NATURAL JUSTICE UNDER THE SCOPE OF RHETORIC: THE WRITTEN AND THE UNWRITTEN LAWS IN IBN RUSHD’S POLITICAL AND LEGAL PHILOSOPHY
This dissertation explores the works of Ibn Rushd and identifies an appropriation of Aristotle’s concept of natural justice, paying attention to the distinction he makes between the written laws (al-sunan al-maktūba) and the unwritten laws (al-sunan ghayr al-maktūba) in his Middle Commentary to Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Talkhīṣ al-khaṭāba), and parallel views in his legal works. My study argues that Ibn Rushd’s legal and political philosophy advances a concrete view of Aristotle‘s natural justice, which anchors ethic in the normative framework of sharī‘a. Ibn Rushd’s conception of natural justice, I propose, is best evidenced in his view on the political and epistemological value of rhetoric and its relation to law. I further argue that Ibn Rushd asserts the necessity of rhetoric to ensure justice—which he considers key to political stability. Ibn Rushd, therefore, constructs his conception of natural justice under the epistemological scope of rhetoric, through the prism of the unexamined opinion (bādi’ al-ra’y al- mushtarak), a quasi-rational view of instinct opinion shared among people. I locate this discussion within Ibn Rushd’s views of the written laws and the unwritten laws and their relation to natural justice.The thesis proposes that Ibn Rushd identifies two modes for natural justice: in potentiality, based on natural human inclination, accessible to the masses; and in actuality, linked to the elite, and only accessible to qualified jurists, through ijtihād. Ibn Rushd successfully bridges this proposed divide between the masses and the elite, through setting public approval as a condition: he grounds the concept of natural justice in the unexamined opinion, thus providing the epistemological criteria for the qualified jurist to frame arguments curated to garner public approval. Finally, I show how Ibn Rushd contextualizes his conception of the Stagirite’s natural justice within sharī‘a, which, he contends, encompasses both the written laws and the unwritten laws: the written, such as the ḥudūd punishment; and the unwritten associated with the Qur’anic ethical concepts and the objectives of the law grounded in the different legal precepts (al-qawā‘id al-fiqhiyya). The importance of my contribution lies in challenging the dominant position, which has long held that Ibn Rushd equates sharī‘a with truth, instead I underline how Ibn Rushd presents the practical efficiency of sharī‘a as the sole ground to its evidence. In advancing novel discussions and unfolding unexamined connections, the thesis of my work revisits this correlation to underline the connection between sharī‘a and practical philosophy.
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