Future of Islam
A Vision of Inclusivity: Islam and the Common Good of Humanity
Second, there are those Muslims who see Islam as a religion and philosophy for humankind. Their vision of Islam is universalistic. They do not regard Islam as the only repository of human salvation, and in this sense, it cannot make exclusive claims. The major source of their connection with all humans is their belief that ethical knowledge is grounded in human nature informed by intuitive reason. Islamic morality is derived through conventional wisdom and moral insight discerned in the process of living with others in society. This genre of Islam affords centrality to the overlapping consensus in the matter of moral commitments that not only affect communal bonds but also advance intercommunal relations in the public forum. Many in the Muslim world today find this renewed emphasis on shared religious-secular ethical commitments for the public good relevant to their future in the ever-shrinking national and cultural boundaries and the emergence of global universalism at many levels of their material and cultural relations with larger human communities.
Third, there are many people in the Muslim world who regard Islam as the unique and exclusive experience of the truth. This genre of Islam is popular among Muslim seminarians and their followers among Muslim masses. Moral progress is achieved insofar as secular morality comes to conform to religious morality. This is the traditional perspective of Islam that recognizes external forms of religious rituals as secure and sufficient means to effect salvation without any need to relate them to moral progress of the individual or the community. Traditional Muslims do not regard interfaith dialogue as an intellectual and sincere endeavor to understand the non-Muslim other. In fact, the majority of them do not believe even in the internal dialogue between different schools of thought and sects among Muslims (for example, between the majority Sunnites and the minority Shi'ites).
Throughout history the phenomenological integrity of Islamic tradition has remained dependent upon the ways in which scriptural sources were retrieved and manipulated to justify one interpretation or another. One can detect reformist or "return to the fundamental teachings" agendas among various groups stretching from the shores of Atlantic to the areas in Central Asia. Needless to say, whether pursuing reformist or traditionalist agendas, these interpretations impacted the reality of religious diversity in terms of interfaith relations or freedom of religion in Muslim societies. The traditionalist interpretations of Islam have led to religious conflicts in the Muslim world. These interpretations pose the most significant threat to the public forum that aspires to bind persons apart from any religious commitments. The related problem in this traditional discourse is that it disregards the historicism of the normative sources, which leads to many misunderstandings and unjustified accusations about Muslims and their scriptures among non-Muslim powers. It is for this reason that I believe that in order to advance democratic governance in the Muslim world there is a need to sit in dialogue with the third kind of Islam that regards religious considerations as critical in shaping the consensual politics in Muslim societies.
Historically there has not been any other time than the 21st century for the traditionalist Muslim leaders to do more than pay lip service to human dignity as the sole criterion for respect and tolerance of the cultural and religious ‘other'. Globalization of world economy has led to the intense search for some stronger bond than the existing system of international relations assumed under a world body like the UN. Even the moral commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has fallen short of the actual promotion of the inherency doctrine that undergirds this noble effort to promote the rights of religious or ethnic minorities who continue to labor under various forms of discrimination under national governments. In some ways it is the traditionalist interpretations of Islam that have provided sanctions for the majority Muslim governments to continue to stifle all endeavors toward improving the state of flagrant violations of human rights of all citizens. So far international agencies like the UN have not considered their essential role of bringing the main players -- both political and religious -- to the table to negotiate a better understanding between militant and traditionalist Muslim leadership and those Muslim governments whose claim to political legitimacy is challenged by their own citizens.