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Islam and Social Policy

Edited by Stephen P. Heyneman

Publication Year: 2004

At a time when more nuanced understandings of Muslim countries and their legal and social practices are urgently needed in the West, the appearance of this collection is especially welcome. In these illuminating and accessible essays, the contributors explain how Islam sees itself in terms of social policy, how it treats women, and how it encourages charity, education, and general social welfare. The essays encompass many regional cultures and draw on court records and legal debates, field work on government ministries, and an extensive reading of Islamic law. In his overview of waqf (similar to the Western idea of a foundation, in which an endowment is set aside in perpetuity for specified purposes), Ahmad Dallal explains how charity, a central organizing principle in Islam, is itself organized and how waqf, traditionally a source of revenue for charitable purposes, can also become a source of tension and conflict. Donna Lee Bowen, in her essay on the position of women in Islamic law, points out the crucial differences between the Islamic principles of family equity and the Western notion of individual equality. In a subsequent essay, Bowen addresses the problems surrounding family planning and the dilemmas that have arisen within the Muslim world over differing ideas about birth control. The two final essays look at specific instances of how the modern state has treated Islamic social policy. Gail Richardson examines zakat, an Islamic tax used to assist the poor, and its administration in Pakistan. Carol Underwood, meanwhile, explores public health policy in Iran, both before and after the Islamic revolution that deposed the Shah. Addressing some of the most profound misunderstandings between Islamic and Western societies, ISLAM AND SOCIAL POLICY will be of vital interest not only to scholars and policymakers but to anyone concerned with Islam’s critical place in the modern world.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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pp. i-v


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. 1-12

These essays constitute a conscious effort to explain how Islam sees itself in terms of social policy. By social policy, we mean how Islam treats women, how it encourages charity, education, and general social welfare. By “Islam,” in this context, we mean many things. We mean the historical precedents of Islamic religious law and how it is organized currently. We include the...

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1. The Islamic Institution of Waqf: A Historical Overview

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pp. 13-43

As mentioned in the introduction, to the extent that all social classes, races, and ethnic groups are treated equally, Islam is a religion of absolute equality. But because inheritance from one generation to the next is carefully prescribed, one can say that Islam also represents a system of wealth redistribution. Essential ...

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2. Islamic Law and the Position of Women

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pp. 44-117

The question of women’s status is one of the most sensitive areas in contemporary Islam. Asymmetry between men and women traditionally has been an integral part of Islam and has emerged as a dynamic social issue in the twentieth century. The Islamic world does not face this tension on gender issues alone...

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3. Islamic Law and Family Planning

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pp. 118-155

The relationship between Islam and family planning is not clear cut. Religion often has a critical influence on a given culture’s natality. Since the majority of the population of the Middle East and North Africa are Muslim, does Islam influence social mores that promote high birth rates and militate against use of family planning measures? If so, what beliefs, teachings...

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4. Islamic Law and Zakat: Waqf Resources in Pakistan

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pp. 156-180

Zakat is the obligatory transfer of a prescribed proportion of property by a Muslim who owns more wealth than the limit dictated under Islamic Law (shari’a). It is a pillar of faith and an act of worship that involves monetary and fiscal action. Literally, zakat is a 2.5 percent tax levied on certain assets, including savings accounts, gold, and silver. The funds collected are used

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5. Islam and Health Policy: A Study of the Islamic Republic of Iran

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pp. 181-206

The Iranian revolution of 1979, inspired by Islamic precepts and presided over by Muslim religious figures, brought Islam to the forefront of social, political, and economic discussions. Subsequent events around the world, in which tragedies have far outweighed triumphs, have kept discussions and debate about Islam and development very much on the global agenda. Political pundits were forced to reformulate some of their conjectures about the Muslim world, while scholarly social...

Glossary of Arabic Terms

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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591791
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514462
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514464

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62188546
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Islam and Social Policy

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Subject Headings

  • Islamic sociology.
  • Islam -- Social aspects.
  • Islam -- Charities.
  • Islam and social problems.
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