerable to those under them. The centerpiece of the king’s accountability, his answerability, is this: On the last day the people will judge him, and God will enforce their judgment. The people will pronounce on and assess his performance as ruler and, whatever they say, God will heed. His soul is in their hands; his fate their purview. Vividly portraying this eschatological scene and framing his remarks as a prayer that places king, court, and reader together before God, he writes, “May God grant to His Majesty the King of the East a clear eye, whereby he may see this world and the next as they (really) are, and so take pains in matters appertaining to the next world and in this world treat mankind well; for a thousand thousand or more of God’s creatures are his subjects. If he governs them justly, they will all be intercessors for him at the Resurrection and he will be secure against rebuke and punishment; but if he governs unjustly, they will all be his adversaries, and the position of one who has so many adversaries will be very, indeed terribly, dangerous. When intercessors become adversaries the case is hard.” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 44) Powerful as this is, in its context, al-Ghazālī’s charge is more forceful still. Sanjar, his court, and readers will recall that earlier al-Ghazālī had explained that in matters where one wrongs fellow humans—as an unjust ruler does—forgiveness comes only as those who have been wronged deign to give it. “In matters between you and the True God pardon is quite likely,” he explained, “but . . . anything involving injustice to people will not in any circumstances be overlooked at the resurrection. No Sultans except those who treat the subjects justly can escape” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 13). Explicitly linking this accountability with nondomination, Ghazālī explains: “The harshest torment at the Resurrection day will be for those who rule arbitrarily” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 15). Al-Ghazālī, in all this, is mindful that an accountability entirely deferred to the afterlife risks proving an ineffectual guard against domination. And so he devises a number of ways whereby this eschatological accountability can make a difference in this life. Here we can only consider one. Lest he risk damnation, the king must make himself answerable now. He must hear the truth from his people—which brings us back to flattery. Recall that flattery not only signals domination’s presence but tightens its grip. It is antithetical to political freedom and right relations. Securing liberty requires seeing flattery for the empty vanity it is, recognizing the domination it signifies, and changing the structure of political relationship so that it ceases to be tempting—either for those who would issue it or the leader who would receive it. Al-Ghazālī explains: “If you were (really) intelligent, you would know that those who serve you are only servants . . . to their own . . . passions, and that they have been using you as a net with which to get what they desire and that their subservience and prostration are for their own benefit, not yours” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). What motivates flattery is not authentic esteem or sincere desire to serve but fear for one’s security, desire for one’s advantage. Flattery, finally, is not for the benefit of the person who receives such “service” but for the one who issues it. Flattery, al-Ghazālī explains, “is not service, but mockery” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). “A sure sign of this would be if they were to hear rumours that . . . another [might come to rule], they would turn away from you with one accord and seek to insinuate themselves into the intimacy of that other” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). When flattery reigns so does domination, for it renders accountability impossible and turns not only the people but the ruler himself into a slave. He becomes dependent on and addicted to such praise, losing himself in and to it. Thus, Thomas Aquinas warns kings, “he who strives for the empty praise of men . . . becomes a slave of each one” (Aquinas 1954, I.8). Milton speaks of “the bad Schoole of Flatterers” (Milton 2014b). And we rightly worry about the “bubble” surrounding high-ranking religious or political figures. Al-Ghazālī puts the point forcefully: to succumb to flattery is not only stupid; it is damnable and damning. Linking flattery to dumbness, then domination and, finally, damnation, al-Ghazālī explains that the one who falls prey to flattery “is not intelligent; and a man who is not intelligent will not be just, and his last abode will be Hell-fire” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). “Caus[ing] injustice to appear good in the eyes of the ruler, [flatterers] send him to Hell” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 23).46 Strikingly, in his extremely brief speech, Abu Bakr lifts up precisely this theme: the corrupting danger and betrayal of flattery and the necessity of truth-telling. “Truth,” he says, “is loyalty and falsehood is treachery” (Lewis 1974, 5). True loyalty, Abu Bakr declares, is not a matter of saying what pleases a ruler but of telling the difficult truths that leaders need to hear—even and especially when that means correcting the ruler. Falsehood is treachery, because it is a refusal to give what the polity and ruler most need: accountability. Flattery is falsehood. Posing as service, it undermines the common good. It corrupts not just the ruler but the entire polity. For al-Ghazālī and Abu Bakr alike, to secure liberty and justice it is not enough merely to do away with flattery. Instead, one must establish robust practices and cultures of speaking the truth—especially speaking difficult truth to power. By its very design, CK performs and models precisely this. Nonetheless, al-Ghazālī’s most important strategy on this front is, perhaps, his famous reformulation and endorsement of the doctrine of “commanding right and forbidding wrong,” what he calls ḥisba. His robust, practical revisioning, which he develops in Book XIX of his Ihya and includes in his Persian epitome, specifies that Muslims must speak and, if necessary, forcefully act to prevent fellow Muslims from doing wrong or to make them do right—be they rulers, scholars, or ordinary citizens. Just as strictly as any Muslim can be a recipient of ḥisba, no matter his or her rank or authority, any Muslim can incur ḥisba obligations, no matter how lowly or marginal his or her status.47 Rulers especially are appropriate and frequent objects for ḥisba, and Book XIV of the Ihya offers vivid and practical illustrations and advice to equip Muslims for just this sort of correction. Ḥisba, for al-Ghazālī, is an essential tool in his multi-faceted effort to overcome domination and construct a community of freedom. Now, in all three of the examples we have considered there are questions that can be raised about the scope of liberty—especially the place of non-Muslims, women, and slaves. There are also important questions about the difference made to the character of this liberty by conceptions of God’s nature and divine law. These are vital questions. But they are not, finally, questions about whether freedom is an Islamic value. They are questions about who is a candidate to enjoy freedom and how best to describe such freedom given different visions of the God whose law helps constitute it. Yet, even here, in both of these respects Islam stands in continuity with most of Western history. Until relatively recently in that history, only some restricted class—males, whites, the landed, or titled—were candidates to enjoy republican liberty. The expansion of those who are entitled to enjoy liberty represents a relatively recent democratic modification of republicanism, a modification of freedom in a more inclusive direction, not a change in the basic vision of liberty as nondomination.48 As recently as the end of Jim Crow in the United States or the end of apartheid in South Africa, these questions were still being hashed out.49 Certainly, the entanglement of contestable theological and ethical vision with contemporary Western conceptions of political freedom is less obvious. But a great deal of recent work in history and political theory seeks to uncover the degree to which regnant conceptions of political liberty—even apparently the most secularized—are not only deeply rooted in and bear the trace of various controversial theological doctrines but even advance and enact those commitments. They implicate metaphysical and ethical doctrines no less controversial or contestable to their detractors than those implicated in visions rooted in Islamic theology or law.50 Moreover, in both traditions there are important strands that understand God’s justice as recognizably just—that is, as in some salient sense standing in continuity with our own terrestrial conceptions and practices of justice, even as God perfects and transcends them. God is understood as entitled to hold the law-giving role that he does, his power is regarded as nonarbitrary and so nondominating, and his character and law are regarded and experienced as recognizably good and just as opposed to capricious or entirely divorced from the sorts of laws and character we ourselves recognize as good. The point here is simply that the law that Muslim rulers are charged with upholding and seen as accountable to, along with the practices of accountability to which they themselves are subject, are understood as deriving from a Ruler whose authority is nonarbitrary, whose character is discernibly good, and whose law is itself recognizably just and good rather than dominating, arbitrary.51 Thus, many of the very sorts of hadith that idealize and render normative practices of accountability and fairness under rule of law are coupled with and underwritten by divine threat and promises. It is precisely God who can be relied upon to uphold and advance precisely what we recognize and regard as actually right and just. God is depicted and understood as the enforcer of the nondominating political community and ideals espoused and hoped for by the ummah. Where tyranny is depicted as among the worst sins and as bringing darkness on the last day, “the dispensers of justice will be seated on the pulpits of light beside God” (al-Ḥajjāj 1973, hadith 4493). There is, in other words, continuity of the right sort between earthly ideals and practices of nondomination and the ideals and laws that God is believed to promulgate and realize. In one story, for instance, upon being challenged, Muhammad responds with a rhetorical question: “Who does justice, if not Allah and his Messenger?” (al-Ḥajjāj 2007, hadith 2447, my translation). There is continuity between the nondominating rule and liberty expected from earthly rulers and the law, ideals, and character of God. Here, God’s justice is not only recognizably just—by our lights—but idealized as the standard and perfection of all we could hope for when it comes to rightness and fairness of rule.52 Repeatedly, just earthly judgment and governance and accountability and equality under rule of law are regarded as enabled and facilitated by God. This is just what happens in the aforementioned hadith where a Jew is depicted celebrating the justice he receives from Umar against a Muslim: he claims to have seen angels on either side of Umar as he rendered the judgment. What the Jew says about the presence of such angels is taken to obtain when any judge rules rightly under law.53 Muhammad, for his part, is reported as saying that God is with the judge so long as justice is upheld but abandons unjust rulers to Satan (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1330). In such traditions, we begin to see how God himself is regarded not as dominating but upholding and promulgating recognizably just and nonarbitrary ideals and laws, how God himself is understood as defender and protector of liberty, security against arbitrary power. INTERPRETATION, IMPLICIT VALUES, AND ATTRIBUTION In this final section, I want to briefly consider a broader philosophically inflected issue that creates further trouble for Cook’s claims. It also has wider significance for interpretive work in Islam and generally. At one level, Cook’s misstep is clear. Identifying freedom with something like hyper-liberalism, he misses the republicanism that animates his very evidence. But there is another set of problems that are relevant here, related to interpretation. I will only touch on this briefly. At one point, Cook claims that any notion of political freedom in Islam is, at best, entirely implicit. This is part of why he thinks it is not an Islamic value. But having an explicitly formulated concept is not necessary to count as valuing whatever that concept names. Imagine a community that loves softball, chess, field hockey, and bridge but lacks the concept game. They lack the concept game in just this sense: they neither have a word or phrase corresponding to game nor have they explicitly recognized or theorized the commonalities and links that connect their softball practices to their chess practices, field hockey practices, and so on. Yet those links really are there—for there really are salient similarities and commonalities in their practices of softball, chess, field hockey, and so on and in their concepts of each of these things—but these links have not yet been explicitly named or recognized, nor the subject of sustained reflection. Despite this, it will still be the case that they value and love games and that love of games is one of their values. Their failing to describe or theorize it that way will not change this. Notice, however, that making this point is not merely an act of recasting their commitments in relation to what we know but in ways they do not or could not recognize. That is, this is not merely a case in which, (1) because of what the word game means in English, it is true to say that they love games, even though they have no concept of games. Instead, it is (2) an act of making explicit what they themselves are already committed to and could or would recognize but have not. The concept is already circulating just beneath the surface of their practices and discourse and in the webs of the concepts they do explicitly deploy and reflect on and just needs a bit of conversation to call it forth. Call the first approach corrective interpretation. Call this second approach dialogical interpretation.54 Corrective interpretation sets the facts—as we see them and in our terms—alongside the claims and practices of some past community or text and interprets accordingly, adding and correcting along the way. Dialogical interpretation, in contrast, does not depart from the subjects’ substantive commitments but considers what they would assent to given what they do assent to, what they could see their commitments as entailing (or entitling or committing them to) given what they already see them as entailing (or entitling or committing them to). Matters get complex quickly but consider the claims: “Abu Bakr believes H2O is thirst quenching” and “Stephen Hawking believes H2O is thirst quenching.” Both these claims are true, but they are also very importantly different. Hawking has the concept H2O and as rich an understanding of it as anyone.55 Abu Bakr does not—explicitly or implicitly, he is nowhere close to having the concept H2O. To say “Abu Bakr believes H2O is thirst quenching” is an act of what I am calling corrective interpretation. If premodern Islam stood to freedom as Abu Bakr stands to H2O, it would be true that freedom is an Islamic value (and, arguably, enough to show Cook’s claim mistaken) but doing so would be exclusively an act of corrective interpretation. It would be true that freedom was an Islamic value but only because we had translated their commitments and practices in ways they could not possibly have recognized themselves or on their (unmodified) terms. Our situation, however, is different: the tradition’s relation to freedom is much stronger and of a different sort. Freedom is an Islamic value in the stronger sense that these (and many other) figures and communities are already committed to and could readily know themselves to be committed to freedom. Indeed, that is how I read Mawdūdī in relation to his own classical inheritance, not least his account of Abu Bakr and the early community: he is making explicit what he sees as implicit all along. He takes himself to be giving explicit formulation to values of political freedom that he sees as implicitly animating and informing Islamic practices from the very beginning. At one point, without explanation, Cook insists that anything we see in Mawdūdī that could be construed as concern for freedom is actually from the West—and thus not really Islamic. It is “exogenous” to the tradition: Mawdūdī “import[s] the European idea of freedom” (Cook 2013, my emphasis, 306; and see 298–99). “Certain Western values,” Cook says, “are highly prestigious, and . . . it almost inevitably becomes an unacknowledged part of the Islamist agenda to find counterparts of these values in the Islamic heritage” (Cook 2013, my emphasis, 301n78). Yet both that claim and his whole analysis of Mawdūdī and other moderns presume the very point in question. These figures are dismissed as not themselves constituting any sort of evidence of political freedom as an Islamic value but instead, without argumentation or explanation, are simply characterized as only borrowing from the West. Additionally, the claims these figures make to find such values in the early tradition are dismissed as eisegesis, because Cook has already decided that premodern traditions do not show concern for political freedom. These figures, for Cook, are either self-deceived or engaged in dressing up alien values in Islamic garb. What they cannot be doing for Cook is developing their own tradition. All this, especially the notion that a value is either and only endogenous or exogenous, implies a certain conception of what traditions are and how they develop: they are tightly and clearly bounded, highly stable, and possessed of an inner core immune to development, least of all development born of ongoing interaction with or incorporation of what is somehow “outside” the tradition. Ironically, such a vision accepts the self-narration of religious communities that posit a pure, untainted beginning before alien “corruption” crept in. On my vision, in contrast, living traditions are always in dialogue with and partly constituted by: interactions with all sorts of real or imagined “others” in relation to which their own identity is partly secured, understood, and made meaningful; ongoing contestation about these interactions; and debates about where the borders lie and who or what counts as “outside,” “inside,” “faithful,” “corrupt,” “alien,” and so on, and in what sense. In perpetually negotiating novel questions, including boundary questions, traditions are always engaging with and influenced by ideas, forces, and peoples that in some sense can be reckoned “outside” them. And what is “outside” now or for this subgroup may be regarded as “inside” by some other subgroup, or, in time, by nearly everyone. Whether this holds for traditions generally, it certainly holds for Islam. On its own understanding, at least, from the very beginning this tradition was interacting with, reflecting on, disputing about, reacting to—and thus, in some sense, shaped by–Jews, Christians, and “pagans” real or imagined. Any effort to declare which changes are due to “external” factors and which are due to “internal” factors must reckon with this reality. Most development is due to both and rarely in ways that admit of any clear division. The best we can usually attain to, and only after much effort and evidence, is something like: ideal X was “exogenous” or “endogenous” in this sense, in these respects, to this extent, at this time. Yet even this is a claim about a value’s originary source—a value which, whatever its original source, is a value of the tradition. Ironically, Cook’s charge that Mawdūdī and his ilk dress up a Western value as Islamic is one that Mawdūdī’s translator explicitly levels against Mawdūdī’s “liberal” opponents. Theirs, he says, “is not a reform movement, but a cloaked departure from Islam. They lack an understanding of Islam and try to import all their ideas and concepts from the West . . . try[ing] to maintain the Islamic terminology and twist[ing] its meaning to suit their ideas” (Mawdūdī n.d., 20). For Mawdūdī’s supporters it was precisely his opponents who were guilty of disguising “Western” values as Islamic. I have argued that one need not have an explicitly formulated value to count as committed to that value and briefly sketched how this could be so. Happily, this is even more obviously true in the case at hand. For here a tradition does explicitly theorize, condemn, reject, and disvalue one thing: domination. And domination, the very thing it disvalues and rejects, is itself precisely the antithesis of that which remains implicit and unarticulated: liberty. If I explicitly disvalue not-X, necessarily I value X. This is so regardless of whether I ever explicitly conceptualize or name X in distinction from not-X. To hate slavery just is to love slavery’s negation. Slavery’s negation is freedom. Hating slavery is loving freedom and vice versa. If I rail against domination, name it as arbitrary power, call certain political arrangements slavish, and theorize and idealize a community in which no one is dominated, then I value freedom. This is so whether I ever use that word or not. A tradition that loves and celebrates and seeks nondomination is a tradition that loves freedom. CONCLUSION Perhaps nowhere is Cook’s difficulty clearer than in a note where he mentions Cicero’s remark that we are slaves to the law in order that we may be free (Cook 2013, 307n126). That remark captures the essence of republican liberty as well as anything could. In the note, Cook quickly mentions that perhaps