Social Justice in Western and Islamic Thought: A Comparative Study of John Rawls's and Sayyid Qutb's Theories

Rahman, M Taufiq (2014) Social Justice in Western and Islamic Thought: A Comparative Study of John Rawls's and Sayyid Qutb's Theories. Scholars' Press, Saarbruken, Germany. ISBN 978363966980


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This study tries to identify and analyze two types of thought, i.e. Western and Islamic thought, in dealing with the problems of social justice. This study, then, is a comparison of two theories of social justice using conceptual analysis, investigating conceptions or meanings in a concept. By this method, it is found that the West, which is here represented by John Rawls, shows that the problems of social justice are the problems of inequality, distribution, capability, and stability. By this framework, Islam, represented by Sayyid Qutb, has its own answers to such aforementioned questions. Hence, by using a comparative method of analysis, the present writer attempts to search similarities and differences between the two thinkers being examined. In the level of concepts, both thinkers have the same framework, i.e. the problems, the methodology, and the solutions to the questions of social justice. In the level of conceptions, however, both writers have differences. Concerning methodology, Rawls shows that the West only concerns that the problems of social justice should be solved in this world. Here, the West not needs divine answer to the problems. Therefore, to Rawls, the references to think about social justice are around human reason, history, and intuition. From such references, Rawls creates a methodology to find the solution of social justice, i.e., by going back to the original position. This original position is a hypothetical stipulation that if we do not know our destiny in the future, we can enact the similar principles of justice. Qutb, on the other hand, states that Islamic sphere of thought is a holistic sphere, including the spheres of this world and the next world. Qutb affirms that all human problems answered by the revelation of God. Thus, for Qutb, the reference to think about social justice is revelation, reason, history, and conscience. From these references Qutb calls for applying Islamic teachings in all aspects of life, including social life. Qutb, then, proposes a methodology of returning to Islam (Islam in power). It is by returning to Islam that the principles of justice can be known and practiced. To the problems of social justice, both writers have different answers. To the problem of inequality, Rawls says that it can be minimized by way of maximizing the minimum (maximin), that is, the most advantaged should satisfy the least advantaged. All social practices should be directed to equality of human dignity, so that in due process, all differences in social and economic classes will not influence anymore to the public life. It is in the public life that humans feel and get equality. Qutb, meanwhile, states that Islam has no problem in any form of social and economic differences, for Islam has its own system to handle the problem. In Islamic society, all differences are nothing if they are backed by piety. To this, all should have an opportunity to gain the piety. Otherwise, the social system should help those who could not do spiritual things by way of –among others—zakat, charity, and the like. To the problem of distribution, Rawls asserts that the state has a right to distribute social primary goods such as liberty, opportunity, income, wealth, and self-respect; so that there is no one being the victim of injustices. To the same problem, Qutb suggests that distribution can be done by the authority by the maxim “In order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you.” Qutb adds that this principle of distribution should be strengthened by personal will, i.e. by ways of charity, gift, etc. On the problem of capability, Rawls insists that the social system should urge everyone to improve and make others to be improved at the same time. The attempt to do this is providing the means to support human equality. Education, for example, should take the disabled and the poor as the standard. Qutb also says that Islam urges the improvement of the individuals. Nevertheless, individual outstanding talents are common assets of Islamic community. On the level of capability, then, there is no difference because of genealogy, race, etc. To the problem of stability, Rawls stresses that a just society should provide formulations for stability. And Rawls holds to the individual faith for internal stability and the supremacy of law for external stability. Here, Qutb agrees with Rawls. The difference is that the law proposed by Rawls is the law made by everyone, and thus it is a just law. Qutb, on the other hand, declares that a just law is made by no one, for it should by made only by God. The solution to the problems of justice, finally, is the birth of the principles of justice and the creation of just structures of society. The principles of justice are the principles of liberty, equality, and solidarity. Both writers have such framework of the principles of justice as follow: (1) In the principle of justice it is found that a just society should uphold liberty and admit basic liberties, where liberty of conscience is the standard, that the limitation of liberty is for the sake of liberty itself, that limitation of liberty is for the society, that the choice of basic liberties can be done by feeling it by all in an initial situation of equality, and that liberty should be prioritized than any other principles. (2) In the principle of equality it is found that a just society should acknowledge equality before the law, equality of citizenship, and equality of opportunity. (3) In the difference principle or the principle of solidarity, it is found that society must be based on the principles of redress, reciprocity, fraternity, and social unity. In the social structure of justice, both writers have the same idea that the political and economic structures of justice are needed. In Rawls, the just structure of society, politically, is a condition where there are political levels like the level of original position, levels of constitutional, legal, and executive/ judicative. Here, Rawls requires constitutionalism, participation, political obligation, political legimitation and delegitimation, and the rule of law. Like Rawls, Qutb also requires the division of power, but the level of initial situation is not the original position, but a contract between the ruler and the ruled in the concept of bay‘ah (vow of allegation). All other things in Rawls’s framework are approved by Qutb. The difference is that Qutb’s teaching is more accentuated in making the individuals just, and not in the institutions as what Rawls’s thought. To Rawls, the structure of economic justice is where there is a competitive market, intervention of the state, equality of opportunity, system of income, wide distribution, the standard of social minimum, and inter-generational justice. Qutb also has similar thought. The difference is that in inter-generational justice, Qutb less stressing on the just savings, even though in general he suggests not to leave Muslim descendants as the weak community. By searching similarities and differences in both thinkers above, it can be stipulated that this present writing attempts to seek inter-civilizational understanding in a multiculturalism of the world today. By this understanding, it is hoped that social justice, the conceptions of which answered each side, can be pertained in each sphere of culture, including its sphere of jurisdiction. Besides, each conception of social justice can also colorize inter-civilizational relationship, so that it can be applied in an international level and can create a universal justice.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social Justice, Social Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Western Philosophy, Islamic Thought
Divisions: Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik > Program Studi Sosiologi
Depositing User: Ph.D. M Taufiq Rahman
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2018 03:12
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2018 03:12

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