Rethinking International Relations Theory in Islam

Mohammad Abo-Kazleh

The legal foundation of foreign relations in Islam is based on Sharīy’ah. The original sources ofSharīy’ah are the Quran and the Prophetic traditions (Sunnah). Derived from Sharīy’ah is theFiqh or Islamic jurisprudence which covers the myriad of problems and issues that arise in thecourse of man’s life. (al-Mawdūdī, 2002) Among the main issues which the contemporaryIslamic jurisprudence attempt to deal with are foreign relations in Islam. Muslim jurists havedeveloped different opinions about the organizing principle of foreign relations in Islam. Some(hereafter referred to as traditionalists) who were influenced by the realistic tendency of Islamicstate, particularly during the periods of Conquest, believe that foreign relations in Islamoriginally depend on the attitude of non-Muslim groups or states toward Islam and Muslims.Therefore, the basis of foreign relations of Islamic state is fight, but under certain conditions. Incontrast, other jurists (hereafter referred to as pacifists or non-traditionalists) believe that theorigin of foreign relations in Islam is peace, because the Quran unambiguously states “there isno compulsion in religion.”(2: 256) Di conseguenza, the principle of war advocated bytraditionalists is, non-traditionalists believe, not compatible with this unrelenting Quranic rule.The differences over the original principle of foreign relations in Islam are usually attributed tothe fact that exegetes of the Quran most often diverge in their approach to analyze andunderstand the related Quranic verses, and this create a dilemma in Islamic jurisprudence. Theproblem is complicated because proponents of both approaches depend on Quranic verses tojustify their claims.

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