Awais Aftab: "What is Liberal Islam?"
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.