The fine scholar Michel de Certeau wrote: “Even more, in history as in other fields, one day or another a practice without theory will necessarily drift into dogmatism of ‘eternal values’ or into an apology for a ‘timelessness.’ Suspicion could never be extended over every theoretical analysis.” (The Writing of History, p 57) My friend Mustafa Akyol raises questions that need to be addressed in his piece in Prospect magazine Why we need to reform sharia—now. There are multiple ways to address this challenge of the meaning and implementation of the sharia. While Akyol prefers a liberal register there might be other ways to problematize the issues through a critical-historical lens and a non-teleological and non-linear lens or what some might call the need to avoid Whig-theory of history. Whig theory believes that history moves in the direction of progress, which is deeply problematic, since we cannot agree on what we mean by progress. But theorization is required otherwise we drift into multiple kinds of dogmatism. I do have qualms with the headline in Prospect, on the need to reform sharia “now.” I think more than anything, we need to identify the domain of questions and refine them, since the question of sharia in Afghanistan is different from that of America.
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