Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-96cn4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-29T17:04:49.690Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Is There an Islamic Ethic of Humanitarian Intervention?1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2012


Recent interventions by non-Islamic states into conflicts involving Islamic nations have shifted the focus of debates within the Muslim community from the conflicts themselves to whether non-Muslim states have the moral right to intervene into Muslim matters at all. Hashmi delivers an overview of fundamental issues Western leaders ignored when evaluating their power of intervention in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. In Islamic law (sharia), for example, national sovereignty carries an explicitly separate and less clearly defined meaning than in Western philosophy. Lack of consensus within the international community on the definition and criteria of intervention exacerbates even further the flaw of not incorporating non-Western thought into the decision-making process of intervention. In the aftermath of the Cold War, Hashmi proposes this as a long overdue moment for reassessing the UN chapter on intervention, reappraising the value of human rights and justice, and most important, including Islamic thought into the new system.

Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1993

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


2 According to a recent report submitted by Médecins Sans Frontières to the United Nations, seven of the ten “most serious” crises threatening the imminent annihilation of entire populations due to war, disease, displacement, or famine involve large Muslim populations (Médecins Sans Frontières, Populations in Danger [London: John Libbey & Co., 1992]).Google Scholar

3 Akehurst, Michael, “Humanitarian Intervention,” in Bull, Hedley, ed., Intervention in World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 99Google Scholar.

4 Gardner, Richard N., Three Views on the Issue of Humanitarian Intervention (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1992), 2127Google Scholar.

5 Chopra, Jarat and Weiss, Thomas G., “Sovereignty Is No Longer Sacrosanct: Codifying Humanitarian Intervention,” Ethics & International Affairs 6 (1992), 95117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 al-Ahsan, Abdullah, OIC: The Organization of the Islamic Conference (Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1988), 36Google Scholar.

7 See Lewis, Bernard, “Politics and War,” in Schacht, Joseph and Bosworth, Clifford E., eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), 156209Google Scholar; Gibb, Hamilton A.R., “Constitutional Organization,” in Khadduri, Majid and Liebesny, Herbert J., eds., Low in the Middle East: Origins and Development of Islamic Law (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1955), 327Google Scholar.

8 For a review and critique of the impact of secularism on Islamic political thought, see Rahman, Fazlur, Islam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 212–34Google ScholarPubMed.

9 Cited in Hassan, Parveen Feroze, The Political Philosophy of Iqbal (Lahore: Publishers United Ltd., 1970), 203–4Google Scholar.

10 Iqbal, Muhammad, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1989), 126Google Scholar.

11 Cited in Rajaee, Farhang, Islamic Values and World View: Khomeini on Man, the State, and International Politics (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983), 77Google Scholar.

12 Ibid., 82–85.Google Scholar

13 See Peters, Rudolph, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern Times (The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1979Google Scholar).

14 Abedi, Mehdi and Legenhausen, Gary, eds., Jihad and Shahadat: Struggle and Martyrdom in Islam (Houston: Institute for Research and Islamic Studies, 1986), 96Google Scholar.

15 Reports of volunteer Muslim fighters in Bosnia range from four to five hundred. Many have had prior combat experience in Afghanistan. See New York Times, November 14, 1992; and December 5, 1992.Google Scholar

16 For a review of the Sunni legal literature, see Fadl, Khaled Abou El, “Ahkam al-Bughat: Irregular Warfare and the Law of Rebellion in Islam,” in Johnson, James Turner and Kelsay, John, eds., Cross, Crescent, and Sword (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 149–78Google Scholar. For a review of Shi'i approaches to the same subject see Kohlberg, Etan, “The Development of the Imami Shi'i Doctrine of Jihad,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 126 (1976), 6878Google Scholar.

17 See the discussion by Gibb, “Constitutional Organization,” 3–27.Google Scholar

18 See the review by Salahuddin, Muhammad, “Political Obligation: Its Scope and Limits in Islamic Political Doctrine,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 3 (December 1986), 247–64Google Scholar.

19 See, for example, the text of the “Declaration of Mecca,” a statement of Muslim scholars and activists meeting under the auspices of the People's Islamic Conference justifying collective Muslim action against Iraq (Foreign Broadcast Information Service [Near East and South Asia], January 14, 1991, pp. 4–7).Google Scholar

20 Many Western theorists have also argued the problematic conduct of the war according to jus in hello criteria. See Hoffmann, Stanley, “Bush Abroad,” New York Review of Books, November 5, 1992, p. 56.Google Scholar, and the essays by Jean Bethke Elshtain, Stanley Hauerwas, and Michael Walzer in Decosse, David E., ed., But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War (New York: Doubleday, 1992)Google Scholar. See also Middle Watch, East, Needless Deaths in the Gulf War (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991Google Scholar).

21 Abedi and Legenhausen, Jihad and Shahadat, 105.Google Scholar

22 Al-Ahsan, OIC, 128.Google Scholar

23 For reviews of the QIC's role in the conflicts in Bangladesh, Iran-Iraq, and Afghanistan, see ibid., and Mehdi, Haider, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC): A Review of Its Political and Educational Policies (Lahore: Progressive Publishers, 1988Google Scholar).

24 Impact International, December 11, 1992, p. 21.Google Scholar