Area of Research
[Call for Papers] Islamic Ethics and the Trusteeship Paradigm: Interdisciplinary Explorations

Background Paper

The question of ethics (al-akhlāq (pl.) in Arabic) in the field of Islamic Studies is nascent. The dominance of the study of jurisprudence and law in approaching Islam and Sharia has eclipsed the message of ethics in the whole tradition. The study of the formative period of Islamic scholarship in general hardly examines ethics as an independent branch of scholarship; ethics hardly appear as an explored discipline or theme in the exegeses of the Quran, the science of the hadith, the study of legal theories and schools, kalam theology, philosophy, and mysticism; it often appears within these major fields of scholarship on the margin. That is, ethics never managed to be an independent field of study in Islamic scholarship, most probably for at least two major reasons: first, ethics have been considered part and parcel of Sharia in general, and Islamic law in particular, and scholars apparently did not see a need in developing an independent discipline to treat the subject; second, because ethics were bound to the legal, and since the legal was bound to the political apparatus that was bound by it in a way or another, there appeared no “intellectual” nor “political” need to develop ethics into an independent discipline that could reply to opposing intellectual or political trends; the early formative period of Islamic kalam experienced this politico-intellectual need, and thanks to it developed the known theological schools that have different ethical attitudes, but this experience did not last long, because a particular school of creed dominated the intellectual and political scene, and erased the need for such a debate on ethics afterwards.

This situation has continued in modern Islamic scholarship, and in Islamic Studies as well, until very recent times in which the topic has come back as a need and not as a luxury, as a reply to the encounter with a modern worldview, and a modern state apparatus and its various manifestations in Muslim majority societies. The nation state in these societies has monopolized religious scholarship by annexing its institutions and nationalizing them, and has consequently appropriated and controlled the voice of many scholars. Besides this intellectual tutelage, some other scholars and political activists have turned Islamic Sharia prescriptions, which is the epitome and the bearer of ethics as seen above by dominant Islamic scholarship, into positive law, and State law to seek to implant through the means of political power and modern nation state apparatus. Outside this politically tarnished reading of the Sharia and Islamic legal theories, critical modern Muslim scholars, some of them trained in classical religious seminaries and institutions and most others trained in modern (secular) universities, besides non-Muslim scholars, have started to look at the sources of ethical theories in Islamic scholarship again, based on modern methodologies in textual analysis and hermeneutics, besides taking into account the historical, and socio-cultural conditions of their revelation, pronouncement, and evolution over time. Ethics, according to this new trend of Islamic scholarships, can have multiple interpretations, even when they are considered the core of the Islamic message, and they are considered so by a major trend of these scholars. Distinguished among these is the Moroccan philosopher Taha Abderrahmane (b. 1944) and his theory of ethics that has developed into what he calls “Trusteeship Paradigm” or “Trusteeship-based Critique” (al-i´timāniyya, or al-naqd al-i´timāni). Trusteeship Paradigm (TP for short) aims at re-grounding Arab-Islamic philosophy on the ethical message that Abderrahmane considers central and dominant in the Islamic worldview, expressed in the Quran and the Prophetic sayings and teachings, and Islamic jurisprudence (usūl al-fiqh). The gist of the paradigm is that the essence of being human is practical ethics (and not abstract reason). Through a series of works from the 1970s, Abderrahmane proposes Trusteeship as an innovative epistemological paradigm that can rehabilitate Islamic scholarship and critically engage with modernity for innovative approaches to other disciplines in the social and exact sciences (politics, education, environment, media, medicine, psychology, etc.).  

The Journal of Islamic Ethics (JIE)- sponsored by the Research Center of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) in Doha (Qatar), which is affiliated to the Faculty of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and published by Brill - launches a Call for Papers that takes the under-researched Trusteeship Paradigm as a background to revisit the question of ethics in Islamic thought. Three major lines of work will be addressed:

  • 1) the link Trusteeship Paradigm builds with classical Islamic scholarship;
  • 2) the engagement of Trusteeship Paradigm with contemporary Islamic scholarship;
  • 3) Trusteeship Paradigm’s engagement with and critique of Euro-American modernity, its ethical theories, and Trusteeship permeation and application to various sciences.

This comprehensive approach aims at understanding as well as contextualizing the propositions of this modern Islamic ethical theory, and how it tackles various sub-topics and converses with other disciplines inside and outside Islamic scholarship.

