Maha. The tyranny of the majority is one of the salient problems of democracy. Different societies have dealt with this problem in different ways – and it isn’t necessarily a problem of scale. As anyone who has ever worked in an office can probably attest, oppressive power structures can emerge in very small groups.

Referring to Islamic traditions, we can easily find classical analyses of law which identify the justification of law in terms of protection of a small set of individual interests. One such formulation attributed to al-Shaatibi declares that the purpose of law is the protection of five “essential interests”: life النفس, reason العقل, religion الدين, property المال, progeny النسل. Some add a sixth, honor. There is a lot of discussion in the classical literature of what these are and what they mean.

The importance of this, however, is that people in this tradition at least have thought about the nature of law and its purpose and have then gone on to uncovered a concise and rational argument that is clearly focused on the protection of the individual in society – protection from the tyranny of the majority