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This essay is a commentary on an article submitted by Professor Lama Abu-Odeh as part of a special symposium edition contained in Volume 10 of the Santa Clara Journal of International Law. In her piece, Professor Abu-Odeh builds on her earlier work respecting Islamic law but adds a new target to her sites, that of the study of national security. That is, we already knew Professor Abu-Odeh’s view of the typical Islamic law scholar. He is one who is focused either on the resurrection of the shari’a in some sort of reconstructed form or involved in a thoroughly misguided search for the truly “Islamic” in our contemporary, messy, hybrid and multipolar world, often disappointed when he cannot find it. In this work, Professor Abu-Odeh informs us that the national security scholar is guilty of something of the same, by ignoring “Muslims as agents of modern history” in considering what national security is supposed to be about.

I can only applaud Professor Abu-Odeh’s focus on the notion of Muslims as agents of their own history. Like her, I find much that is wrong with what passes for national security discussions in our times. My concerns relate to the specific prescription she employs to deal with the problems of national security she outlines above. These relate to the establishment of a single Arab state that is the home of all the Arab peoples. I wonder whether, in advocating such a solution, a contradiction in her work might well be unearthed. It is one thing, after all, to call for changes in regimes or in economic governance in states which seem to have broadly disaffected citizens. It is quite another to call for an obliteration of those states entirely and a return to promises of an ethnically defined nation made by the United Kingdom nearly a century ago. Might we accuse Professor Abu-Odeh, that is, of doing vis-a-vis the Arab what she has deftly and with much justification decried in the study of the Islamic? Is she searching for the genuinely Arab as a “pearl in the shell”? Is she taking account of Arabs as agents of their own history, a history which has developed to no small extent since the end of the First World War, when the dream of the Arab state was thwarted?

Is the resurrection of a single Arab state therefore almost as anachronistic an exercise as attempting the resurrection of Islamic law “in this or that field”? These questions are worth exploring, and this essay endeavors to address them.