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COMPARISON AND HISTORY IN THE STUDY OF RELIGIOUS ETHICS: An Essay on Michael Cook's Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought



Qur'an 3:104 speaks of “commanding right and forbidding wrong” as a constitutive feature of the Muslim community. Michael Cook's careful and comprehensive study provides a wealth of information about the ways Muslims in various contexts have understood this notion. Cook also makes a number of comparative observations, and suggests that “commanding” appears to be a uniquely Muslim practice. Scholars of religious ethics should read Cook's study with great appreciation. They will also have a number of questions about his comparative comments. In this article, I suggest that scholars of comparative ethics should think less about the “uniqueness” of the materials examined by Cook, and more about the ways groups of human beings discipline their members, thereby constituting and maintaining themselves as communities of virtue.