Rowhani Thesis: ‘No Laws in Islam Are Immutable’

[Update: Parts of the Ph.D. thesis abstract appear to be copied from another scholar’s work.] Glasgow Caledonian University, the Scottish University where Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani studied in the mid-1990s, has posted abstracts of his Masters’ and PhD. theses. The two papers on Islamic law, written after Rowhani had already served in a number of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

[Update: Parts of the Ph.D. thesis abstract appear to be copied from another scholar's work.]

Glasgow Caledonian University, the Scottish University where Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani studied in the mid-1990s, has posted abstracts of his Masters' and PhD. theses. The two papers on Islamic law, written after Rowhani had already served in a number of high-ranking Iranian government positions, would seem to reaffirm his image as a relative moderate within the country's religious establishment. 

The PhD. thesis submitted in July, 1998, is on the subject of flexibility in Islamic law, arguing that "no laws in Islam are immutable" and that "commands and prohibitions in the Quran are expressed in a variety of forms which are often open to interpretation":

[Update: Parts of the Ph.D. thesis abstract appear to be copied from another scholar’s work.]

Glasgow Caledonian University, the Scottish University where Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani studied in the mid-1990s, has posted abstracts of his Masters’ and PhD. theses. The two papers on Islamic law, written after Rowhani had already served in a number of high-ranking Iranian government positions, would seem to reaffirm his image as a relative moderate within the country’s religious establishment. 

The PhD. thesis submitted in July, 1998, is on the subject of flexibility in Islamic law, arguing that "no laws in Islam are immutable" and that "commands and prohibitions in the Quran are expressed in a variety of forms which are often open to interpretation":

"Those laws which look immutable even in ritual part of the religion are not actually immutable and are subject to change under special circumstances," he writes. "Islamic laws have been developed out of certain conditions and necessities of the time and space. This flexibility must be known as the essential feature of the Islamic law." 

In his 1996 Master’s thesis,  Rowhani looks at " Islamic Legislative Power with reference to the Iranian experience," writing that "Where there is no explicit law (Mantaqah-al-Feraq) in Sharia, legistlation has been permissible and necessary."

He argues that the "Islamic system approves of the principle of the separation of powers and recommends the implementation of this principle as a guarantee for the realization of democracy":

"Iran’s Islamic consultative Assuembly (the Majlis) is the central body for formulating and passing laws, and as it will be argued, the nature of law-making in Iran is not in contrast with that of the West. The only difference is that in the West the principles of the Constitution solely are observed, whereas in Iran, the Islamic principles have an equal place in addition to compliance with the Constitution. "

The Twitter account associated with Rowhani’s campaign has tweeted a link to the theses, so evidently he still approves of them. Of course, we’ll have to see how his beliefs about the flexibility of Islamic law and the the importance of the legislature affect how he actually governs and handles the inevitable conflicts between elected represenatives and religious authorities. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Law

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