NOTE: The following is a mildly edited transcript of the keynote address given by Dr. Jackson at the Annual Community Dinner of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago held on October 15, 2011 in Rosemont, Illinois. It has been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.
What is it about law and religion that embroils jurists and theologians in deep, sometimes acrimonious discussions that critics say deliver less than was promised? Well, for one, they both make progress without making discoveries. Their aim, in other words, is rarely to unearth the unknown in their particular vocations, but rather, to focus on that which is familiar, and yet escapes notice. And that is not entirely an exercise in futility! To quote Wittgenstein, throwing a different light on the familiar, has epistemic value as well, if only because, “the aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity”. (One is unable to notice something – because it is always before one’s eyes). The other similarity that law and religion share, and upon which I will focus more attention—with particular reference to Islam—is that they are both in their own ways quite traditional.