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Dec 10, 2021

Protection from Power

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Mohammad Fadel

University of Toronto

Mohammad Fadel is a professor at the faculty of law at the University of Toronto.

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Lawrence Jannuzzi

Lawrence Jannuzzi

Lecturer at Zaytuna College

Protection from Power

Scholars Mohammad Fadel and Lawrence Jannuzzi discuss the contours of equality, power, and hierarchy from both an Islamic legal and contemporary political perspective.

“[The principle of non-domination] provides a basis for modern Muslims to continually update their own practical law in an effort to remove arbitrary relations of domination. What I would say is that Muslims make a mistake in thinking about the rules of revelation as a ceiling as opposed to a floor because the objection of Qur’anic legislation and prophetic legislation is always to ameliorate concrete conditions of domination.” Mohammad Fadel

“There’s always an element of us and them in ideas of equality… the classical Athenian democracy is a terrific example of that: they were very committed to equality and egalitarianism within the Athenian community—‘Equality for me but not for thee’—[but] while the Athenians were building an empire they did not consider those outside the Athenian political community to be equals in any sense. And I think something like that was going on at the founding of the United States too.” Lawrence Jannuzzi

Is there a way to reconcile modern intuitions about egalitarianism with historical relations based on hierarchy? Mohammad Fadel, professor of law at the University of Toronto, discusses his recent essay, “When Equality Is Not Enough,” with Lawrence Jannuzzi, who teaches constitutional law at Zaytuna College; that discussion, moderated by Ubaydullah Evans, explores what history and tradition have to offer us as we grapple with the current fervor to flatten our societies. The egalitarian impulse expressed throughout history was imperfect in its achievements; whether in Athenian democracy or in the founding of American democracy, hierarchies were honored. Can we have justice without equality, or can we achieve justice by accepting the reality of the created world and working to prevent domination by the powerful? And does Islamic law make distinctions based on identities that in the modern view seem discriminatory?


Mohammad Fadel is a professor of law at the University of Toronto. He is the former Canada Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law. His research areas include business corporations, economic analysis of law, Islamic law, and political philosophy and theory. He received his PhD degree from the University of Chicago and his JD degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Lawrence Jannuzzi teaches constitutional law at Zaytuna College. He is a scholar of history whose primary research areas include medieval theology, ecclesiology, and political theory; English and Italian church; and intellectual history. His secondary research areas are comparative church history and the Reformation in late medieval Europe, Tudor/Stuart England, and Colonial America.


"When Equality Is Not Enough," Mohammad Fadel, Renovatio

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