for Islam slavery to God might be like slavery to the law in Cicero’s sense. It is, by my lights, just the point to make and explore. Unfortunately, he immediately dismisses the idea. No, he says, and with a claim that would have shocked Cicero, he adds: besides God’s rule is more constricting than human law. For Cicero, republicans, and countless Jews, Christians, and Muslims, little could be more confused or untrue than that. True law, for these, does not violate liberty but constitute it. And no law, for these, constitutes liberty more perfectly or fully than God’s law. God’s rule, as the likes of Milton, Madison, Martin Luther King Jr., and al-Ghazālī have it, is the epitome of freedom and the measure against which any and all human efforts at legislation can be evaluated as either betraying liberty or advancing it. In closing, consider a remark from a scholar of Islam no less distinguished than Michael Cook. In God’s Rule, Patricia Crone explains that for premodern Muslims “the choice as they saw it was not between slavery and freedom, but . . . between slavery to other human beings and slavery to God” (Crone 2005, 315). Cook cites this remark with approval. Freedom means hyper-individualist licentiousness, autonomous, unconstrained self-determination. What could be clearer than the fact that slavery to God has nothing to do with this? So, clearly freedom is not an Islamic value. This, in simplest terms, is the gist of Cook’s argument. Crone herself, however, seems to be making a more circumspect point: premodern Muslims did not have an explicit concept of political freedom, so they saw their options as between two forms of bondage, two types of slavery. By now, it is clear why I think Cook’s reasoning and pronouncement are, finally, mistaken. But, notwithstanding her remark’s nuance, I think Crone herself is also less than entirely correct in this case. At the very least, her comment is quite misleading. Yes, the concept of political freedom was rarely explicit in premodern Islamic traditions. But what both Cook and Crone seem to underplay or miss is the tradition’s implicit identification of service to God with true freedom. As Cook and Crone have it, if freedom is even on the menu of options at all, it stands in contrast—even in opposition—to service to God. The burden of this paper has been to show that this is not so. For the figures and tradition I have considered, domination, subjection to arbitrary power, slavish subjugation to unconstrained, unaccountable political rule is a grave evil. It is something to be avoided—and guarded against—as far as possible. Avoidance of domination is, most simply, pursuit of freedom. Service to God is nothing if not such security, such liberty. It is not, for this tradition, that one must choose between two forms of domination—domination by men or domination by God. Rather one must choose between domination and liberty, slavery to men and slavery to God. But slavery to God is, in the end, freedom. It is liberty. Both in that very relationship itself and, more obviously still, in what it means for political community and for relations to one’s fellow humans. So, yes, Crone is correct: the choice always was one between slavery to men and slavery to God. But, as they saw it, that was a choice between domination and liberty, slavery and freedom. 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Since the book does not add to or expand on our particular topic, and that article offers a much more detailed treatment that is focused specifically on political freedom, in what follows—consonant with Cook’s own references—I focus exclusively on the article. 3 It is, at least, in Cook’s sense of “Islamic value”—on which more below. 4 I also incidentally answer another scholarly voice—really, a family of voices. On one reading, this influential group of scholars, which includes the likes of Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and others, appears to advance a version of the basic thesis that Islam and political freedom are opposed, but with an important twist. On their telling, the ideology of so-called “political freedom” is un-Islamic because it was invented in the modern West and then imposed by imperial force and colonial power on Islamic and other non-Western societies. They further seem to suggest that Islam and Islamic traditions and values are important sources of resistance to the ideology of political freedom, which, again, they seem to identify with hyper-individualistic ideals of autonomy. So political freedom, for these figures, is decidedly not an Islamic value—but, given their view of liberalism and the West, so much the better for Islam. See, for example, Asad 1993 and Asad 2003; Mahmood, 2004; and, more recently, Massad 2015. It is not my aim in what follows to establish whether these figures are finally best understood as denying the compatibility of Islamic traditions and political freedom or as identifying freedom with hyper-individualistic autonomy. While many of their claims seem to suggest that, this article remains officially agnostic on those points and only makes a conditional claim: if such figures do claim or imply that Islam is incompatible with political freedom—they do so, like Cook, on the basis of an essentialized, overly narrow conception of freedom, and, just so, they are mistaken. I leave it for others to sort out whether they are, finally, best understood as making or implying these claims. Given his unquestioned importance in Islamic studies and the clear, unequivocal character of his insistence on the incompatibility of Islam and political freedom, I focus exclusively on considering and responding to Cook’s argument, which represents any number of arguments like it and seems to me the strongest case that could be made for the incompatibility thesis. 5 In virtue of considering the very evidence Cook cites, my argument is an exercise in “immanent critique.” That is, I use what Cook himself regards as adequate or sufficient evidence for assessing whether freedom counts as an Islamic value in order to suggest that it does. 6 This is especially so in the wake of Ahmed 2015 and conversations that book has provoked. 7 The qualification here is deliberately vague and open-ended. There are different ways in which one can regard something as authoritative—the authority might be absolute, presumptive but defeasible, on a par with other sources of authority, and so on. Note too that on my conception, a single tradition may hold competing or even opposing values. That is, some important or influential group within this tradition might, in virtue of their understanding of the tradition, hold X, while others hold not X, and others still hold Y, which, say, is in tension with but not directly opposed to X. On my view, all of these might justly be described as “values of that tradition.” Now, clearly there needs to be some sufficiently numerous or sufficiently important group (or even individual) endorsing one of these values for it to count as a value of that tradition—as opposed, narrowly or idiosyncratically, to a value of just that group or individual. But just where precisely such a boundary lies need not concern us here, so long as the figures and movements in question are sufficiently diverse and important as to fall well within any reasonable parameters of centrality and importance—and, in this case, I think they are, as does Cook. Additionally, while my case does not rest on this point, I believe there is an important asymmetry between Cook’s case and mine. It seems compatible with my contention that political freedom is an Islamic value, that there be a great many or even more figures and movements of significance who are unconcerned with it—or even opposed to it. In contrast, the presence of important figures and movements for whom political freedom is an important value seems incompatible with the claim that it is not an Islamic value. 8 See, for example, Brown 2009. 9 The wine-drinking example figures prominently in Ahmed 2015. 10 They are why Ahmed’s What Is Islam (2015) is so long and could have been much longer—and why, I would venture to say, there is virtually no chance that his proposed conception of Islam will, despite his valiant efforts, deep learnedness, and admirable scholarship, only ever be one (perhaps influential) proposal among many. And they are why the most valuable contribution of his book is not the proposed conception of Islam, but his catalogue of diversity and contestation. 11 We must take care not to confuse Berger’s point about the utility of definitions with the very different matter of a Wittgensteinian theory of conceptual meaning in terms of usage. These are distinct matters and different senses of “use”: utility vs. usage. The one proposes judging the value of some definition in relation to its usefulness given some purpose. The other is a theory of meaning on which a concept’s meaning can be understood by attending to the way that concept is used in our practices, linguistic and otherwise. 12 They are incorrect not in that in that they fail to capture the “essence” of Islam, but in that they make no meaningful contact whatsoever with any extant usage of the term or concept. They are useless in a particular way, for a particular reason—useless because meaningless or altogether and absolutely idiosyncratic. 13 There are longstanding disputes about how best to understand the relationships among these paradigms. For classic statements see, for example, Berlin 1958 and Skinner 2003. One important debate concerns whether in speaking of these visions we are dealing with genuinely distinct concepts of freedom (whatever exactly that means) or, instead, with a single concept that admits of importantly distinct species. The most well-known version of this latter view is of Gerald MacCallum Jr., which contends that all freedom-talk is formally structured by a relation among (1) an agent, (2) some constraining or preventing factor, and (3) a doing, becoming, or achieving of the agent (MacCallum, Jr. 1967, 314). Competing/distinct visions of freedom are thus best understood as debates about which constraints are most salient. Charles Taylor resists that analysis and other efforts to deny that there are in fact two concepts of freedom, and he anchors his resistance in a distinction between “exercise” concepts of freedom—on which freedom requires the actualization of certain capacities or achievement of certain goals and which he associates with positive liberty—and “opportunity” concepts of freedom – on which freedom requires the mere opportunity to do such and such, whether one is able to do it or not (Taylor 1979). More recent debates continue to explore these issues: see, for example, Nelson 2005, Christman 2005, and even more recently Elford 2012. For our purposes, we can leave these disputes aside, for (a) no one denies that these visions get at matters importantly distinct, however the precise character of that distinction is best named and (b) Cook’s conception is very much particular to and representative of one particular vision (or conception) to the exclusion of other visions. That is, even assuming there is but one conception of freedom admitting of distinct emphases or species, Cook does not bring into view that single conception or whatever is held in common among all species, but instead just one species (or one version of one species) of freedom with all its distinctive features and to the exclusion of others. 14 For instance, supposing that the best human lives involve deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships, should an addiction to praise and recognition drive a person to work incessantly and consistently neglect all relationships, she will find herself held back from leading a good and happy life—perhaps the very life she, on some level, most wants. If that vain desire for prestige goes deep enough, it may well occlude or supplant the higher and better longing for friendship so that she loses sight altogether of what, at her best, she wants. To the extent that either of these things happen, she is, on this view, unfree. 15 The way of elucidating domination I pursue in the following several paragraphs bears similarity to and draws substantially from the approach and material in some of my other work, for example, Decosimo 2016 and Decosimo 2018. This definition of power is from Stout 2010, 55. 16 On my view, for some conception of arbitrariness to avoid getting mired in self-defeating contradiction, the conception itself needs to be open to ongoing revision, contestation, and debate. It needs, in other words, to be essentially contestable. Otherwise, the concept itself will seem to be arbitrary in the salient and problematic sense—a mere stipulation immune to correction, contestation, or the contribution of hitherto unheard or silenced voices. 17 I offer fuller explication and defense of this vision in Decosimo 2018. 18 This has the added benefit of taking account of Elizabeth Anderson’s point that formalized, permanently enshrined criteria for determining domination offer those who would dominate a clear vision of the boundaries they need to slip past if they want to avoid seeming or counting guilty of domination (Anderson 2016). 19 In contrast, a foundationalist vision of arbitrariness and republican liberty attempts to offer formalized definitions or tests of arbitrariness or to formulate detailed sets of necessary and sufficient criteria in an attempt to stipulate once and for all exactly what counts as arbitrary. The hope is that everyone or some group (e.g., “all reasonable people”) would be constrained to regard some set of conditions as constituting domination. This approach renders republicanism a version of contract theory in which arbitrariness and determinations about it play roles in it analogous to those played by, for example, reasonableness and the veil of ignorance in Rawlsian liberalism. As noted above, I worry that such an approach risks rendering the concept itself arbitrary in the problematic sense. To object that the dialectical view renders the concept of arbitrariness itself arbitrary is to confuse the dialectical view with a relativist one and to miss the explanation and claims above that some paradigms (e.g., master/slave relations), some concrete relations (e.g., the place of women in this sexist society), and some rules of thumb (e.g., reciprocity tests) are more or less fixed and determinate diagnostic tools (or concrete cases) of domination and so of the salient sort of arbitrariness. What the dialectical view resists is the notion that a permanent formal conception of arbitrariness or set of necessary and sufficient criteria could ever adequately capture all that might be worth—or come to be worth—considering as dominative. Only in retrospect is the deficiency of some conception of domination—its failure to include, say, homosexuals—often recognized. What today seemed like a good reason for this or that constraint can, in a decade or a century, seem altogether suspect. For a full-fledged defense of a dialectical as opposed to foundationalist approach—though in relation not to domination/arbitrariness but ideals of public reason/public discourse—see Stout 2004, chapter 3, esp. 77–83. 20 Thus, Rawls writes, “liberty can be restricted only for the sake of liberty” (Rawls 1971, 302). Isaiah Berlin writes: “Law is always a ‘fetter’ . . . even if it protects you from being bound in chains that are heavier” (Berlin 1958, 8, cited in Pettit 1997, 50). For a certain sort of liberalism, the state is the only legitimate “interferer,” so it seeks to monopolize interfering power—whether by eliminating relations rival to the citizen/state relation, or, in the name of freedom, doing as much as possible to “protect” the individual from any sources of interference other than the state. 21 Republicans who so understood law’s relation to liberty include, for instance: James Harrington, the authors of Cato’s Letters, Richard Price, Caleb Evans, and James Madison. For further explication see Pettit 1997, 35–42. 22 They do so in at least two interconnected ways: on the one hand, by securing everyone against acts of domination, certain pernicious forms of interference and the sorts who would impose them. They prevent the closure of choices and opportunities that it is agreed it is good for humans to have left open and the servitude and suffering that would follow if the powerful were left altogether unchecked in exercising their wills. This is a face of freedom familiar to liberal paradigms, a kind of freedom from interference—only here protection against arbitrary interference alone is sought and such protection is regarded as part of what freedom is. On the other hand, to be secured against domination by just or good laws eliminates not just actual pernicious interference but the possibility of being so interfered with. They protect one against being in a position of standing in fearful servility or docility before what others might do. Thus, such laws free one from the stultifying self-censorship of servile dependence and thereby create the possibility for novel forms of self-expression and self-reliance, what has been called “expressive freedom.” 23 Relationships birth and impose norms, for example, insofar as the ongoing participation in and very existence of the relationship depend on fulfilling the norms associated with the relational roles. For example: “He was a teacher/father/friend in name only.” 24 To be sure, they can become dominating—to the extent that the power asymmetry or their exercise becomes arbitrary—for example, the parent who abuses his child or the priest or imam who will not suffer any correction or accountability. 25 It is important to distinguish the broad and diverse tradition of republicanism, as I have sketched it, from contemporary conceptions of republican liberty such as Philip Pettit’s, which can be read as seeing democracy as entailed by republicanism. As Pettit himself makes very clear, republicanism long predates his own constructive theory. For most of this tradition, democracy was not understood as entailed or required. It is no surprise—nor any problem—given this article’s aims and claims that Islamic figures have not ascribed to Pettit’s version of republicanism; hardly any republicans have. If we thought Pettit’s version of republicanism were identical to republicanism generally or that ascribing to it were necessary to count as endorsing republicanism, then nearly every figure hitherto identified as espousing republicanism would no longer count as doing so. It hardly makes sense to expect of Islamic traditions a convergence with Pettit that the republican tradition itself fails to attain. Instead, what we need to see is convergence between that broad, diverse, longstanding tradition and visions extant within Islamic traditions—not convergence between either of these and Pettit’s contemporary analytic formulation. 26 In calling it essentialized, I mean that he supposes there is something like an essence to political freedom (or political freedom in the West)—an inner core that, despite surface differences, constitutes it as a single, stable, particular thing in all times and places, irrespective of context or history. What approach betrays such commitment? An approach like the following, which is basically what we find in Cook’s article, does: the assumption of a single concept operative and basically unchanged in the West, the search for just that concept and that concept alone in other traditions, with indifference or inattention to the possibility of analogous or closely (or distantly) related or family-resemblance concepts, and so on. 27 Nor does it change matters to appeal to “common sense” or “what most people” mean, for there is hardly consensus on such things today (witness disputes internal to the American Republican party, let alone between Republicans and Democrats), much less is there such consensus across centuries of European history. 28 We find in different traditions, different ways of imagining all sorts of ideals and values, along with values that may be new to us. One promise of comparative work is the transformation and discovery that can ensue: we discover a new way of imagining the conceptual space, new ways of configuring social roles and relations, new ways of relating or conceiving values, new goods to love or evils to shun, and so on. We can be more or less attuned to these possibilities depending on the way in which we approach comparative efforts—and a great deal of energy in the discipline of religious studies has rightly been expended on trying to imagine the most suitable ways to approach this or that comparative effort. Cook’s method in this chapter, however—thanks to the narrowness of the conception of freedom for which he searches, the tendency to make a great deal hang on the presence or absence of Arabic words typically translated as “freedom,” the unidirectional, nondialectical character of the effort (i.e., no openness to the ways Muslim political thought on freedom-related matters might transform Western conceptions), and other features—can seem to sharply limit the possibilities for the sort of illumination that the best comparative work promises. 