The Permanent and the Transitional in the Islamic Sources: A Study of Jihad and Hudud


This book posits and discusses a heretofore unexamined subject: the existence in the Quran side-by-side of edicts that were meant to be permanent, universal legal principles, and instructions that were intended to be transitional local rules for Arabian reform at the time of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). The author emphasizes that the Prophet had to address what needed to be reformed in Arabia during his time, while simultaneously delivering God’s final message with its enduring principles and guidance for all humanity. Taking some circumstantial past incidents as binding permanent laws has led to grave errors in understanding particularly the rules of Sharia about fixed punishments for certain crimes (hudud) and about the moral and practical struggle against evil, tyranny and corruption (jihad). In shedding light on the permanent universal and the transitional local in these central contexts, Sharia can be seen as an ever-inspiring and enriching legal source that addresses the needs of modern-day society, rather than as a restricted set of draconian punishments that seem more related to a past stage of humanity.

A world renowned scholar of Islam and pioneering thinker, Dr. Fathi Osman (1928-2010) was the recipient of many distinguished awards around the world “in recognition of his great contribution to the contemporary Islamic thought.” This, his final book, represents the culmination and pinnacle of his thinking over 6 decades. Originally a series of lectures, it was collected and edited in book format by his daughter, Dr. Ghada Osman, who holds a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.