Sunday, July 24, 2011

Awais Aftab: "What is Liberal Islam?"

Liberal Muslims
(Image from Friday Times)

My philosophical friend Bill Vallicella drew my attention to Awais Aftab's article "What is Liberal Islam?" in the Pakistani paper The Friday Times. It provides a useful summary of varieties of Muslim liberalism, along with the difficulties that liberal views encounter. Aftab's remark about "Silent Sharia" liberalism says a lot:
[W]e come across Silent Sharia, the idea that Quran and Sunnah are silent on a number of matters, and this silence allows room for progress within Islam. This is a . . . well-known position, but limited in its extent because as it turns out, Sharia with its claim to being a complete code of life is not silent on a whole lot of matters!
That is indeed the problem. Sharia seems to have a judgment to render on every matter of mundane life, not merely on heavenly topics. Aftab notes that one can strive to circumvent the wide-ranging, explicit character of sharia through Contextual Islam and Interpreted Sharia, both of which place limits on Muhammad's own legal rulings, but this need to limit the Muslim prophet's relevance for Modern society already indicates that these two approaches will surely encounter difficulties finding acceptance among Muslims.

Aftab himself acknowledges this problem:
We have here a number of theological traditions in which Islam can be made compatible with modernity and liberalism. The only way these solutions can work is if Muslims are willing to do so, which sadly they still are not.
But he then adds, perhaps too hopefully:
As Daniel Pipes astutely remarks: "Islam can be whatever Muslims wish to make of it." The possibility of a modernist reform is there; templates and prototypes exist. The only question for Muslims is: Are you up for it?
So far as I can see, the most typical answer to this question has been: "Hell, no!"

But read the entire piece, and form your own opinion.

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At 2:51 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Years ago, when I was a journalist, I inteviewed - on the phone - an Egyptian muslim Professor who taught at the University of Florence, Italy. He was a very nice, and liberal, guy.
I finally remarked: "Well, probably not all of your fellow muslims share this kind of views."
He laughed, and said by a very Florentine phrase: "Infatti le busco tutti i giorni!" (In fact, I get a 'good beating' every day!)

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

We can hope for slow change . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:51 PM, Blogger dhr said...

... or a "roll-back": Muslims in the 14th century were much more liberal than nowadays (THAT caused a reaction, which led to the current, 'more traditional' Umma).

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I have the impression that the liberal phase didn't last long . . . and that this depended on where in the Islamic world one lived.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:30 AM, Blogger iaxzero said...

Hello Sir,

Long time back I had argued with you about Islam saying that the prophet Mohammed was a man with a clean chit. But today, I wish to tell you that after a more deeper and honest study of his teachings, I found huge gaping errors in his thinking and functioning, and thousands are suffering.

And you were right when you told me that Islam is more than just a religion, it has a powerful political mass inside it.

Good to be back to normal, and I apologize for my earlier comments which were indeed wrong and foolish.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the comment. I sort of recall the exchange. I was puzzled at the time, but I probably didn't express myself well enough. I often write as concisely as possible due to lack of time, and that can come across as curt or blunt. I don't intend that, but I probably give that impression.

Jeffery Hodges

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