29 Concluding his very good new book, Coercion and Responsibility in Islam: A Study in Ethics and Law, Mairaj Syed briefly cites Cook’s judgment with approval, and seems to suggest that his own inquiry buttresses Cook’s claim (Syed 2017, 239). Syed’s focus concerns coercion and responsibility—fundamental concepts of agency. Yet only if we identify political freedom with absence of coercion could an examination of the place of coercion in a tradition be taken to tell us something about that tradition’s views of political freedom (and even then it would only tell us something, not everything). But such a vision of political freedom is both extremely unusual and very truncated: few philosophers (or nonscholars) would regard the mere absence of coercion as equivalent with political freedom, even if many might regard the absence of interference as equivalent with freedom. Typically, interference is reckoned a much more inclusive concept than coercion and one in which the latter is nested. Thus, I can be interfered with without being coerced but not coerced without being interfered with. Coercion, typically understood, is a particularly invasive and extreme form of interference. For instance, I can be subjected to a financial penalty, interfered with, for not doing X; and this is different from being coerced—say, having to do X under threat of being shot by the gun to my head or in virtue of being drugged, kept in ignorance about what I am actually doing, or having my body moved against my will. I argue below that Cook does identify political freedom with noninterference but that this is not the only way to understand political freedom. In particular, when we bring alternate conceptions into view, we can see that political freedom is an Islamic value after all. If Syed means in this brief remark to identify political freedom with absence of coercion, his view would be narrower even than Cook’s and thus subject to the same shortcomings—so too if he would follow Cook in identifying freedom with noninterference. It is not clear, however, if he does in fact mean this or would so follow Cook, and, much more than Cook, Syed exhibits awareness of competing, distinct conceptions of freedom internal to Western political philosophy (e.g. Syed 2017, 238–39, 62–64, and 22–25). 30 Cited in Carter 2016. 31 Throughout the chapter, Cook mentions the “master/slave paradigm” and a connection between freedom and not being a slave, and he consistently uses that language (e.g., “the metaphor of slavery”), but, diction notwithstanding, he does not in any way or at any point work with such a conception or bring it into focus. Instead, as we have seen, he works with a hyper-individualistic liberal conception of freedom—even as he describes it as being connected to freedom from slavery. This is republican rhetoric but strictly liberal substance. Particularly striking in this regard is his claim that a focus on the master/slave paradigm actually encourages hyper-individualism. Yet this is close to the opposite of the way it has functioned in republicanism. Indeed, recent work on republicanism shows how republicanism’s communitarian character is rooted precisely in this paradigm. For republican liberty is not primarily about what happens to me but what is liable to happen to any of all those that bear relevant markers—of race, class, gender, and so on—in virtue of which they are subject to arbitrary power. So, to use an example Pettit formulates: if I am a very well-treated wife in a society in which there are no protections against spousal abuse and where, say, many women are badly treated, then whatever happens to me, I am nonetheless unfree, for in virtue of my woman-hood I am liable to arbitrary power. So, I have strong reason to identify with and care about women generally—my freedom is inextricably bound up with theirs, for so long as women are subject to arbitrary power, so am I. And Pettit sketches the ways in which such circles of concern can and ought to radiate outward. Republican liberty weds focus on self, society, and other for its conception of freedom is social through and through. There is a centrifugal force to republican liberty—a push away from mere self-interest (see Pettit 1997, 122–24). On further misunderstanding of the slavery language/metaphor, see the concluding paragraphs below and see Cook’s remark that the modern Muslims realize “that the European idea of freedom meant much more than not being a slave” (Cook 2013, 300), implying his own neglect that this idea, properly understood, is the very core of republican liberty. 32 As noted earlier, in virtue of considering the very evidence Cook cites, my project is a form of immanent critique. A different vein of criticism could focus on Cook’s neglect of sources authored by women or others who often experienced themselves as dominated within Muslim traditions, voices complaining on Islamic grounds about the absence of freedom they experience. 33 Suppose someone wanted to argue that in virtue of his Islamist tendencies Mawdūdī should count as marginal to Islam or, at least, “mainstream” Islam. While I think such claims highly dubious, even if they were vindicated, I do not think this would threaten my thesis. Most importantly, it would not change the fact that I would have shown that political freedom is an Islamic value in Cook’s sense at least, which includes Mawdūdī, and that is my primary aim. But a stronger version of my thesis, one that claims that political freedom is an Islamic value in some more robust sense than Cook’s, could also weather this threat. For the primary challenge in claiming that political freedom is an Islamic value is not the place of freedom in modern Islam but in premodern traditions. There is little difficulty, I think, in finding modern or contemporary Muslim figures or communities who trumpet political freedom as an Islamic value (perhaps even liberal freedom). The challenge, rather, is showing its status in the premodern era, and that task remains untouched even if Mawdūdī were dismissed. Notice too that part of the importance of the premodern piece is that in its absence, objectors will try to say that even if freedom appears as an Islamic value in modernity, it does so only in virtue of “Western influence” and so is not really an Islamic value. Such a claim, Cook’s version of which I consider briefly below, seems deeply problematic in what it presupposes about what religious traditions are and how they function. Nonetheless, by showing the place of freedom as an Islamic value in premodern strands of the tradition, I answer such opponents even on those misguided terms. 34 Some might also want to contend that practices of shura or consultation are themselves a form of agency accountability. At the very least, they implicate forensic accountability. 35 Cook goes so far in this context as to remark that “it would hardly be strained to think of the Muslims as a free people, in self-conscious contrast to the Persians,” but this promising line of thought goes undeveloped (Cook 2013, 293). 36 “I have been appointed to rule over you,” he says, “though I am not the best among you” (Lewis 1974, 5). 37 “Tyranny (الظُّلْمُ) is darkness on the Day of Resurrection” (al-Bukhārī 1997, volume 3, hadith 2447, my translation). “There is no sin more worthy of Allah hastening the punishment upon its practitioner in the world—along with what is in store for him in the Hereafter—than tyranny (الْبَغْىِ) and severing the ties of kinship” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 4, hadith 2511; see also al-Tirmidhī, 2007, hadith 2154). “The man whose tyranny prevails over his justice will go to hell” (Abū-Dāwūd 1990, hadith 3568). 38 How such hadith, together with other traditions still—some offering alternate or competing visions—were deployed in elucidating fiqh or shariah is a different matter. My point is merely the witness to ideals and values these exemplify in themselves. 39 In keeping with my mode of immanent critique, throughout much of this section, I consider some of the very evidence and passages that Cook cites. 40 Cook here cites Mawdūdī 1977, 215.23. 41 To the extent that contemporary “fiduciary” conceptions of political authority neglect the ideal of accountability to standards or norms external to the contract itself, there is an important difference between Mawdūdī’s vision and theirs. Suppose Mawdūdī’s vision is thought to bear similarity to Locke’s vision of fiduciary political authority. Since Locke is generally considered a liberal political theorist, does that not suggest that Mawdūdī is better understood as endorsing liberal rather than republican liberty? It does not. Few would dispute that Locke himself manifests themes and ideas rightly considered republican, however he is best understood or classified overall. As we will see in further elucidating Mawdūdī’s vision, any similarity here to aspects of Locke’s political vision does not suggest that Mawdūdī’s vision is not republican but that in this respect Locke’s vision is. 42 Indeed, it is not enough, he says, that they be answerable to “representatives of the public, but the public itself” (Mawdūdī n.d., 241–42). 43 And cited in Waldron 2014, 13. 44 A full-fledged exploration of continuity between Milton’s vision and those extant in Islam is beyond our scope, but I plan to take up the topic in future work. For a useful sketch of Milton’s vision, especially in relation to rejection of tyranny (and monarchy) as idolatrous, see Nelson 2011, esp. 36–51. One important point of difference, however, between Milton and premodern Islam and, for that matter, much of the Western republican tradition prior to Milton himself, is his articulation and embrace of “exclusive republicanism,” a vision marked by the view that monarchy itself is intrinsically incompatible with republican liberty. On this view, there is no such thing as a nondominating king (or caliph), for the very office/role itself is considered dominative. 45 Elsewhere, I further substantiate this republican interpretation of al-Ghazālī, offer additional evidence for it, and expand on and further elucidate the points made below. The presentation here condenses and recapitulates some of that material and those findings (see Decosimo 2015). I rely exclusively on the undisputed first part of the text (al-Ghazālī 1964). I use Bagley’s translation of the Persian in what follows but have also consulted an early Arabic translation. 46 While concern with flattery is common in mirrors for princes literature generally, al-Ghazālī, we have seen, not only explicitly nests and connects concern with flattery amidst concern for accountability and avoidance of domination but formalizes and makes explicit the relations between flattery, truth-telling, and domination in his vision of ḥisba. 47 For our purposes, we can leave aside important qualifications related to gender. 48 On this point, see Stout 2010. 49 And, given recent efforts in the United States to contract the vote through various voter-ID laws and other mechanisms, for example, these questions are still being contested. Mawdūdī, for his part, envisions non-Muslim citizens as enjoying full and equal protection under the law, with “all cultural and human rights” guaranteed, but without a share in governance (Mawdūdī n.d., 247–48; see also, for example, 69, 180–89). Of course, from the perspective of republicanism, this is itself dominative. 50 On these roots, see, for example, Nelson 2011; Gregory 2007; Kahn 2011. Several important works contend that John Rawl’s brand of political liberalism, almost certainly the most influential in political theory, implicates controversial ethical and metaphysical judgments of the very sort that Rawls took himself to have overcome in his turn from Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism (see, for example, Goodman 2014; Stout 2004). Of course, when it comes to the role of theology and questions concerning political freedom in Islamic traditions, a great deal hangs on whether God and divine law are conceived and experienced as arbitrary, utterly vertiginous to or divorced from ordinary conceptions of the human good or notions of justice and fairness. Of course, for many Muslims, it is obvious that God’s authority is, by definition, nonarbitrary. But many non-Muslims and nontheists and, perhaps, some Muslims would regard it otherwise. Fully to elucidate such matters would carry us far beyond the scope of this and perhaps any mere article. But it deserves stressing that these issues are implicated in both traditions, Muslim and Christian alike, even if voluntarist theologies, with their attendant conceptions of God’s laws as, sometimes, divorced from human conceptions of justice or goodness have exerted greater influence within Islam. Thus, to the extent that scholars readily speak of republican traditions within the “Christian West,” notwithstanding the various and diverse theological complexities, we are no less entitled to do the same in the case of Islam—even as, in both cases, we acknowledge the connection between theological and ethical/legal norms as an important locus for further exploration in view of concerns with arbitrary power and nondomination. At the same time, as noted above, in both traditions there are strong conceptions of God as recognizably just and rightly or appropriately entitled to rule such that this relation is not experienced or regarded as dominating and these laws are not experienced or regarded as arbitrary. 51 We must distinguish between two ways in which God’s laws or rule could be considered broadly republican, only one of which is relevant for our purpose. The salient one given our aims, and that considered here, concerns the question of arbitrariness and entitlement when it comes to God and God’s authority and law. Not salient here is the question of whether God’s laws prescribe or conduce toward forms of governance—for example, mixed constitutional governance—associated with republicanism. We are talking about the character of God and God’s law and a conception of liberty, not the specific forms of governance best suited to the realization of those ideals. Additionally, it must be conceded that within Islamic traditions a voluntarist emphasis on the radical otherness, inscrutability, and even non-(humanly)-rational character of God or God’s laws came to exercise enormous importance. This poses an important counterbalance to the relative importance of republican conceptions of liberty in the tradition, their importance relative to competing conceptions or ideals—though not to the reality of their being values in the tradition. 52 His hand, another hadith claims, is the mīzān, the criterion or measure, of justice (al-Bukhārī 1997, volume 6, hadith 4684). 53 See note 38 above. 54 The distinction I draw here is related to but not identical to that between de dicto and de rei interpretation. It might be best understood as a distinction within de dicto interpretive approaches, but whether that is so, I am at least confident that what I am calling “dialogical” interpretation ought to be regarded as a species of de dicto interpretation. There is much more to explore here, however. And there are also differences among the various examples/cases I am considering (i.e., the game example, the freedom issue, and the two H2O cases), but these do not bear on my basic point. For more on all this, see, for example, Brandom 2002, 94–111 (but note that I am using “dialogue” here to refer to different cases/practices than those Brandom brings in view in his talk of dialogue. The closest he comes to treating the sort of case we have in view in that text is at the bottom of page 96). 55 One way of putting the difference, but not the only way—and not one that exhausts the difference—is that it is true in every sense to say “Stephen Hawking believes ‘H2O is thirst quenching,’” whereas there is at least one sense in which it is not true to say “Abu Bakr believe ‘H2O is thirst quenching.’” © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the American Academy of Religion Oxford University Press

Political Freedom as an Islamic Value

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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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Abstract

Abstract The esteemed scholar Michael Cook has recently argued that political freedom is “not an Islamic value” but is in tension with Islam. This paper contends that Cook is mistaken. It moves in four steps. First, I consider the very idea of an “Islamic value,” sketching a nonessentialist way of conceiving such a thing. Next, I show that the particular “liberal” notion of political freedom that Cook rightly claims is absent is but one of three distinct conceptions of political freedom: he neglects to consider the possible presence of an alternate “republican” conception. Then, taking some of the very evidence Cook cites along with the case of al-Ghazālī, I show that this republican conception figures in Islamic thought and practice. I conclude by considering some broader interpretive issues that bear on this matter and have wider significance. Political freedom, it turns out, is an Islamic value after all. FEW MATTERS are more contested in contemporary politics than the relation of Islam to the West. And few values are more closely identified with the West than freedom. Many public figures would have citizens believe that Islam is incompatible with or even antithetical to political freedom. If political freedom is incompatible with Islam, then there is a fundamental opposition between Islam and the West. This perspective is familiar. Still, consider a few examples. Donald Trump famously declares that “Islam hates us.” “There is,” he says, “an unbelievable hatred” (Schleifer 2016). The clear implication is that this hatred has to do with values like freedom, and that such values belong to “us”—that is, Westerners—not to Islam or Muslims. Embrace or rejection of freedom thus marks a fundamental divide between Westerners and Muslims, good and evil. His calls for Muslim registries, bans on Muslim immigrants, and “extreme vetting” merely extend this basic logic. While at the time of writing it remains to be seen what the Trump administration will actually do, just the last few years have seen no less than seven US states move to ban Shariah. Whether such legislative performances are anything more than convenient vehicles for anti-Muslim prejudice, they gain their symbolic purchase and popular appeal partly thanks to the fear that many non-Muslims have that Shariah and Islam somehow threaten freedom. Such perspectives are not confined to politicians and their constituents. Though often expressed with less vitriol or more sophistication, they are present within the academy as well. To take but one example, at an urbane, post-lecture dinner a soft-spoken Oxford lecturer who holds two doctorates proclaimed to a table of scholars that Islam posed an existential threat to freedom—and insisted that it was all too easy for Americans like me to hold otherwise, having not seen the “true” oppressive face of Islam on display in Europe. And perhaps most famously, in an essay cited some eleven thousand times and massively influential in both foreign policy circles and popular imagination, the late Samuel Huntington claimed that “Western ideas of . . . equality, liberty, [and] rule of law . . . have little resonance with Islamic . . . cultures” (Huntington 1993, 40). While such hostility and oversimplification generally find little support among scholars specializing in Islam, the idea that political freedom is somehow un-Islamic or that Islam is opposed to or ambivalent about freedom is hardly foreign to the study of Islam—not just in previous times but in our own. To the extent that distinguished scholars of Islam seem to teach that Islam is hostile to or incompatible with political freedom, this threatens to have serious implications for public discourse and government policy.1 To be sure, many of those with anti-Muslim agendas would hardly let scholarly opposition stand in their way, nor would they balk at distorting scholarly claims for their purposes. But for nonspecialist scholars and fair-minded lay folk, it matters immensely what respected scholars of Islam say or seem to say on these topics. Especially in the current sociopolitical moment, such voices have the capacity to make a difference far beyond the walls of the academy. But even setting these broader ramifications aside, the question of how best to understand and characterize the relationship between Islamic traditions and visions of political freedom is a matter of enduring and intrinsic historical and philosophical interest. Given all this, when one of our era’s most esteemed, learned, and judicious scholars of Islam contends that political freedom is not an Islamic value, such a claim demands careful consideration and close scrutiny—not only as a matter of scholarly import but as something with significant potential to impact public discourse and global affairs. Such consideration and scrutiny are just what I mean to provide in this article. The scholar in question is none other than Professor Michael Cook. Cook has recently and forcefully argued that political freedom is not an Islamic value (Cook 2013).2 As Cook has it, Muslim interest in political liberty represents, at best, an embrace of alien principles, at worst, a betrayal of Islam. If Cook is right about this, the outlook for global affairs is even bleaker than it already seems, anti-Muslim politicians and activists can appropriate a genuinely authoritative voice for their agenda, and efforts to argue that political freedom is an Islamic value can be dismissed as dangerous and “politically correct” exercises in wishful thinking. But political freedom is indeed an Islamic value.3 More specifically, political freedom, in the sense of security against domination, is an Islamic value. That is the central claim of this article. I believe that Cook’s insistence that political freedom is not an Islamic value rests on faulty assumptions about what political freedom is. By clarifying the differences among three distinct conceptions of political freedom, I try to explain Cook’s error. Cook is right to think that Islamic traditions largely reject the sort of political freedom he has in mind. But he is wrong to claim that political freedom as such is not an Islamic value. Cook comes to this mistake by an exponentially more thoughtful, learned, and serious route than the countless pundits, politicians, and citizens who would also claim that Islam and political freedom are opposed. But at least for those who are willing actually to listen, the response to their claims is one and the same. By answering Cook, I incidentally answer them as well.4 I proceed in four basic steps. First, I briefly consider the very idea of an “Islamic value” and whether and how, with Cook, it makes sense to talk in those terms. Next, I show how Cook conceives of freedom in an