This Call for Paper-Seminar invites scholars and academics expert in or familiar with the arguments of Trusteeship Paradim of ethics to submit a paper in which they critically deal with how one of the below outlined topics is examined by this paradigm, and how it differs, or not, from the way it has been studied by other Islamic and non-Islamic theories of ethics. The questions corresponding to each topic are not exclusive:

  1. Ethics and/in the Quran and Sunna: how different is ethics in TP from classical exegeses and hadith scholarship? Were classical interpretations of the Quran and Sunna not ethical enough? Or, ethics are contextual and have to adapt to the modern context?
  2. Classical Sharia Rights Preservation and the Place of Ethics: how does TP re-interpret and re-arrange the order of sharia classical five/six rights (al-kulliyat al-khams)? How does TP critique of modern interpretations of sharia differ from other Islamic modern theories?
  3. Kalam theology and philosophical ethics: how is TP different from classical kalam theology and classical philosophical theories of ethics? How is reason in TP different from its counterpart in classical kalam theology?
  4. Islamic legal theories and the non-/centrality of ethics: how tenable and factual is the claim of TP that Islamic legal theories centralized law (“fiqh”) instead of ethics?
  5. Religion, ethics and politics: how does TP propose to contribute to politics in Muslim majority societies while centralizing ethics? Are these ethics public or private, or both? What is the dividing line between the two spheres (private and public) in politics? How does TP critiques secular and religious extremisms?
  6. The question of science and practice (Praxis): what examples does TP take to exemplify for the unethical tendencies in modern science? What ethics does TP centralize in such an argument? Can ethics be neutral
  7. Bioethics and environment: how far can TP provide ethical input to debates in the exact sciences? How different are “practical ethics” of TP different from the “universal ethics” that have guided the sciences so far?
  8. Psychoanalysis and the secularization of ethics: How does TP approach “Western psychoanalysis”? How is psychoanalysis seen as the highest stage of atheist secularization and overcoming of ethics in TP?
  9. The media and the question of ethics: what might be the limits of ethics in public transmission of knowledge through the means of media? Where does the private and public lie
  10. Violence, ethics, and metaphysics: How does TP interpret the ontological moment of ethical creation from the birth of violence? How does IP interpret
  11. Entangled dialogue, pluralism and moral relativism: how can TP as an ethical theory based on a particular religious worldview develop a universal view of dialogue that overcomes particularism without falling in relativism? How does TP approach plural thinking in a cosmopolitan context? How is TP similar to/different from plural epistemologies developing in modern multicultural societies?

Selection of Papers

            Interested scholars and academics are invited to send:

  • An abstract (300-500 words) outlining the major ideas and methodology of the paper;
  • A short biography (500 words) outlining the academic background, main research interests, and major publications.
  • Authors of accepted abstracts will be afterwards invited to submit their full papers (between 7 000 and 10 000 words), according to the timetable below.

Note: Please note the following

  1. Abstracts-papers are expected to analytically and comparatively engage with Trusteeship Paradigm as an Islamic theory of ethics by linking it with other theories of ethics inside the domain of Islamic scholarship, and also with scholarship outside this domain and tradition;
  2. Abstracts-papers that do study either Islamic ethics or Trusteeship Paradigm independently, without examining their points of convergence/divergence will not be considered;
  3. General papers that uncritically introduce Trusteeship Paradigm will not be considered.


Authors of a limited number of accepted leading papers will be invited to participate in a seminar on the topic under study.

Their accommodation and travel expenses will be covered by CILE.


The seminar papers as well as the rest of accepted papers will be published as a thematic in the peer-reviewed Journal of Islamic Ethics or as an edited volume in the book-series Studies in Islamic Ethics (Brill).

The published proceedings will be available via Open Access for wider readership.   


Submissions of abstracts and papers can be in English or/and Arabic. The seminar will be conducted in these two languages as well.

Accepted papers will be translated by the publishers into Arabic/English.


  • February 5, 2018: Deadline for receiving abstracts and bios.
  • February 20, 2018: Notifying authors of accepted abstracts to submit their full papers.
  • July 15, 2018: Deadline for submitting full papers.
  • August 15, 2018: Notifying authors of accepted papers; accepted papers will be sent for translation into Arabic/English.
  • October 14-16, 2018: Organizing the seminar in CILE, Doha, Qatar.
  • November 15, 2018: Submitting the revised papers for peer-reviewing and editing to the Journal of Islamic Ethics or the book series of Islamic Ethics, Brill.


Submissions should be sent to: this email

For any inquiries regarding this Call for Papers, please contact Dr Mohammed Hashas, LUISS University of Rome, at: this email , and Dr Mutaz al-Khatib, CILE-Hamad Bin Khalifa University, at this email .

For inquiries about the Journal of Islamic Ethics, please contact this email.

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