Human Rights and Reformist Islam

Mohsen Kadivar
Translated by Niki Akhavan 
Preface by Mirjam Künkler

In Translation: Modern Muslim Thinkers, Series Editor: Abdou Filali-Ansary

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, April 2021 (in association with Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, London, United Kingdom)

448+ci pages
ISBN: 9781474449304


Translates the influential collection Haqq al-nas, which argues for the compatibility of human rights and Islam

Human Rights and Reformist Islam critiques traditional Islamic approaches to the question of compatibility between human rights and Islam, and argues instead for their reconciliation from the perspective of a reformist Islam. The book focuses on six controversial case studies: religious discrimination; gender discrimination; slavery; freedom of religion; punishment of apostasy; and arbitrary or harsh punishments.

Explaining the strengths of structural ijtihad, Mohsen Kadivar’s approach is based on the rational classification of Islamic teachings as temporal or permanent on the one hand, and four criteria of being Islamic on the other: reasonableness, justice, morality and efficiency. In the book, all of the verses and Hadith that are problematic in relation to human rights are abrogated rationally according to these criteria. The result is a powerful, solutions-based argument based on reformist Islam – providing a scholarly bridge between modernity and Islamic tradition in relation to human rights.

  • Key features
  • Written by an original and prolific intellectual of the Iranian reform movement
  • Adds an extensive new introduction and annotations throughout the text from Mohsen Kadivar bring the work up-to-date and place it in its academic and public contexts
  • Includes a preface from Professor Mirjam Künkler explaining the importance of the translation and the value of its contribution to current scholarly debate
  • Critically compares Mohsen Kadivar’s approach to Islam and human rights with those of five leading contemporary scholars: Mahmoud M. Taha, Abdullahi A. an-Na’im, Ann E. Mayer, Mohammad M. Shabestari and Abdulaziz A. Sachedina
  • Includes a glossary of key terminology


Foreword: Revising Shariʿa in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Mirjam Künkler

Preface to the English Translation
Mohsen Kadivar


Section I: The Bases for Discussions on Islam and Human Rights

1. From Traditional Islam to End-Oriented Islam

2. The Principles of Compatibility between Islam and Modernity

3. An Introduction to the Public and Private Debate in Islamic Culture

Section II: Islam and Human Rights

4. Imam Sajjad and the Rights of Mankind

5. Human Rights and Reformist Islam

6. Questions and Answers about Human Rights and Reformist Islam

7. Human Rights, Secularism, and Religion

Section III: Freedoms of Belief, Religion, and Politics

8. The Freedom of Belief and Religion in Islam and Human Rights Documents

9. The Rights of the Political Opposition in an Islamic Society

Section IV: Women’s Rights

10. Reformist Islam and Women’s Rights

11. Women’s Rights in the Hereafter (A Theological Reading of the Qurʾan)

Section V: Other Debates in Human Rights

12. The Issue of Slavery in Contemporary Islam

13. The Rights of Non-Muslims in Contemporary Islam

14. Social Security in Islamic Teachings

Bibliography and Sources




Iran, Human Rights, Islam, teleological Islam, spiritual Islam, women’s rights, freedom of expression, ijtihad,