essentialized, overly narrow way. Then, I show how some of Cook’s own evidence along with an additional example drawn from my own research supports not his denial of political freedom’s place in Islam, but my affirmation.5 Finally, I elucidate some philosophical issues relevant to Cook’s conclusions and those that other scholars might be tempted to draw. “ISLAMIC VALUES”? To begin, consider the very idea of an “Islamic value.” If talking about such a thing may have once seemed entirely straightforward, it certainly does no more.6 Elucidating the notion of an “Islamic value” and untangling the complex methodological and theoretical questions the notion provokes could easily make for a book of its own. But that is not what our aims require. Most simply, for Cook and me both, to speak of an Islamic value is only to speak of a value important to Muslim figures and communities in virtue of Islamic commitments, practices, texts, traditions, and so on. What makes these commitments and practices, these texts and traditions Islamic, for our purposes, is that they regard as authoritative—in some sense and to some degree—the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet and his companions, and practices of prayer, confession, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and worship associated by practitioners with the early community who regarded the Qur’an as revelation and Muhammad as God’s Prophet.7 We can perhaps even draw the boundaries more narrowly still and venture that, for Cook, the communities and traditions whose valuing certain things for certain reasons suffices to make that value count as “Islamic” are communities and traditions that inhabit and constitute something like a “mainstream” Islamic tradition—one that roughly answers to standard depictions of Islam in the better textbooks and to which a great many individuals and communities across time and space regard themselves as belonging and see themselves as helping constitute in virtue of sharing or taking themselves to share some rough consensus on the sunnah.8 On this vision of “mainstream” Islam, groups that, say, entirely reject the authority of every madhhab, regard most other self-professed Muslims as kuffār, or regard wine-drinking as licit would, for just such reasons, count in these respects as outside the center, on the fringe, or even outside this mainstream tradition.9 Cook himself does not offer any explanation of what he means by “Islamic value”—but on the basis of the various texts, figures, and traditions he considers in the article and in his work more broadly—I take him to have roughly this in mind. Whatever exactly he does have in mind, it certainly suffices to show that several of the figures and texts to which he appeals in order to show that political freedom is not an Islamic value actually suggest the opposite. If showing these figures and texts lack a conception of freedom suffices in Cook’s eyes to vindicate the claim that freedom is not an “Islamic value,” then showing that these texts and figures in fact do endorse a conception of freedom suffices to show that freedom is an “Islamic value” in Cook’s sense—whatever we finally make of the very language or idea of an “Islamic value” or Cook’s sense of that notion. This article’s central aim is to show that political freedom is an “Islamic value” in at least Cook’s sense of that phrase. For my part, I do want to speak up briefly on behalf of the coherence and utility of this idea, even if my thesis does not finally depend upon it. It is useful to speak of an “Islamic value” in much the way and for many of the reasons that it is useful to speak of something called “Islam.” Begin with Peter Berger’s famous remark that a definition is not more or less true but more or less useful (Berger 1967, 175). At least when it comes to something as complex as Islam and articulating a conception of it, that seems roughly correct. What we are looking for in articulating a definition or sense of Islam is something that is useful to us. And what counts as more or less useful to us will always be keyed to our purposes, our aims. In considering some proposed definition of Islam, what Berger would have us ask is not, “Does this adequately or faithfully capture the essence of Islam?” but “Does this adumbrate a sufficiently bounded and determinate object for inquiry, given our interests and aims. Does it include and exclude enough of the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways for it to serve our purposes?” Those are very different questions. They are very different kinds of questions. They represent different ways of thinking about concepts, history, the world, and scholarship. Call the former “essentialist”; the latter “dialectical.” Definitions advanced under the former “essentialist” flag are open to an almost infinite variety of defeaters, counterexamples exemplifying something that could in some sense plausibly be considered part of Islam but which the proposed definition fails to include. So long as exercises in definition-giving are conceived as exercises in essence-capturing—indeed, so long as we imagine there are such things as essences when it comes to complex human traditions and concepts like Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, art, liberalism, or modernity—then a single counter-example to a proposed definition suffices to sink it. Alternatively, efforts to include every imaginable counterexample yield definitions so inclusive and unwieldy as to be useless. Too little is ruled out, too much of the wrong thing is included, and we struggle to recognize anything important in common among all the definition encompasses. Debates about essentialist definitions of such things are, in principle, interminable and irresolvable.10 Yet so long as one imagines or searches for an “essence” of Islam, such debates will seem both meaningful and resolvable: work hard enough and, eventually, we will arrive at the true definition. The tantalizing notion of an essence that, however elusive, could one day be captured—if only the scholarship is good enough, the examples sufficiently comprehensive, and the theorizing adequately sophisticated—drives the pursuit. But the pursuit is finally coherent only if there is such a thing as the essence of Islam. Such an idea seems to me not only mistaken, but itself essentially contestable: contestable between essentialists and nonessentialists and among competing essentialists. Yet where nonessentialists can regard the very fact of such contestation as evidence of their basic point, essentialists cannot. Instead, they need to tell us why, if there is an essence of Islam, we cannot after all this time agree on what it is, while hydrologists, chemists, and many others, say, do have firm consensus on water’s “essential” identity as H2O. Moreover, among rival essentialists, it will always be a reasonable question to ask of some proposed definition, “Why think this counts as the essence and not this other thing? And in virtue of what do your reasons count as authoritative?” and some interesting, hitherto neglected counterexample will eventually be forthcoming. The way to coherently be an essentialist about Islam is either to be a theologian or to think that Islam is saliently like water, phosphate, or plant cells. Berger’s remark, in contrast, pushes us in a nonessentialist, dialectical direction. Islam, like religion, art, person, Hinduism, or economy, is a polysemic term. It is meaningfully and correctly deployed in a variety of distinct contexts to identify different things. On this view, which has its roots in philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wilfrid Sellars, and Michael Dummett, a concept’s meaning is a matter of its use (Wittgenstein 2009; Sellars 2007; Dummett 1991).11 As usage and context vary, so too does meaning. When there is sufficient variance in these usages and corresponding meanings, we speak of the term as having different senses—as being polysemic. Given its myriad usages, the countless things to which it has been and can be applied, Islam and its cognates (Muslim, Islamic, etc.) are polysemic terms. To the question, “Is wine-drinking Islamic?” the dialectical response is: “It depends on what you mean by Islamic: If you mean X, then no it’s not. If you mean Y—which is not a particularly widely used meaning but not beyond the pale—then perhaps yes it is. But don’t think we can settle whether X or Y is ‘the true definition of Islam.’” Now, this does not mean that Islam or religion or art can just mean whatever someone wants them to mean. If I decide that by Islam I henceforth mean espresso and proceed to order a “medium Islam” at the coffee shop, I will generate bewilderment or offense; likewise if I decide that Islam involves finding nirvana by seeking refuge in the Buddha and the sangha or involves baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. On no extant usage of Islam that I know of would these things correctly or intelligibly be described as Islamic. We would regard someone who said or thought these things to be confused, ignorant, or misspeaking. At the same time, wine-drinking, for reasons Shahab Ahmed documents, can be and has been described as Islamic—and not just by one person deciding to use that word or concept in a totally idiosyncratic way but by a community linking that (at some originary point) novel usage with a sufficiently common bank of precedent usages and underlying practices, texts, traditions, and so on, so that this innovative usage and practice comes, for them, to be part of what they mean in describing themselves as Muslim or describing something as Islamic. But on most other conceptions of Islam, most other usages of the concept and term—including by self-professed Muslim communities and individuals—it is false to say that wine-drinking is Islamic and true to say that wine-drinking is un-Islamic, indeed prohibited by Islam. And it is easy to see that any dispute about “which is right”—which conception of Islam answers to “the true essence of Islam”—quickly becomes theological in character, for it becomes a dispute about who truly obeys or is faithful to Islam, which is the true version of Islam, and so on. Because language is public and social, so too is meaning. And it is thanks to the public, social character of language, that, without supposing there is an “essence” to Islam, we can say that some things are not Islamic on some or even every extant conception, and even, notwithstanding Berger’s remark, that some definition of Islam is incorrect.12 Given how human beings talk and behave in the present and how they have talked and behaved in the past, it is incorrect, untrue, to say that Islam involves appeal to the three refuges of Buddhism and affirmation of anatta, no-self. So, the dialectical view is not to be confused with a relativist view—one that blithely says, “Islam just means whatever anyone says it means” or “We can’t say anything true or determinate about what Islam is or what is or isn’t Islamic.” The dialectical view inherits the strengths of the relativist and essentialist approaches while avoiding their weaknesses. It embraces the polysemic, multiple meanings that Islam has, meanings that, by dint of the way language works and changes, typically have some family resemblance to one another even if there might be truly different senses, without embracing the absurd, unhelpful idea that Islam means both everything and nothing in particular. This is how and why I think it makes sense to speak of Islam and Islamic values and to ask questions such as the one animating this article. Even so, readers can reject this sketch of concepts and meaning while wholeheartedly embracing this article’s central argument. What is essential, for our purposes, is whether political freedom can or cannot be regarded as an Islamic value, understood in the way Cook seems to use it: an ideal valued by Muslims and their communities in virtue of Muslim commitments, practices, texts, traditions; or, more narrowly, an ideal so valued by (and finding roots and support in) something like a “mainstream” tradition of Islam. Whatever exactly Cook means by “Islamic value,” I seek to show that several of the very figures and traditions he cites to contend that political freedom is not an Islamic value actually suggest just the opposite. Whether this suffices to show that political freedom is an Islamic value, it certainly suffices to show that it is mistaken to declare that it is not. COOK’S CONCEPTION OF FREEDOM Cook denies that freedom is an Islamic value. But we need to examine just what exactly this freedom is that has nothing to do with Islam. In what follows, I show that several features mark Cook’s conception. When we consider these features, we can recognize that his conception of freedom is but one among many. Not only that, it is an unusually narrow vision. Failing to find this particular conception, Cook claims Islam has no conception, no love for political freedom. But this is mistaken. Lacking a vision of freedom that few aside from Cook identify as freedom is hardly the same thing as lacking a vision of freedom. We can distinguish three broad paradigms of political freedom: positive, liberal, and republican. Each has important and vibrant historical legacies. Each claims proponents such as Plato and St. Paul, Thomas Hobbes and John Rawls, Sallust and John Milton. Cook’s vision fits within the liberal strand. Yet even within that strand it is marginal. Should Islam fail to endorse this conception it would join much of political philosophy and any religion I can think of. Still, suppose we simply identified Cook’s conception with the liberal paradigm. This would be a massive concession to Cook and rather unfair to proponents of liberal paradigms, but suppose we grant it. Even so, it remains that there are two importantly distinct paradigms of freedom. These Cook neglects entirely. Yet we find proponents of these other paradigms throughout the history of Islam. That is my claim. First, consider the paradigms—positive, liberal, and republican. These are distinct conceptions of freedom. They are linked in regarding freedom as having something to do with the capacity to effect the shape, character, and direction of our lives and communities and unfreedom as having something to do with the partial or complete thwarting of that capacity, of agency or self. They are distinct because they account differently for what exactly this means—what is authentic freedom, what is its imitation, and what is something else altogether.13 Positive liberty, familiar from ancient sources and the likes of Rousseau, grasps freedom in terms of self-mastery and collective action. Freedom is realized in attaining the human good, which requires escaping bondage to the lower self or false visions of the good. These baser instincts or mistaken views are at odds with what a person or community at its best wants—or should want. And they threaten to thwart realization of a person’s or community’s best aspirations or most authentic fulfillment. True freedom is the capacity to pursue and attain the true human end. The paradigm of unfreedom here is the addict: someone enslaved to passion or the lower self, or in thrall to something less than the true final end. Whatever external constraints do or do not obtain, she is not free to do as she judges best or become who and what she is meant to be. She is not free even to recognize what is best.14 Here, a political community is free when it enables or impels members to attain the highest human good. Liberal liberty, whose proponents include Hobbes and Rawls, conceives freedom in terms of noninterference. To be free is to be unfettered in our action by external constraints. I am free just to the extent that options and possibilities are open to me, with no obstacles in the way, just to the extent that “in those things which by [my] strength and wit [I am] able to do, [I am] not hindered to do what [I have] a will to do” (Hobbes 1985, 262). What matters is whether others interfere with my capacity to do as I choose. The paradigm of unfreedom here is the prisoner. Whether by chains or walls, the prisoner is physically constrained from doing as he chooses. Here, a polity is most free when all can do as they please so long as they do not interfere with others so doing. It is hard for me to imagine anyone denying that Islam, like almost any religious tradition, shows affinity for positive liberty. While we may join most recent theorists in regarding positive liberty with suspicion for the ways it can seem to authorize paternalism, collectivism, or oppression in the name of “helping” citizens attain their higher selves, it is a vision of political freedom nonetheless. And it seems to me perfectly clear that there is ample evidence that this vision has been an Islamic value. What could be more Islamic than claiming that human beings are created for a purpose—submission to and service of God—and fulfill their nature to the extent that they do this individually and collectively? Even if only this is the case, then Cook’s claims are mistaken. Still, this would be a poor reply to most of those who claim that Islam and freedom are opposed. Positive liberty is, by the lights of many moderns, no liberty at all. So, in what follows I primarily pursue the much more interesting claim that a third vision of liberty—republican liberty—is also an Islamic value. Republicanism finds expression in the likes of Cicero, Italian city-states, the early Dutch republic, Milton and English “commonwealthmen,” such as James Harrington, and the American founders. Here, liberty is freedom from mastery, security against domination, not being subject to another’s whims. The paradigm of unfreedom on this view is the slave. The slave lives under the master’s power, in fear of what the master might do. The master may not interfere, he may not beat or chain her, but he can. And the slave lives in perpetual terror of this fact. This is domination. Republicans conceive of freedom as nondomination. A person is dominated when someone is in a position to exercise arbitrary power over her. If power is the capacity to produce effects worth caring about, we need to explain two other features of this conception: arbitrariness and position.15 The power is arbitrary when, for instance, it fails to meet a reciprocity test (e.g., dominator would not trade places with dominated); it is not governed by norms that are required for or constitutive of relations of mutual respect; the power differential lacks a rational basis, unlike that between teacher/student or parent/child; the dominator is not accountable to the dominated or her representatives; and so on. On my view, republican liberty and determinations about arbitrariness are best approached in holistic, pragmatic, dynamic, and dialectical terms. I see this as both more philosophically defensible and more in keeping with republican tradition than alternatives that attempt to adduce necessary and sufficient criteria, formalized one-and-for-all tests, and the like.16 Thus, the examples and considerations mentioned above are but several among a whole host of ad hoc considerations in view of which we might deliberate about whether some power asymmetry ought to be regarded as arbitrary. In addition to such tests and formulations, the master/slave relational paradigm stands as more important still. Indeed, until quite recently, thinking and theorizing with that relational paradigm has been the primary way in which republican traditions have proceeded. To the extent that some power asymmetry resembles this paradigm that power asymmetry is judged arbitrary and thus dominating. This is so regardless of whether one can additionally articulate some abstract principle, theoretical test, or set of necessary and sufficient criteria in relation to which it so counts. Vitally, the difficulty or impossibility of adducing such tests or criteria is no excuse for or obstacle to offering good reasons and mounting arguments as to why the alleged resemblance ought to be considered authentic and relevant – and such claims are themselves subjected to contestation.17 As further relations are recognized as dominating, they are added to the stock of precedents against which we deliberate and debate about yet novel arrangements, while also aiding in efforts to adduce still more refined ad hoc formulations and tests.18 The whole process is dynamic—corresponding both to the dynamic character of social arrangements themselves and the dynamic character of our ongoing efforts at ethical discovery and growth. None of this renders the concept problematically vague or indeterminate any more than a dialectical conception of Islam plunges that concept into relativism. For we have an ever-growing stock of determinate paradigm cases and the various ad hoc principles these can be taken to authorize. Nor does it place the concept in some realm beyond reason. On the contrary, it ensures precisely that the concept itself remains open to ongoing contestation, correction, and development, and it embraces the form of rationality and practices of deliberation best suited to track the truth in regard to this sort of case.19 Vitally, power differentials alone do not constitute domination. Other things equal, bosses, teachers, and parents do not count as dominating employees, students, and children in virtue of their superior power. Rather, domination pertains to power differentials that are arbitrary in the ways just detailed. The positional component names the fact that, even under a benevolent master, a slave is hardly free, for he lives under perpetual threat that the master could at will effect violence with impunity. Whether the master actually harms the slave, he can, and this constitutes a deep form of unfreedom. On a liberal conception of freedom, so long as the master does not interfere, the slave is free. Republicans highlight another key difference. For liberals, interference violates freedom. It is permitted only to prevent worse forms of interference. So, the law compromises my freedom to steal your car in order to preserve everyone’s freedom to enjoy their property.20 As interfering, law compromises freedom but is permitted in view of preventing still more or worse interference. Republicans see the matter differently. There is no compromise of freedom here. There is not, because this interference is itself nonarbitrary and so nondominating. There is good reason for it. As nondominating, it is no violation of freedom. Likewise, laws that require drivers to be licensed or prohibit driving while intoxicated interfere with our lives and projects. They limit options: because only licensed drivers can legally drive, Uncle Bob cannot pick the kids up at school, so I have to leave the gym early; I cannot have a third martini and drive home without potential arrest and imprisonment. For liberals, these forms of legal interference represent losses of freedom, however good the reasons for them. For republicans, the good reasons for these laws vis-à-vis the life and flourishing of individuals and communities within the polity—protection of life or property, for instance—and the opportunity for them to be contested, say, mean that however much they do constitute interference, they do not compromise or lessen freedom, for they are nonarbitrary.21 In contrast, a racist law prohibiting members of some minority group from driving on the basis of their race constitutes domination, for here the interference is arbitrary in the salient sense. For republicans, good or just laws do not compromise freedom but help constitute it.22 There is a vital point here. It concerns the difference between republican and liberal attitudes toward families, religious communities, and the like. These are high interference relationships. They bind us in webs of obligation.23 They require sacrifice. They prescribe limits. For liberals they are thus relations of unfreedom—tolerated, at best. For republicans, they need not be relations of unfreedom at all, for they need not be dominating.24 For republicans, such relations are not tolerated but celebrated—both because they help foster a society where liberty is prized and enjoyed and because they express and realize the good of mutuality and nondomination.25 To be sure, these are ideal types, and there are longstanding debates about how best to describe the nature of the differences among these conceptions. But, however these differences are exactly characterized, no one doubts their reality or importance. Now, consider three features of Cook’s account of freedom. First, it is essentialized and extremely narrow.26 Cook holds that there is a single Western vision of freedom. He calls it “the” Western theory of freedom. On one page, her refers to “the European idea of freedom” five times (Cook 2013, 296). There are two issues here. First, as we have just seen, there are at least three importantly distinct visions of freedom that have animated Western political thought. And even within these visions there is a great deal of very important diversity. Most simply, there is no more a single Western vision of freedom than there is a single Western vision of beauty, justice, or wisdom.27 Further, Cook identifies this Western vision of freedom with political freedom as such. Even if there were just one Western vision of freedom, it would hardly follow that this was the only vision of freedom that was possible or important.28 Second, Cook portrays freedom as hyper-individualistic and “selfish.” European freedom is “an individualistic paradise” (Cook 2013, 295). It “makes a virtue of selfishness” and helped cause the rise of “European individualism” (Cook 2013, 296). Unsurprisingly, Cook finds this in sharp tension with Islam. For Cook, political freedom is inherently individualistic and anticommunitarian, celebrating and encouraging selfishness. While such a vision fits within liberalism, it is alien to positive and republican visions alike. Indeed, both of these are partly distinguished by their rejection of such hyper-individualism. Indeed, positive visions are regularly critiqued for failing to sufficiently value individual autonomy, for subsuming the personal to the collective. And, republicans understand freedom as inescapably social. Wedding liberal and communitarian ideals, republican freedom is constituted by a certain sort of relationship: it is realized when individuals and groups stand in a relation to one another of mutual recognition and nondomination. Finally, Cook depicts political freedom as amoral and even licentious. Political freedom is “the right to do as one pleases” (Cook 2013, 306, 296), “freedom to…do ungodly things” (Cook 2013, 307) and to overthrow the Qur’an or God’s law. Again, this is antithetical to positive and republican liberty alike. Doing whatever one wants—unless one wants what is truly good—is what positive liberty identifies as bondage. It is just what positive liberty is liberty from. For their part, republicans do not locate freedom in license but in protection from arbitrary power. Being constrained from doing evil or suffering does not compromise republican liberty; it helps constitute it. Indeed, Cook’s conception here stands as marginal even relative to many liberal conceptions.29 No less a paragon of liberalism than John Locke explicitly contrasts liberty with license and explains, “that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from [dangers] and precipices” (Locke 1821, paragraph 57).30 Even Locke hesitates to regard freedom as compromised when one is constrained from doing wrong or suffering wrong. Thus, Cook has staked out and claimed as universal a position that even a great many liberals would reject.31 Is it any surprise that he does not find it in Islam? Cook’s brief treatment of Milton epitomizes his argument’s problems (Cook 2013, 308). Cook cites Milton’s claim that freedom requires submission only to “such laws as [we] choose” as evincing radical disagreement between Christianity and Islam on freedom. This, he suggests, displays just how far apart these traditions, or the West and Islam, are when it comes to freedom. Yet in Eikonoklastes, where Milton makes this claim, his intent is precisely and exclusively to critique tyranny by opposing and contrasting rule by men with the ideal of rule by law. Charles the First has idolatrously substituted his will for God’s, Milton holds. And he appeals to divine law against the discretionary, arbitrary rule of one he regards a tyrant. My point is not to fault Cook for his interpretation of Milton. Rather, my point is that in Milton, far from a perspective foreign to Islamic traditions, we have a seminal republican who regards obedience to God as constitutive of freedom and sees rulers as bound to legislate in accord with God’s law. We have, in other words, arguments that parallel those of countless Muslim figures, not least al-Ghazālī, as we will see shortly. There are all sorts of deep differences between Islam and Christianity. But what Cook here cites as a rift is actually a cardinal case of resonance. In sum, Cook assumes there is a single Western conception of political freedom. He identifies it with freedom as such. But his conception is actually a hyper-individualist, licentious version of liberal freedom—one marginal even by liberal lights, let alone republican or positive visions. Failing to find this in Islam, Cook claims political freedom is not an Islamic value. Clearly, such an argument is unsuccessful. REPUBLICAN VISIONS IN COOK’S SOURCES AND ISLAMIC TRADITIONS In this section, I want to show how some of the key evidence Cook adduces to show that political freedom finds no place in Islam actually shows just the opposite. This evidence displays concern and support for republican freedom springing from Islamic sources.32 In particular, we’ll consider two of Cook’s primary examples: various traditions surrounding Abu Bakr and the thought of the extremely influential twentieth-century Pakistani Islamist thinker Abu’l-A’la Mawdūdī. Recall that the point of considering Cook’s evidence is to show that, even on his own vision of the sort of evidence and consideration needed to make determinations about whether something is or is not an Islamic value, we can see that political freedom is an Islamic value—in his sense at least. Of course, as noted at the outset, in general and in respect of both the relevant terms, there are different ways of conceiving an “Islamic value.” There are different things we might imagine that to be, and, even among these different conceptions, still further distinctions to be drawn concerning some value’s relative importance. Depending on just how someone addresses these questions in some case—how someone conceives an Islamic value—the work of discerning the place of a given value in the tradition will vary accordingly, demanding consideration of different evidence or kinds of evidence. To make the strongest case possible for political freedom as an Islamic value—in the very strongest sense of that notion—would require a more detailed and expansive analysis of a far greater range of figures and movements than any single article (or, perhaps, book) could possibly afford. But, again, my aims are not so ambitious as that. And I also struggle to see the point of that sort of effort—at least for a scholar who is not working internal to the tradition with the aim of marshaling or claiming its authority in support of her or his views or to persuade co-religionists. Instead, I mean to show that political freedom is an Islamic value in some important and worthwhile sense. I think Cook’s sense is such a sense. But in case others doubt that, I go a step further and, to round out the case that political freedom is an Islamic value in some sense worth caring about, I add to two of Cook’s examples one of my own: the medieval jurist and theologian al-Ghazālī. These three enduring examples are not only diverse; they span the history of Islam. They are hardly marginal to the tradition.33 What we see in each is a commitment to freedom as nondomination. First, consider Islamic visions of Abu Bakr. And here, we are concerned not with the historical figure but the Islamic community’s early and enduring conceptions of him, particularly as a paragon of righteous, just governance. Whatever their roots in actual history, traditions surrounding Abu Bakr evidence the community’s ideals and self-understanding. This answers perfectly to our aims, for such traditions reveal what Islamic communities have prized and valued almost from the beginning. Abu Bakr, Cook says, was “self-consciously not a despot” (Cook 2013, 292). This understates things drastically. Upon becoming caliph, Abu Bakr famously demanded that the people always correct him if he did wrong and only obey him if his commands reflected God’s. “If I do well, help me, and if I do ill, correct me . . . Obey me,” he says, “as long as I obey God and his Prophet. And if I disobey God and his Prophet, you do not owe me obedience” (Lewis 1974, 5). These are quintessentially republican commitments: accountability and rule of law. Preventing domination requires ensuring that power is not arbitrary but duly constrained. Accountability constrains power by making its possessor answerable for what he does. Rule of law constrains power by grounding it in and limiting it to determinate, objective, transparent, and just standards. Such governance is not a matter of self-interest or caprice, but of clear public standards that seem just to those under them and apply to and bind the ruler as much as the people. Should the caliph transgress either in behavior or legislation, he will be both disobeyed and censured. In the most extreme case, he will lose not only his office but his life. Consider in this context political philosopher Jeremy Waldron’s distinction between forensic accountability and agent accountability (Waldron 2014). Forensic accountability is accountability to an external standard: one holds another to account against a standard governing both. Think of one company suing another for contract violations or a student citing the syllabus against a teacher. Agent accountability is accountability to a principle by an agent. The agent is charged with acting on the principle’s behalf to serve the principle’s interests. The principle can ask the agent to give an accounting for himself, and she can judge and even dismiss him, depending on his performance. In this case, think of firing a realtor who never listens or voting a lazy scoundrel out of office. On traditional Islamic tellings, both Abu Bakr and the “rightly guided” caliphs generally display commitment to and prizing of both forms of accountability. Most obviously, they display commitment to forensic accountability—ruler and people are accountable to God’s law. But they display esteem for agent accountability too, for, in both his speech and other traditions, Abu Bakr regarded himself accountable to the people’s interests and subject to their evaluation and judgment.34 As Cook himself explains, on Abu Bakr’s understanding, “it is for his subjects to judge the Caliph’s performance of his duties” (Cook 2013, 292).35 In this context, Abu Bakr explicitly declares that the relatively weak and disempowered have special authority over and claim on him. They will, he says, be “strong in my eyes until I secure [their] right,” until I obtain justice for them (Ibn Isḥāq 1955, 687). To these, the most vulnerable, he is especially bound to listen, obey, serve, and fear. Not only does he demand that the people correct and rebuke him when he does wrong, but he paves the way for them to do so with the very first words he speaks upon assuming the caliphate, confessing himself less than the best or most virtuous among them.36 This truth-telling and humility signal an expectation of correction, his recognition that he will need the people’s oversight, evaluation, and help and that he will gladly receive it. Agent accountability is a special hallmark of republican liberty. It is on full display here. Such prizing of accountability under rule of law, of liberty, is hardly confined to traditions concerning Abu Bakr but is embedded across numerous hadith where, time and again, justice, truth-telling, and opposition to tyranny are prized as cardinal values. These traditions indicate not only that tyranny and oppression (e.g., jūr, جَوْرٍ, and baghī, الْبَغْىِ) are among the gravest sins and will result in eschatological condemnation but that, for this reason, the very office of judge or ruler is extremely precarious and fraught.37 To hold such a position is to be constantly and profoundly imperiled, so exacting are God’s expectations, so serious the demands of justice. “Whoever . . . is appointed judge,” the Prophet says, “has been slaughtered without a knife” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1325). Another hadith narrates Umar’s trepidation at being called to judge. Umar reports Muhammad as having said that even for a judge who acts with justice, “it still would have been better for him to have turned away from it completely” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1322). In such traditions we glimpse the community’s expectations and demands for equity and impartiality under the law, which are further underwritten by threat of accountability before God’s perfectly just and exhaustive judgment. The accountability to which rulers are subject, however, flows just as much from the people themselves, who are invited and commanded constantly to judge the judge, to rule on the ruler. “The best sort of jihad,” the Prophet said, “is [speaking] a just (عدل) word before an oppressive ruler” (al-Nawawī n.d., Book 1, hadith 194, my translation). Elsewhere, puzzled over Muhammad’s exhortation to help not only the oppressed Muslim but the oppressor, the community queries him about what this could possibly mean, how they should help the oppressor. He answers: “Prevent him from oppression” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 4, hadith 2255). Yet another hadith so takes for granted ideals of equality under rule of law that a Jew is depicted as winning a case against a Muslim under Umar’s judgment—and this victory for rule of law and nondomination merely forms the backdrop against which unfolds the hadith’s real lesson concerning the presence of angels alongside a justly judging ruler (Ibn Anas 2010, 296). Now, whether the community actually honored or realized the ideals expressed in such traditions, like the question of whether Abu Bakr actually ever gave such an accession speech, is beside the point. Our concern is with values and valuing. And precisely what is valued in the speech and in hadith like this—indeed, precisely what we see is central to the Muslim community’s founding story and aspirations—is a vision of mutual accountability under rule of law.38 Republicans have a name for this. They call it freedom. Now consider another of Cook’s examples and our second case, Mawdūdī.39 Mawdūdī trumpets Abu Bakr and what Cook himself calls the early community’s “democratic spirit” (Cook 2013, 302). Accountability was at the core, and rule of law was such, Mawdūdī says, “that the Caliph could lose a suit against a Christian” (Cook 2013, 302).40 Even beyond his interpretation and endorsement of this vision, which itself would suffice to manifest commitment to political freedom, Mawdūdī famously developed a doctrine of the caliphate of all believers. “Every believer,” he declares, “is a Caliph of God” (Mawdūdī n.d., 149). In designating someone to the official political office of caliph, the community temporarily invests the person holding that office with their collective authority. They lend that person the caliphal authority that each person bears in his own right. Vitally, this really is lending, for at any point the community can reclaim that authority, authority that is always properly their own to give and take at their pleasure. “He is answerable to God on the one hand,” Mawdūdī explains, “and on the other to his fellow ‘caliphs’ who have delegated their authority to him” (Mawdūdī n.d., 151). For this reason, the community must constantly evaluate and judge the caliph, ensuring he is stewarding their authority well by faithfully serving the common good—both by their prudential lights and always within the bounds and parameters of God’s law—for that is one dimension of what it means for the caliph be accountable to people and God alike.41 If he is not serving the common good, or if they judge the self-accounting he owes them unsatisfactory, they must dismiss him. “The Caliph,” Mawdūdī explains, was not only answerable before the parliament but also before the people; and that not only for his public acts but also for his private and personal conduct. Five times every day he had to face the people in the mosque, and…address them every…Friday… Each and every member of the public had the right to stop him in the streets…to question him on his conduct or to demand any of [their] rights from him… No such rule existed that if a question was to be asked from the government, some member of the parliament must give a previous notice about it. (Mawdūdī n.d., 241) Notably, Mawdūdī concludes his remarks by explicitly citing a “general proclamation” proper to Islamic governance—a version of Abu Bakr’s accession speech (Mawdūdī n.d., 241). And he takes this proclamation to encapsulate this whole vision he has been unfolding. On this vision, “which stands in the fullest accord with . . . Islam,” the government works at the pleasure and under the scrutiny of the people (Mawdūdī n.d., 241). Rulers are not only accountable before the law—a matter of forensic accountability—but can be called on to give an account for themselves, answering immediately to the people about whether and how they are serving the public’s interests.42 This is agent accountability par excellence, republicanism par excellence. “Democratic accountability,” Waldron says, “is predicated on a fundamental republican idea: the business of government is public business. And it adds to that the following . . . democratic idea: ordinary members of the public . . . are entitled to participate actively in supervising the conduct of government business, because it is their business conducted in their name” (Waldron 2014, 20). And here is James Madison: “Before the sentiments impressed on their minds by the mode of their elevation can be effaced by the exercise of power, they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it” (Madison 2016, 281).43 The similarities here to Mawdūdī’s vision are astounding. They go further still. Building on the central doctrine that God alone is Lord and thus that no human is another’s master, Mawdūdī puts domination and security against it near the core of his political thought, his vision of “‘theodemocracy’ . . . divine democratic government” (Mawdūdī n.d., 139). Considering Abraham’s argument with the infidel king in Surah 2:258, he explains, “The question . . . [was] who should have the right to claim the obedience of men. . . . What [the king] demanded was . . . no objection . . . [to] the absoluteness of his authority over his subjects . . . . He could do whatever he liked with the property or lives of his people; he had absolute power to [kill] or to spare them” (Mawdūdī n.d., 131). With republicans, Mawdūdī regards domination as a matter of unconstrained power, power that will not admit questioning, let alone limits. “All . . . who exercise unqualified dominion . . . are essentially claimants to godhood. . . . And those who serve and obey them admit their godhood even if they do not say so by word of mouth” (Mawdūdī n.d., 132). Domination is idolatry. Dominators make themselves gods. The claim is usually implicit, enacted in the ruler’s conduct and, eventually, the dispositions and ethical life of a people. “Whenever . . . domination (rabubiyyat) . . . [is] established . . . the human soul is inevitably deprived of its natural freedom; and man’s mind and heart and . . . growth and development . . . [are] arrested” (Mawdūdī n.d., 134). Governance necessarily helps form or de-form the character of a people. Domination stultifies. It breeds docility and fear, self-censorship and flattery. As Quentin Skinner puts it, “servitude breeds servility” (Skinner 2003, 260). Domination produces certain sorts of subjects—slavish ones. This is because survival under such conditions demands conformity, silence, flattery, and the like. Imagine a society without laws against abuse, a wife horrendously beaten and violated by her husband. He never touches her again. But he can. And she knows it. She lives in perpetual terror that he might. How will she behave? She studies her abuser’s psychology, devotes herself to pleasing him, obsessively striving to ensure everything is always “just right.” This is a crippling, stunted life. Consider three examples. In Ready and Easy Way, Milton explains that a republic aims for the flourishing and virtue of its people. What a tyrant wants from the people is wealth, which he can fleece from them, but also sheepishness of mind, servility. “Tyrants want the people well fleec’t, for thir own shearing and the supplie of regal prodigalitie; but also softest, vitiousest, servilest, easiest to be kept under; not only in fleece, but in minde also sheepishest” (Milton 2014a). Where tyrants want the people like sheep so as to shear them of goods and have them docile, Milton and Mawdūdī want polities that produce virtuous citizens and leaders who serve rather than steal.44 This is what his doctrine of the universal caliphate supplies. It also explains why he makes so much of Abu Bakr’s frugality, especially the fact that Abu Bakr received only a modest, closely monitored allowance from the public treasury—the same as any Meccan companion—and only received new clothes when his old ones grew ragged. Abu Bakr, on this telling, was in a position of perpetual dependence on and accountability to the people—even for the very clothes on his back. The just leader, the leader of a republic, cannot fleece the people but must ask them for enough to meet his needs. Moreover, while Mawdūdī does not remark on this point, in Abu Bakr’s paragraph-long speech he makes a point of explicitly calling the people to strength and warning them against weakness and the disaster that will befall the whole community if the people fail to strive mightily before and on behalf of God. As any republican ruler does, he wants his people not sheepish but strong, not slavish but virtuous. When James Cone, the founder of black liberation theology, criticizes so-called “Uncle Toms,” he has flattery and docility in view, the way servile behavior degrades black dignity and sustains white domination. And when he prohibits whites from using that term, it is because white domination makes such servility tempting in the first place (Cone 1986, 60, 115). Mary Wollstonecraft notes that women are told that to be well-treated, they must show their husbands “meekness and docility . . . yielding softness and gentle compliance” along with “respectful observance . . . studying their humours . . . giving soft answers” in a “flowing voice.” “Is this not,” she asks, “the portrait of a house slave” a “drudge whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant’s?” (Wollstonecraft 1995, 177). This is the very dynamic Mawdūdī identifies. “The root-cause of all evil . . . in the world is . . . domination,” he says (Mawdūdī n.d., 133). “The only remedy [is] the repudiation and renunciation . . . of all masters [save] God” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). The proclamation of God’s exclusive Lordship, Islam’s message, is thus “a charter of liberty and freedom” (Mawdūdī n.d., 136). The prophets “aimed at the demolition of man’s supremacy over man . . . to deliver man from this . . . slavery, . . . this exploitation of the weak by the strong. Their object was to thrust back into their proper limits those who had over-stepped . . . and to raise to the proper level those who had been forced down” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). Here, Mawdūdī explicitly identifies domination with slavery, security against domination with liberty, and liberty’s achievement with constraining the powerful and empowering the weak. To do this is to secure freedom. Domination destroys slave and master alike, robbing the master of real relationship and enchaining him in delusional idolatry. Thus, Abraham Lincoln says, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy” (Lincoln 1858). Thus, Mawdūdī says, “[the prophets] endeavored to evolve a social organization based on human equality in which man should be neither the slave nor the master of his fellow-beings” (Mawdūdī n.d., 135). To teach Islam, to teach God’s Lordship, is to teach liberty and to proclaim all human mastery idolatry. For Mawdūdī, political freedom is not just compatible with Islam; it is near Islam’s very heart. Stepping away from Cook’s material and bridging the distance between Abu Bakr and Mawdudi, we turn to our third case, al-Ghazālī, perhaps the most influential and well-beloved figure in the Islamic tradition. Al-Ghazālī’s most overtly political work, Counsel for Kings (“CK”), was written as a kind of open letter to the Sultan Sanjar whom he had very good reason to believe would carefully read it.45 CK is not merely a book about how to be a good ruler. It is an attempt to produce such a ruler. Yet more than transforming a particular ruler, al-Ghazālī means to transform rulership as such and to transform the way counselors and citizens understand and inhabit their roles. Declaring at the outset that the king should devote Friday to worship, he continues, “When the sun rises, order a reader to read this book to you aloud and let him read it every Friday until it abides in your memory, and when he finishes reading praise God until noon” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 5). Al-Ghazālī is asking for the king to have this very book, CK itself, read aloud to him by his people. Thus, while the book is directly addressed to the king, it is for the whole city. He means it to have a formative role in court life and Seljuk governance: it is a book by a subject that purports to command and instruct the king—and to involve other subjects in doing the same. By its form and content alike, al-Ghazālī seeks to induct king, court, and citizens into relationships marked by respect, accountability, mutuality, and truth-telling. It is the place of subjects to teach and correct their rulers, and the place of rulers to be so instructed. Rather than deploying flattery, servile scraping, fearful pleading, desperate bribery, or any of the other telltale symptoms and stratagems of those subject to domination, citizens should confront their rulers forcefully and directly as those with equal standing under God and before God’s law. All this, CK itself enacts, drawing those who encounter it into the very relations it commends. One key way in which al-Ghazālī seeks to secure nondomination is through his focus on accountability, making rulers answerable to those under them. The centerpiece of the king’s accountability, his answerability, is this: On the last day the people will judge him, and God will enforce their judgment. The people will pronounce on and assess his performance as ruler and, whatever they say, God will heed. His soul is in their hands; his fate their purview. Vividly portraying this eschatological scene and framing his remarks as a prayer that places king, court, and reader together before God, he writes, “May God grant to His Majesty the King of the East a clear eye, whereby he may see this world and the next as they (really) are, and so take pains in matters appertaining to the next world and in this world treat mankind well; for a thousand thousand or more of God’s creatures are his subjects. If he governs them justly, they will all be intercessors for him at the Resurrection and he will be secure against rebuke and punishment; but if he governs unjustly, they will all be his adversaries, and the position of one who has so many adversaries will be very, indeed terribly, dangerous. When intercessors become adversaries the case is hard.” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 44) Powerful as this is, in its context, al-Ghazālī’s charge is more forceful still. Sanjar, his court, and readers will recall that earlier al-Ghazālī had explained that in matters where one wrongs fellow humans—as an unjust ruler does—forgiveness comes only as those who have been wronged deign to give it. “In matters between you and the True God pardon is quite likely,” he explained, “but . . . anything involving injustice to people will not in any circumstances be overlooked at the resurrection. No Sultans except those who treat the subjects justly can escape” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 13). Explicitly linking this accountability with nondomination, Ghazālī explains: “The harshest torment at the Resurrection day will be for those who rule arbitrarily” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 15). Al-Ghazālī, in all this, is mindful that an accountability entirely deferred to the afterlife risks proving an ineffectual guard against domination. And so he devises a number of ways whereby this eschatological accountability can make a difference in this life. Here we can only consider one. Lest he risk damnation, the king must make himself answerable now. He must hear the truth from his people—which brings us back to flattery. Recall that flattery not only signals domination’s presence but tightens its grip. It is antithetical to political freedom and right relations. Securing liberty requires seeing flattery for the empty vanity it is, recognizing the domination it signifies, and changing the structure of political relationship so that it ceases to be tempting—either for those who would issue it or the leader who would receive it. Al-Ghazālī explains: “If you were (really) intelligent, you would know that those who serve you are only servants . . . to their own . . . passions, and that they have been using you as a net with which to get what they desire and that their subservience and prostration are for their own benefit, not yours” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). What motivates flattery is not authentic esteem or sincere desire to serve but fear for one’s security, desire for one’s advantage. Flattery, finally, is not for the benefit of the person who receives such “service” but for the one who issues it. Flattery, al-Ghazālī explains, “is not service, but mockery” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). “A sure sign of this would be if they were to hear rumours that . . . another [might come to rule], they would turn away from you with one accord and seek to insinuate themselves into the intimacy of that other” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). When flattery reigns so does domination, for it renders accountability impossible and turns not only the people but the ruler himself into a slave. He becomes dependent on and addicted to such praise, losing himself in and to it. Thus, Thomas Aquinas warns kings, “he who strives for the empty praise of men . . . becomes a slave of each one” (Aquinas 1954, I.8). Milton speaks of “the bad Schoole of Flatterers” (Milton 2014b). And we rightly worry about the “bubble” surrounding high-ranking religious or political figures. Al-Ghazālī puts the point forcefully: to succumb to flattery is not only stupid; it is damnable and damning. Linking flattery to dumbness, then domination and, finally, damnation, al-Ghazālī explains that the one who falls prey to flattery “is not intelligent; and a man who is not intelligent will not be just, and his last abode will be Hell-fire” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 25). “Caus[ing] injustice to appear good in the eyes of the ruler, [flatterers] send him to Hell” (al-Ghazālī 1964, 23).46 Strikingly, in his extremely brief speech, Abu Bakr lifts up precisely this theme: the corrupting danger and betrayal of flattery and the necessity of truth-telling. “Truth,” he says, “is loyalty and falsehood is treachery” (Lewis 1974, 5). True loyalty, Abu Bakr declares, is not a matter of saying what pleases a ruler but of telling the difficult truths that leaders need to hear—even and especially when that means correcting the ruler. Falsehood is treachery, because it is a refusal to give what the polity and ruler most need: accountability. Flattery is falsehood. Posing as service, it undermines the common good. It corrupts not just the ruler but the entire polity. For al-Ghazālī and Abu Bakr alike, to secure liberty and justice it is not enough merely to do away with flattery. Instead, one must establish robust practices and cultures of speaking the truth—especially speaking difficult truth to power. By its very design, CK performs and models precisely this. Nonetheless, al-Ghazālī’s most important strategy on this front is, perhaps, his famous reformulation and endorsement of the doctrine of “commanding right and forbidding wrong,” what he calls ḥisba. His robust, practical revisioning, which he develops in Book XIX of his Ihya and includes in his Persian epitome, specifies that Muslims must speak and, if necessary, forcefully act to prevent fellow Muslims from doing wrong or to make them do right—be they rulers, scholars, or ordinary citizens. Just as strictly as any Muslim can be a recipient of ḥisba, no matter his or her rank or authority, any Muslim can incur ḥisba obligations, no matter how lowly or marginal his or her status.47 Rulers especially are appropriate and frequent objects for ḥisba, and Book XIV of the Ihya offers vivid and practical illustrations and advice to equip Muslims for just this sort of correction. Ḥisba, for al-Ghazālī, is an essential tool in his multi-faceted effort to overcome domination and construct a community of freedom. Now, in all three of the examples we have considered there are questions that can be raised about the scope of liberty—especially the place of non-Muslims, women, and slaves. There are also important questions about the difference made to the character of this liberty by conceptions of God’s nature and divine law. These are vital questions. But they are not, finally, questions about whether freedom is an Islamic value. They are questions about who is a candidate to enjoy freedom and how best to describe such freedom given different visions of the God whose law helps constitute it. Yet, even here, in both of these respects Islam stands in continuity with most of Western history. Until relatively recently in that history, only some restricted class—males, whites, the landed, or titled—were candidates to enjoy republican liberty. The expansion of those who are entitled to enjoy liberty represents a relatively recent democratic modification of republicanism, a modification of freedom in a more inclusive direction, not a change in the basic vision of liberty as nondomination.48 As recently as the end of Jim Crow in the United States or the end of apartheid in South Africa, these questions were still being hashed out.49 Certainly, the entanglement of contestable theological and ethical vision with contemporary Western conceptions of political freedom is less obvious. But a great deal of recent work in history and political theory seeks to uncover the degree to which regnant conceptions of political liberty—even apparently the most secularized—are not only deeply rooted in and bear the trace of various controversial theological doctrines but even advance and enact those commitments. They implicate metaphysical and ethical doctrines no less controversial or contestable to their detractors than those implicated in visions rooted in Islamic theology or law.50 Moreover, in both traditions there are important strands that understand God’s justice as recognizably just—that is, as in some salient sense standing in continuity with our own terrestrial conceptions and practices of justice, even as God perfects and transcends them. God is understood as entitled to hold the law-giving role that he does, his power is regarded as nonarbitrary and so nondominating, and his character and law are regarded and experienced as recognizably good and just as opposed to capricious or entirely divorced from the sorts of laws and character we ourselves recognize as good. The point here is simply that the law that Muslim rulers are charged with upholding and seen as accountable to, along with the practices of accountability to which they themselves are subject, are understood as deriving from a Ruler whose authority is nonarbitrary, whose character is discernibly good, and whose law is itself recognizably just and good rather than dominating, arbitrary.51 Thus, many of the very sorts of hadith that idealize and render normative practices of accountability and fairness under rule of law are coupled with and underwritten by divine threat and promises. It is precisely God who can be relied upon to uphold and advance precisely what we recognize and regard as actually right and just. God is depicted and understood as the enforcer of the nondominating political community and ideals espoused and hoped for by the ummah. Where tyranny is depicted as among the worst sins and as bringing darkness on the last day, “the dispensers of justice will be seated on the pulpits of light beside God” (al-Ḥajjāj 1973, hadith 4493). There is, in other words, continuity of the right sort between earthly ideals and practices of nondomination and the ideals and laws that God is believed to promulgate and realize. In one story, for instance, upon being challenged, Muhammad responds with a rhetorical question: “Who does justice, if not Allah and his Messenger?” (al-Ḥajjāj 2007, hadith 2447, my translation). There is continuity between the nondominating rule and liberty expected from earthly rulers and the law, ideals, and character of God. Here, God’s justice is not only recognizably just—by our lights—but idealized as the standard and perfection of all we could hope for when it comes to rightness and fairness of rule.52 Repeatedly, just earthly judgment and governance and accountability and equality under rule of law are regarded as enabled and facilitated by God. This is just what happens in the aforementioned hadith where a Jew is depicted celebrating the justice he receives from Umar against a Muslim: he claims to have seen angels on either side of Umar as he rendered the judgment. What the Jew says about the presence of such angels is taken to obtain when any judge rules rightly under law.53 Muhammad, for his part, is reported as saying that God is with the judge so long as justice is upheld but abandons unjust rulers to Satan (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 3, hadith 1330). In such traditions, we begin to see how God himself is regarded not as dominating but upholding and promulgating recognizably just and nonarbitrary ideals and laws, how God himself is understood as defender and protector of liberty, security against arbitrary power. INTERPRETATION, IMPLICIT VALUES, AND ATTRIBUTION In this final section, I want to briefly consider a broader philosophically inflected issue that creates further trouble for Cook’s claims. It also has wider significance for interpretive work in Islam and generally. At one level, Cook’s misstep is clear. Identifying freedom with something like hyper-liberalism, he misses the republicanism that animates his very evidence. But there is another set of problems that are relevant here, related to interpretation. I will only touch on this briefly. At one point, Cook claims that any notion of political freedom in Islam is, at best, entirely implicit. This is part of why he thinks it is not an Islamic value. But having an explicitly formulated concept is not necessary to count as valuing whatever that concept names. Imagine a community that loves softball, chess, field hockey, and bridge but lacks the concept game. They lack the concept game in just this sense: they neither have a word or phrase corresponding to game nor have they explicitly recognized or theorized the commonalities and links that connect their softball practices to their chess practices, field hockey practices, and so on. Yet those links really are there—for there really are salient similarities and commonalities in their practices of softball, chess, field hockey, and so on and in their concepts of each of these things—but these links have not yet been explicitly named or recognized, nor the subject of sustained reflection. Despite this, it will still be the case that they value and love games and that love of games is one of their values. Their failing to describe or theorize it that way will not change this. Notice, however, that making this point is not merely an act of recasting their commitments in relation to what we know but in ways they do not or could not recognize. That is, this is not merely a case in which, (1) because of what the word game means in English, it is true to say that they love games, even though they have no concept of games. Instead, it is (2) an act of making explicit what they themselves are already committed to and could or would recognize but have not. The concept is already circulating just beneath the surface of their practices and discourse and in the webs of the concepts they do explicitly deploy and reflect on and just needs a bit of conversation to call it forth. Call the first approach corrective interpretation. Call this second approach dialogical interpretation.54 Corrective interpretation sets the facts—as we see them and in our terms—alongside the claims and practices of some past community or text and interprets accordingly, adding and correcting along the way. Dialogical interpretation, in contrast, does not depart from the subjects’ substantive commitments but considers what they would assent to given what they do assent to, what they could see their commitments as entailing (or entitling or committing them to) given what they already see them as entailing (or entitling or committing them to). Matters get complex quickly but consider the claims: “Abu Bakr believes H2O is thirst quenching” and “Stephen Hawking believes H2O is thirst quenching.” Both these claims are true, but they are also very importantly different. Hawking has the concept H2O and as rich an understanding of it as anyone.55 Abu Bakr does not—explicitly or implicitly, he is nowhere close to having the concept H2O. To say “Abu Bakr believes H2O is thirst quenching” is an act of what I am calling corrective interpretation. If premodern Islam stood to freedom as Abu Bakr stands to H2O, it would be true that freedom is an Islamic value (and, arguably, enough to show Cook’s claim mistaken) but doing so would be exclusively an act of corrective interpretation. It would be true that freedom was an Islamic value but only because we had translated their commitments and practices in ways they could not possibly have recognized themselves or on their (unmodified) terms. Our situation, however, is different: the tradition’s relation to freedom is much stronger and of a different sort. Freedom is an Islamic value in the stronger sense that these (and many other) figures and communities are already committed to and could readily know themselves to be committed to freedom. Indeed, that is how I read Mawdūdī in relation to his own classical inheritance, not least his account of Abu Bakr and the early community: he is making explicit what he sees as implicit all along. He takes himself to be giving explicit formulation to values of political freedom that he sees as implicitly animating and informing Islamic practices from the very beginning. At one point, without explanation, Cook insists that anything we see in Mawdūdī that could be construed as concern for freedom is actually from the West—and thus not really Islamic. It is “exogenous” to the tradition: Mawdūdī “import[s] the European idea of freedom” (Cook 2013, my emphasis, 306; and see 298–99). “Certain Western values,” Cook says, “are highly prestigious, and . . . it almost inevitably becomes an unacknowledged part of the Islamist agenda to find counterparts of these values in the Islamic heritage” (Cook 2013, my emphasis, 301n78). Yet both that claim and his whole analysis of Mawdūdī and other moderns presume the very point in question. These figures are dismissed as not themselves constituting any sort of evidence of political freedom as an Islamic value but instead, without argumentation or explanation, are simply characterized as only borrowing from the West. Additionally, the claims these figures make to find such values in the early tradition are dismissed as eisegesis, because Cook has already decided that premodern traditions do not show concern for political freedom. These figures, for Cook, are either self-deceived or engaged in dressing up alien values in Islamic garb. What they cannot be doing for Cook is developing their own tradition. All this, especially the notion that a value is either and only endogenous or exogenous, implies a certain conception of what traditions are and how they develop: they are tightly and clearly bounded, highly stable, and possessed of an inner core immune to development, least of all development born of ongoing interaction with or incorporation of what is somehow “outside” the tradition. Ironically, such a vision accepts the self-narration of religious communities that posit a pure, untainted beginning before alien “corruption” crept in. On my vision, in contrast, living traditions are always in dialogue with and partly constituted by: interactions with all sorts of real or imagined “others” in relation to which their own identity is partly secured, understood, and made meaningful; ongoing contestation about these interactions; and debates about where the borders lie and who or what counts as “outside,” “inside,” “faithful,” “corrupt,” “alien,” and so on, and in what sense. In perpetually negotiating novel questions, including boundary questions, traditions are always engaging with and influenced by ideas, forces, and peoples that in some sense can be reckoned “outside” them. And what is “outside” now or for this subgroup may be regarded as “inside” by some other subgroup, or, in time, by nearly everyone. Whether this holds for traditions generally, it certainly holds for Islam. On its own understanding, at least, from the very beginning this tradition was interacting with, reflecting on, disputing about, reacting to—and thus, in some sense, shaped by–Jews, Christians, and “pagans” real or imagined. Any effort to declare which changes are due to “external” factors and which are due to “internal” factors must reckon with this reality. Most development is due to both and rarely in ways that admit of any clear division. The best we can usually attain to, and only after much effort and evidence, is something like: ideal X was “exogenous” or “endogenous” in this sense, in these respects, to this extent, at this time. Yet even this is a claim about a value’s originary source—a value which, whatever its original source, is a value of the tradition. Ironically, Cook’s charge that Mawdūdī and his ilk dress up a Western value as Islamic is one that Mawdūdī’s translator explicitly levels against Mawdūdī’s “liberal” opponents. Theirs, he says, “is not a reform movement, but a cloaked departure from Islam. They lack an understanding of Islam and try to import all their ideas and concepts from the West . . . try[ing] to maintain the Islamic terminology and twist[ing] its meaning to suit their ideas” (Mawdūdī n.d., 20). For Mawdūdī’s supporters it was precisely his opponents who were guilty of disguising “Western” values as Islamic. I have argued that one need not have an explicitly formulated value to count as committed to that value and briefly sketched how this could be so. Happily, this is even more obviously true in the case at hand. For here a tradition does explicitly theorize, condemn, reject, and disvalue one thing: domination. And domination, the very thing it disvalues and rejects, is itself precisely the antithesis of that which remains implicit and unarticulated: liberty. If I explicitly disvalue not-X, necessarily I value X. This is so regardless of whether I ever explicitly conceptualize or name X in distinction from not-X. To hate slavery just is to love slavery’s negation. Slavery’s negation is freedom. Hating slavery is loving freedom and vice versa. If I rail against domination, name it as arbitrary power, call certain political arrangements slavish, and theorize and idealize a community in which no one is dominated, then I value freedom. This is so whether I ever use that word or not. A tradition that loves and celebrates and seeks nondomination is a tradition that loves freedom. CONCLUSION Perhaps nowhere is Cook’s difficulty clearer than in a note where he mentions Cicero’s remark that we are slaves to the law in order that we may be free (Cook 2013, 307n126). That remark captures the essence of republican liberty as well as anything could. In the note, Cook quickly mentions that perhaps for Islam slavery to God might be like slavery to the law in Cicero’s sense. It is, by my lights, just the point to make and explore. Unfortunately, he immediately dismisses the idea. No, he says, and with a claim that would have shocked Cicero, he adds: besides God’s rule is more constricting than human law. For Cicero, republicans, and countless Jews, Christians, and Muslims, little could be more confused or untrue than that. True law, for these, does not violate liberty but constitute it. And no law, for these, constitutes liberty more perfectly or fully than God’s law. God’s rule, as the likes of Milton, Madison, Martin Luther King Jr., and al-Ghazālī have it, is the epitome of freedom and the measure against which any and all human efforts at legislation can be evaluated as either betraying liberty or advancing it. In closing, consider a remark from a scholar of Islam no less distinguished than Michael Cook. In God’s Rule, Patricia Crone explains that for premodern Muslims “the choice as they saw it was not between slavery and freedom, but . . . between slavery to other human beings and slavery to God” (Crone 2005, 315). Cook cites this remark with approval. Freedom means hyper-individualist licentiousness, autonomous, unconstrained self-determination. What could be clearer than the fact that slavery to God has nothing to do with this? So, clearly freedom is not an Islamic value. This, in simplest terms, is the gist of Cook’s argument. Crone herself, however, seems to be making a more circumspect point: premodern Muslims did not have an explicit concept of political freedom, so they saw their options as between two forms of bondage, two types of slavery. By now, it is clear why I think Cook’s reasoning and pronouncement are, finally, mistaken. But, notwithstanding her remark’s nuance, I think Crone herself is also less than entirely correct in this case. At the very least, her comment is quite misleading. Yes, the concept of political freedom was rarely explicit in premodern Islamic traditions. But what both Cook and Crone seem to underplay or miss is the tradition’s implicit identification of service to God with true freedom. As Cook and Crone have it, if freedom is even on the menu of options at all, it stands in contrast—even in opposition—to service to God. The burden of this paper has been to show that this is not so. For the figures and tradition I have considered, domination, subjection to arbitrary power, slavish subjugation to unconstrained, unaccountable political rule is a grave evil. It is something to be avoided—and guarded against—as far as possible. Avoidance of domination is, most simply, pursuit of freedom. Service to God is nothing if not such security, such liberty. It is not, for this tradition, that one must choose between two forms of domination—domination by men or domination by God. Rather one must choose between domination and liberty, slavery to men and slavery to God. But slavery to God is, in the end, freedom. It is liberty. Both in that very relationship itself and, more obviously still, in what it means for political community and for relations to one’s fellow humans. So, yes, Crone is correct: the choice always was one between slavery to men and slavery to God. But, as they saw it, that was a choice between domination and liberty, slavery and freedom. 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Since the book does not add to or expand on our particular topic, and that article offers a much more detailed treatment that is focused specifically on political freedom, in what follows—consonant with Cook’s own references—I focus exclusively on the article. 3 It is, at least, in Cook’s sense of “Islamic value”—on which more below. 4 I also incidentally answer another scholarly voice—really, a family of voices. On one reading, this influential group of scholars, which includes the likes of Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and others, appears to advance a version of the basic thesis that Islam and political freedom are opposed, but with an important twist. On their telling, the ideology of so-called “political freedom” is un-Islamic because it was invented in the modern West and then imposed by imperial force and colonial power on Islamic and other non-Western societies. They further seem to suggest that Islam and Islamic traditions and values are important sources of resistance to the ideology of political freedom, which, again, they seem to identify with hyper-individualistic ideals of autonomy. So political freedom, for these figures, is decidedly not an Islamic value—but, given their view of liberalism and the West, so much the better for Islam. See, for example, Asad 1993 and Asad 2003; Mahmood, 2004; and, more recently, Massad 2015. It is not my aim in what follows to establish whether these figures are finally best understood as denying the compatibility of Islamic traditions and political freedom or as identifying freedom with hyper-individualistic autonomy. While many of their claims seem to suggest that, this article remains officially agnostic on those points and only makes a conditional claim: if such figures do claim or imply that Islam is incompatible with political freedom—they do so, like Cook, on the basis of an essentialized, overly narrow conception of freedom, and, just so, they are mistaken. I leave it for others to sort out whether they are, finally, best understood as making or implying these claims. Given his unquestioned importance in Islamic studies and the clear, unequivocal character of his insistence on the incompatibility of Islam and political freedom, I focus exclusively on considering and responding to Cook’s argument, which represents any number of arguments like it and seems to me the strongest case that could be made for the incompatibility thesis. 5 In virtue of considering the very evidence Cook cites, my argument is an exercise in “immanent critique.” That is, I use what Cook himself regards as adequate or sufficient evidence for assessing whether freedom counts as an Islamic value in order to suggest that it does. 6 This is especially so in the wake of Ahmed 2015 and conversations that book has provoked. 7 The qualification here is deliberately vague and open-ended. There are different ways in which one can regard something as authoritative—the authority might be absolute, presumptive but defeasible, on a par with other sources of authority, and so on. Note too that on my conception, a single tradition may hold competing or even opposing values. That is, some important or influential group within this tradition might, in virtue of their understanding of the tradition, hold X, while others hold not X, and others still hold Y, which, say, is in tension with but not directly opposed to X. On my view, all of these might justly be described as “values of that tradition.” Now, clearly there needs to be some sufficiently numerous or sufficiently important group (or even individual) endorsing one of these values for it to count as a value of that tradition—as opposed, narrowly or idiosyncratically, to a value of just that group or individual. But just where precisely such a boundary lies need not concern us here, so long as the figures and movements in question are sufficiently diverse and important as to fall well within any reasonable parameters of centrality and importance—and, in this case, I think they are, as does Cook. Additionally, while my case does not rest on this point, I believe there is an important asymmetry between Cook’s case and mine. It seems compatible with my contention that political freedom is an Islamic value, that there be a great many or even more figures and movements of significance who are unconcerned with it—or even opposed to it. In contrast, the presence of important figures and movements for whom political freedom is an important value seems incompatible with the claim that it is not an Islamic value. 8 See, for example, Brown 2009. 9 The wine-drinking example figures prominently in Ahmed 2015. 10 They are why Ahmed’s What Is Islam (2015) is so long and could have been much longer—and why, I would venture to say, there is virtually no chance that his proposed conception of Islam will, despite his valiant efforts, deep learnedness, and admirable scholarship, only ever be one (perhaps influential) proposal among many. And they are why the most valuable contribution of his book is not the proposed conception of Islam, but his catalogue of diversity and contestation. 11 We must take care not to confuse Berger’s point about the utility of definitions with the very different matter of a Wittgensteinian theory of conceptual meaning in terms of usage. These are distinct matters and different senses of “use”: utility vs. usage. The one proposes judging the value of some definition in relation to its usefulness given some purpose. The other is a theory of meaning on which a concept’s meaning can be understood by attending to the way that concept is used in our practices, linguistic and otherwise. 12 They are incorrect not in that in that they fail to capture the “essence” of Islam, but in that they make no meaningful contact whatsoever with any extant usage of the term or concept. They are useless in a particular way, for a particular reason—useless because meaningless or altogether and absolutely idiosyncratic. 13 There are longstanding disputes about how best to understand the relationships among these paradigms. For classic statements see, for example, Berlin 1958 and Skinner 2003. One important debate concerns whether in speaking of these visions we are dealing with genuinely distinct concepts of freedom (whatever exactly that means) or, instead, with a single concept that admits of importantly distinct species. The most well-known version of this latter view is of Gerald MacCallum Jr., which contends that all freedom-talk is formally structured by a relation among (1) an agent, (2) some constraining or preventing factor, and (3) a doing, becoming, or achieving of the agent (MacCallum, Jr. 1967, 314). Competing/distinct visions of freedom are thus best understood as debates about which constraints are most salient. Charles Taylor resists that analysis and other efforts to deny that there are in fact two concepts of freedom, and he anchors his resistance in a distinction between “exercise” concepts of freedom—on which freedom requires the actualization of certain capacities or achievement of certain goals and which he associates with positive liberty—and “opportunity” concepts of freedom – on which freedom requires the mere opportunity to do such and such, whether one is able to do it or not (Taylor 1979). More recent debates continue to explore these issues: see, for example, Nelson 2005, Christman 2005, and even more recently Elford 2012. For our purposes, we can leave these disputes aside, for (a) no one denies that these visions get at matters importantly distinct, however the precise character of that distinction is best named and (b) Cook’s conception is very much particular to and representative of one particular vision (or conception) to the exclusion of other visions. That is, even assuming there is but one conception of freedom admitting of distinct emphases or species, Cook does not bring into view that single conception or whatever is held in common among all species, but instead just one species (or one version of one species) of freedom with all its distinctive features and to the exclusion of others. 14 For instance, supposing that the best human lives involve deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships, should an addiction to praise and recognition drive a person to work incessantly and consistently neglect all relationships, she will find herself held back from leading a good and happy life—perhaps the very life she, on some level, most wants. If that vain desire for prestige goes deep enough, it may well occlude or supplant the higher and better longing for friendship so that she loses sight altogether of what, at her best, she wants. To the extent that either of these things happen, she is, on this view, unfree. 15 The way of elucidating domination I pursue in the following several paragraphs bears similarity to and draws substantially from the approach and material in some of my other work, for example, Decosimo 2016 and Decosimo 2018. This definition of power is from Stout 2010, 55. 16 On my view, for some conception of arbitrariness to avoid getting mired in self-defeating contradiction, the conception itself needs to be open to ongoing revision, contestation, and debate. It needs, in other words, to be essentially contestable. Otherwise, the concept itself will seem to be arbitrary in the salient and problematic sense—a mere stipulation immune to correction, contestation, or the contribution of hitherto unheard or silenced voices. 17 I offer fuller explication and defense of this vision in Decosimo 2018. 18 This has the added benefit of taking account of Elizabeth Anderson’s point that formalized, permanently enshrined criteria for determining domination offer those who would dominate a clear vision of the boundaries they need to slip past if they want to avoid seeming or counting guilty of domination (Anderson 2016). 19 In contrast, a foundationalist vision of arbitrariness and republican liberty attempts to offer formalized definitions or tests of arbitrariness or to formulate detailed sets of necessary and sufficient criteria in an attempt to stipulate once and for all exactly what counts as arbitrary. The hope is that everyone or some group (e.g., “all reasonable people”) would be constrained to regard some set of conditions as constituting domination. This approach renders republicanism a version of contract theory in which arbitrariness and determinations about it play roles in it analogous to those played by, for example, reasonableness and the veil of ignorance in Rawlsian liberalism. As noted above, I worry that such an approach risks rendering the concept itself arbitrary in the problematic sense. To object that the dialectical view renders the concept of arbitrariness itself arbitrary is to confuse the dialectical view with a relativist one and to miss the explanation and claims above that some paradigms (e.g., master/slave relations), some concrete relations (e.g., the place of women in this sexist society), and some rules of thumb (e.g., reciprocity tests) are more or less fixed and determinate diagnostic tools (or concrete cases) of domination and so of the salient sort of arbitrariness. What the dialectical view resists is the notion that a permanent formal conception of arbitrariness or set of necessary and sufficient criteria could ever adequately capture all that might be worth—or come to be worth—considering as dominative. Only in retrospect is the deficiency of some conception of domination—its failure to include, say, homosexuals—often recognized. What today seemed like a good reason for this or that constraint can, in a decade or a century, seem altogether suspect. For a full-fledged defense of a dialectical as opposed to foundationalist approach—though in relation not to domination/arbitrariness but ideals of public reason/public discourse—see Stout 2004, chapter 3, esp. 77–83. 20 Thus, Rawls writes, “liberty can be restricted only for the sake of liberty” (Rawls 1971, 302). Isaiah Berlin writes: “Law is always a ‘fetter’ . . . even if it protects you from being bound in chains that are heavier” (Berlin 1958, 8, cited in Pettit 1997, 50). For a certain sort of liberalism, the state is the only legitimate “interferer,” so it seeks to monopolize interfering power—whether by eliminating relations rival to the citizen/state relation, or, in the name of freedom, doing as much as possible to “protect” the individual from any sources of interference other than the state. 21 Republicans who so understood law’s relation to liberty include, for instance: James Harrington, the authors of Cato’s Letters, Richard Price, Caleb Evans, and James Madison. For further explication see Pettit 1997, 35–42. 22 They do so in at least two interconnected ways: on the one hand, by securing everyone against acts of domination, certain pernicious forms of interference and the sorts who would impose them. They prevent the closure of choices and opportunities that it is agreed it is good for humans to have left open and the servitude and suffering that would follow if the powerful were left altogether unchecked in exercising their wills. This is a face of freedom familiar to liberal paradigms, a kind of freedom from interference—only here protection against arbitrary interference alone is sought and such protection is regarded as part of what freedom is. On the other hand, to be secured against domination by just or good laws eliminates not just actual pernicious interference but the possibility of being so interfered with. They protect one against being in a position of standing in fearful servility or docility before what others might do. Thus, such laws free one from the stultifying self-censorship of servile dependence and thereby create the possibility for novel forms of self-expression and self-reliance, what has been called “expressive freedom.” 23 Relationships birth and impose norms, for example, insofar as the ongoing participation in and very existence of the relationship depend on fulfilling the norms associated with the relational roles. For example: “He was a teacher/father/friend in name only.” 24 To be sure, they can become dominating—to the extent that the power asymmetry or their exercise becomes arbitrary—for example, the parent who abuses his child or the priest or imam who will not suffer any correction or accountability. 25 It is important to distinguish the broad and diverse tradition of republicanism, as I have sketched it, from contemporary conceptions of republican liberty such as Philip Pettit’s, which can be read as seeing democracy as entailed by republicanism. As Pettit himself makes very clear, republicanism long predates his own constructive theory. For most of this tradition, democracy was not understood as entailed or required. It is no surprise—nor any problem—given this article’s aims and claims that Islamic figures have not ascribed to Pettit’s version of republicanism; hardly any republicans have. If we thought Pettit’s version of republicanism were identical to republicanism generally or that ascribing to it were necessary to count as endorsing republicanism, then nearly every figure hitherto identified as espousing republicanism would no longer count as doing so. It hardly makes sense to expect of Islamic traditions a convergence with Pettit that the republican tradition itself fails to attain. Instead, what we need to see is convergence between that broad, diverse, longstanding tradition and visions extant within Islamic traditions—not convergence between either of these and Pettit’s contemporary analytic formulation. 26 In calling it essentialized, I mean that he supposes there is something like an essence to political freedom (or political freedom in the West)—an inner core that, despite surface differences, constitutes it as a single, stable, particular thing in all times and places, irrespective of context or history. What approach betrays such commitment? An approach like the following, which is basically what we find in Cook’s article, does: the assumption of a single concept operative and basically unchanged in the West, the search for just that concept and that concept alone in other traditions, with indifference or inattention to the possibility of analogous or closely (or distantly) related or family-resemblance concepts, and so on. 27 Nor does it change matters to appeal to “common sense” or “what most people” mean, for there is hardly consensus on such things today (witness disputes internal to the American Republican party, let alone between Republicans and Democrats), much less is there such consensus across centuries of European history. 28 We find in different traditions, different ways of imagining all sorts of ideals and values, along with values that may be new to us. One promise of comparative work is the transformation and discovery that can ensue: we discover a new way of imagining the conceptual space, new ways of configuring social roles and relations, new ways of relating or conceiving values, new goods to love or evils to shun, and so on. We can be more or less attuned to these possibilities depending on the way in which we approach comparative efforts—and a great deal of energy in the discipline of religious studies has rightly been expended on trying to imagine the most suitable ways to approach this or that comparative effort. Cook’s method in this chapter, however—thanks to the narrowness of the conception of freedom for which he searches, the tendency to make a great deal hang on the presence or absence of Arabic words typically translated as “freedom,” the unidirectional, nondialectical character of the effort (i.e., no openness to the ways Muslim political thought on freedom-related matters might transform Western conceptions), and other features—can seem to sharply limit the possibilities for the sort of illumination that the best comparative work promises. 29 Concluding his very good new book, Coercion and Responsibility in Islam: A Study in Ethics and Law, Mairaj Syed briefly cites Cook’s judgment with approval, and seems to suggest that his own inquiry buttresses Cook’s claim (Syed 2017, 239). Syed’s focus concerns coercion and responsibility—fundamental concepts of agency. Yet only if we identify political freedom with absence of coercion could an examination of the place of coercion in a tradition be taken to tell us something about that tradition’s views of political freedom (and even then it would only tell us something, not everything). But such a vision of political freedom is both extremely unusual and very truncated: few philosophers (or nonscholars) would regard the mere absence of coercion as equivalent with political freedom, even if many might regard the absence of interference as equivalent with freedom. Typically, interference is reckoned a much more inclusive concept than coercion and one in which the latter is nested. Thus, I can be interfered with without being coerced but not coerced without being interfered with. Coercion, typically understood, is a particularly invasive and extreme form of interference. For instance, I can be subjected to a financial penalty, interfered with, for not doing X; and this is different from being coerced—say, having to do X under threat of being shot by the gun to my head or in virtue of being drugged, kept in ignorance about what I am actually doing, or having my body moved against my will. I argue below that Cook does identify political freedom with noninterference but that this is not the only way to understand political freedom. In particular, when we bring alternate conceptions into view, we can see that political freedom is an Islamic value after all. If Syed means in this brief remark to identify political freedom with absence of coercion, his view would be narrower even than Cook’s and thus subject to the same shortcomings—so too if he would follow Cook in identifying freedom with noninterference. It is not clear, however, if he does in fact mean this or would so follow Cook, and, much more than Cook, Syed exhibits awareness of competing, distinct conceptions of freedom internal to Western political philosophy (e.g. Syed 2017, 238–39, 62–64, and 22–25). 30 Cited in Carter 2016. 31 Throughout the chapter, Cook mentions the “master/slave paradigm” and a connection between freedom and not being a slave, and he consistently uses that language (e.g., “the metaphor of slavery”), but, diction notwithstanding, he does not in any way or at any point work with such a conception or bring it into focus. Instead, as we have seen, he works with a hyper-individualistic liberal conception of freedom—even as he describes it as being connected to freedom from slavery. This is republican rhetoric but strictly liberal substance. Particularly striking in this regard is his claim that a focus on the master/slave paradigm actually encourages hyper-individualism. Yet this is close to the opposite of the way it has functioned in republicanism. Indeed, recent work on republicanism shows how republicanism’s communitarian character is rooted precisely in this paradigm. For republican liberty is not primarily about what happens to me but what is liable to happen to any of all those that bear relevant markers—of race, class, gender, and so on—in virtue of which they are subject to arbitrary power. So, to use an example Pettit formulates: if I am a very well-treated wife in a society in which there are no protections against spousal abuse and where, say, many women are badly treated, then whatever happens to me, I am nonetheless unfree, for in virtue of my woman-hood I am liable to arbitrary power. So, I have strong reason to identify with and care about women generally—my freedom is inextricably bound up with theirs, for so long as women are subject to arbitrary power, so am I. And Pettit sketches the ways in which such circles of concern can and ought to radiate outward. Republican liberty weds focus on self, society, and other for its conception of freedom is social through and through. There is a centrifugal force to republican liberty—a push away from mere self-interest (see Pettit 1997, 122–24). On further misunderstanding of the slavery language/metaphor, see the concluding paragraphs below and see Cook’s remark that the modern Muslims realize “that the European idea of freedom meant much more than not being a slave” (Cook 2013, 300), implying his own neglect that this idea, properly understood, is the very core of republican liberty. 32 As noted earlier, in virtue of considering the very evidence Cook cites, my project is a form of immanent critique. A different vein of criticism could focus on Cook’s neglect of sources authored by women or others who often experienced themselves as dominated within Muslim traditions, voices complaining on Islamic grounds about the absence of freedom they experience. 33 Suppose someone wanted to argue that in virtue of his Islamist tendencies Mawdūdī should count as marginal to Islam or, at least, “mainstream” Islam. While I think such claims highly dubious, even if they were vindicated, I do not think this would threaten my thesis. Most importantly, it would not change the fact that I would have shown that political freedom is an Islamic value in Cook’s sense at least, which includes Mawdūdī, and that is my primary aim. But a stronger version of my thesis, one that claims that political freedom is an Islamic value in some more robust sense than Cook’s, could also weather this threat. For the primary challenge in claiming that political freedom is an Islamic value is not the place of freedom in modern Islam but in premodern traditions. There is little difficulty, I think, in finding modern or contemporary Muslim figures or communities who trumpet political freedom as an Islamic value (perhaps even liberal freedom). The challenge, rather, is showing its status in the premodern era, and that task remains untouched even if Mawdūdī were dismissed. Notice too that part of the importance of the premodern piece is that in its absence, objectors will try to say that even if freedom appears as an Islamic value in modernity, it does so only in virtue of “Western influence” and so is not really an Islamic value. Such a claim, Cook’s version of which I consider briefly below, seems deeply problematic in what it presupposes about what religious traditions are and how they function. Nonetheless, by showing the place of freedom as an Islamic value in premodern strands of the tradition, I answer such opponents even on those misguided terms. 34 Some might also want to contend that practices of shura or consultation are themselves a form of agency accountability. At the very least, they implicate forensic accountability. 35 Cook goes so far in this context as to remark that “it would hardly be strained to think of the Muslims as a free people, in self-conscious contrast to the Persians,” but this promising line of thought goes undeveloped (Cook 2013, 293). 36 “I have been appointed to rule over you,” he says, “though I am not the best among you” (Lewis 1974, 5). 37 “Tyranny (الظُّلْمُ) is darkness on the Day of Resurrection” (al-Bukhārī 1997, volume 3, hadith 2447, my translation). “There is no sin more worthy of Allah hastening the punishment upon its practitioner in the world—along with what is in store for him in the Hereafter—than tyranny (الْبَغْىِ) and severing the ties of kinship” (al-Tirmidhī 2007, volume 4, hadith 2511; see also al-Tirmidhī, 2007, hadith 2154). “The man whose tyranny prevails over his justice will go to hell” (Abū-Dāwūd 1990, hadith 3568). 38 How such hadith, together with other traditions still—some offering alternate or competing visions—were deployed in elucidating fiqh or shariah is a different matter. My point is merely the witness to ideals and values these exemplify in themselves. 39 In keeping with my mode of immanent critique, throughout much of this section, I consider some of the very evidence and passages that Cook cites. 40 Cook here cites Mawdūdī 1977, 215.23. 41 To the extent that contemporary “fiduciary” conceptions of political authority neglect the ideal of accountability to standards or norms external to the contract itself, there is an important difference between Mawdūdī’s vision and theirs. Suppose Mawdūdī’s vision is thought to bear similarity to Locke’s vision of fiduciary political authority. Since Locke is generally considered a liberal political theorist, does that not suggest that Mawdūdī is better understood as endorsing liberal rather than republican liberty? It does not. Few would dispute that Locke himself manifests themes and ideas rightly considered republican, however he is best understood or classified overall. As we will see in further elucidating Mawdūdī’s vision, any similarity here to aspects of Locke’s political vision does not suggest that Mawdūdī’s vision is not republican but that in this respect Locke’s vision is. 42 Indeed, it is not enough, he says, that they be answerable to “representatives of the public, but the public itself” (Mawdūdī n.d., 241–42). 43 And cited in Waldron 2014, 13. 44 A full-fledged exploration of continuity between Milton’s vision and those extant in Islam is beyond our scope, but I plan to take up the topic in future work. For a useful sketch of Milton’s vision, especially in relation to rejection of tyranny (and monarchy) as idolatrous, see Nelson 2011, esp. 36–51. One important point of difference, however, between Milton and premodern Islam and, for that matter, much of the Western republican tradition prior to Milton himself, is his articulation and embrace of “exclusive republicanism,” a vision marked by the view that monarchy itself is intrinsically incompatible with republican liberty. On this view, there is no such thing as a nondominating king (or caliph), for the very office/role itself is considered dominative. 45 Elsewhere, I further substantiate this republican interpretation of al-Ghazālī, offer additional evidence for it, and expand on and further elucidate the points made below. The presentation here condenses and recapitulates some of that material and those findings (see Decosimo 2015). I rely exclusively on the undisputed first part of the text (al-Ghazālī 1964). I use Bagley’s translation of the Persian in what follows but have also consulted an early Arabic translation. 46 While concern with flattery is common in mirrors for princes literature generally, al-Ghazālī, we have seen, not only explicitly nests and connects concern with flattery amidst concern for accountability and avoidance of domination but formalizes and makes explicit the relations between flattery, truth-telling, and domination in his vision of ḥisba. 47 For our purposes, we can leave aside important qualifications related to gender. 48 On this point, see Stout 2010. 49 And, given recent efforts in the United States to contract the vote through various voter-ID laws and other mechanisms, for example, these questions are still being contested. Mawdūdī, for his part, envisions non-Muslim citizens as enjoying full and equal protection under the law, with “all cultural and human rights” guaranteed, but without a share in governance (Mawdūdī n.d., 247–48; see also, for example, 69, 180–89). Of course, from the perspective of republicanism, this is itself dominative. 50 On these roots, see, for example, Nelson 2011; Gregory 2007; Kahn 2011. Several important works contend that John Rawl’s brand of political liberalism, almost certainly the most influential in political theory, implicates controversial ethical and metaphysical judgments of the very sort that Rawls took himself to have overcome in his turn from Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism (see, for example, Goodman 2014; Stout 2004). Of course, when it comes to the role of theology and questions concerning political freedom in Islamic traditions, a great deal hangs on whether God and divine law are conceived and experienced as arbitrary, utterly vertiginous to or divorced from ordinary conceptions of the human good or notions of justice and fairness. Of course, for many Muslims, it is obvious that God’s authority is, by definition, nonarbitrary. But many non-Muslims and nontheists and, perhaps, some Muslims would regard it otherwise. Fully to elucidate such matters would carry us far beyond the scope of this and perhaps any mere article. But it deserves stressing that these issues are implicated in both traditions, Muslim and Christian alike, even if voluntarist theologies, with their attendant conceptions of God’s laws as, sometimes, divorced from human conceptions of justice or goodness have exerted greater influence within Islam. Thus, to the extent that scholars readily speak of republican traditions within the “Christian West,” notwithstanding the various and diverse theological complexities, we are no less entitled to do the same in the case of Islam—even as, in both cases, we acknowledge the connection between theological and ethical/legal norms as an important locus for further exploration in view of concerns with arbitrary power and nondomination. At the same time, as noted above, in both traditions there are strong conceptions of God as recognizably just and rightly or appropriately entitled to rule such that this relation is not experienced or regarded as dominating and these laws are not experienced or regarded as arbitrary. 51 We must distinguish between two ways in which God’s laws or rule could be considered broadly republican, only one of which is relevant for our purpose. The salient one given our aims, and that considered here, concerns the question of arbitrariness and entitlement when it comes to God and God’s authority and law. Not salient here is the question of whether God’s laws prescribe or conduce toward forms of governance—for example, mixed constitutional governance—associated with republicanism. We are talking about the character of God and God’s law and a conception of liberty, not the specific forms of governance best suited to the realization of those ideals. Additionally, it must be conceded that within Islamic traditions a voluntarist emphasis on the radical otherness, inscrutability, and even non-(humanly)-rational character of God or God’s laws came to exercise enormous importance. This poses an important counterbalance to the relative importance of republican conceptions of liberty in the tradition, their importance relative to competing conceptions or ideals—though not to the reality of their being values in the tradition. 52 His hand, another hadith claims, is the mīzān, the criterion or measure, of justice (al-Bukhārī 1997, volume 6, hadith 4684). 53 See note 38 above. 54 The distinction I draw here is related to but not identical to that between de dicto and de rei interpretation. It might be best understood as a distinction within de dicto interpretive approaches, but whether that is so, I am at least confident that what I am calling “dialogical” interpretation ought to be regarded as a species of de dicto interpretation. There is much more to explore here, however. And there are also differences among the various examples/cases I am considering (i.e., the game example, the freedom issue, and the two H2O cases), but these do not bear on my basic point. For more on all this, see, for example, Brandom 2002, 94–111 (but note that I am using “dialogue” here to refer to different cases/practices than those Brandom brings in view in his talk of dialogue. The closest he comes to treating the sort of case we have in view in that text is at the bottom of page 96). 55 One way of putting the difference, but not the only way—and not one that exhausts the difference—is that it is true in every sense to say “Stephen Hawking believes ‘H2O is thirst quenching,’” whereas there is at least one sense in which it is not true to say “Abu Bakr believe ‘H2O is thirst quenching.’” © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Journal of the American Academy of ReligionOxford University Press

Published: May 8, 2018

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