interlevensbeschouwelijke dialoog

Deze pagina bevat de Engelse tekst van de toespraak van prof. Mehmet Aydin op 25 april 2001

De Nederlandstalige tekst van de toespraak van prof. Mehmet Aydin op 25 april 2001 vind je op pagina

Een biografie en een bibliografie van prof. Mehmet Aydin vind je op pagina


Professor Mehmet S. AYDIN


Can Islam, as a religion and culture, meet the requirements of modernity? Towards the end of the nineteenth century a similar question was put forward in regard to science and technology. The well-known French thinker and orientalist E. Renan said “no”, not because of the Muslims but because of Islam itself. For him there was something wrong with Islam inherently.

Ever since scholars, scientists, philosophers and many others started talking about different conceptions and several limitations of science, especially of social science, and different conceptions of modernity as well as plurality, it has dawned upon some Muslim intellectuals to formulate those questions from their own theological and cultural points of view: Is it possible to infuse some thing Islamic, at least, into our philosophical analyses and evaluations of the concept of science? Does Islam have to meet all the requirements of modernity? At least modernity in its dominant forms require a kind of rationality, relativism, individualism, liberalism and the like. Can Islam accept a rationality which is not open, say, to revealed knowledge, even to humankind’s moral and esthetic experiences? In other words, can Islam be in keeping with a rationality which heavily relies on a narrowly defined special cognitive structure, meaning and value system?[1] Needless to say, not only the Islamic awareness but the contemporary post-modern, deconstructionist and especially hermeneutical outlook force us to take these questions seriously for the sake of some broader conceptions of rationality, modernity and so forth.

Comparing with the theoretically unmanageable concept of modernity, pluralism seems to be somewhat less complicated. The term is a recent coinage, but the problem it indicates is as old as the human history. Pluralism, as we all know, is used both descriptively and prescriptively. In its former usage the term usually refers to cultural, political, ethnic, racial and religious plurality or multiplicity as a matter of fact. In this sense the term is associated both with a state of mind, and with a socio-political condition. When we talk of pluralism we refer, to begin with, to a deeply embedded psychological attitude toward different areas of freedom, human rights, democracy, secularism as well as “our relations with others”. Secondly, we also refer to our general policy of (even our handling) those areas socially, politically and even eschatologically. It should be remembered that many debates which have been going on among theologians and religious people sometimes end up with an existential concern about the question of eschatology, i. e., “who is going to be saved, in the light of our holy texts and respective religious traditions?” The question of religious pluralism is mainly theological; that is why it is now being studied under the title of the “Theology of World Religions” or “World Theology”. Like many other serious theological issues, this topic has also become a part of the philosophy of religion, whose well-known representative is the British Philosopher John Hick. In the following minutes I will refer to some of his opinions; but here it is sufficient to state that according to Professor Hick, the Ultimate Reality (or Truth) is one, but since that Reality belongs to the realm of noumenon, to use a Kantian terminology, our “religious” response to It cannot rest on “knowledge” (again in the Kantian sense). Therefore we have to take any response seriously and respect it. Does such an approach lead us to relativism or irrationalism? I will come to this point when I try to see the relation between commitment to one’s own faith and the acceptance of a pluralist vision.

We have to keep in mind that the theological and philosophical aspects are only the two most important dimensions of pluralism. The issue is also important in respect to social and political matters as well as international relations. In his writings, which I had the chance to read, Professor Dieter Senghaas of Bremen University is mainly interested in this latter aspect of pluralism, although here and there he makes some references to the theological problems as well. I too did not spear much time for the philosophical problems concerning the topic at hand, since the discussions of pluralism in respect of Islam are taking place mostly around theological and socio-political issues.

As for the prescriptive and evaluative use of the term, it refers to pluralism de jure or “in principle”, i.e., the idea that pluralism has its own right to be respected. Here pluralism is seen not only as something to be identified, recognized, and tolerated but to be accepted, encouraged as a social virtue and thus protected and defended on legal, moral, political and even, according to many, religious grounds. No doubt, this is a very sensitive issue both ethically and religiously. How can a religious person encourage a religious system which he or she believes to be partly at least, “corrupted” by “the human hand”, or reflects only a pale ray of Divine light, or carves out only a very long and thorny  path to the Kingdom of Heaven. How can a religious person encourage another religion while his or her religion asks him or her to “proclaim” to “evangelize” or “work for da’wa” (i.e., preaching and spreading Islam)? William Montgomery Watt, the famous British scholar on Islam, asks the following question in his book entitled Islam and Christianity Today (London, 1983): “Are the various world religions ready to accept one another as fellow climbers of the cloud covered mountain on whose summit in the mists God dwells unseen?”

In his review of the book Father Maurice Bormans puts this question to his own brothers and sisters in faith: “Can Christian believers agree with this parable about the “unseen God” while they know, by grace, that God spoke... through his Son.... the radiant light of his glory and the perfect copy of His nature (Hebrews 1: 2-3)? “Wisdom asks”, says Fr. Bormans, Christians and Muslims to be constantly aware of the real limits and possible developments of dialogue as well as to accept... unexpected suffering...”[2]

The feeling and even dimly identifiable anxiety that Professor Bormans expresses is quite genuine and fairly widespread among religious people belonging to different traditions. I will say something more about this in the following pages when I touch upon the importance of commitment in the process of engagement in religious pluralism.

Like the term pluralism, Islam too (as a creed, culture and civilization) has never been understood and interpreted in a monolithic fashion. That is why the Muslim world has had-and still has- any divergent religious movements. No doubt, Islam, like all the great religions of the world, has its own immutable essentials and thus a strong creedal foundation. For example, no one can be called Muslim unless one believes in the onness of God, prophetic revelation, life after death, human accountability. Again, he or she has to believe that there are truth (al-haqq) and falshood (al-batil) in matter of faith, the licit (al-halal) and the illicit (al-haram) in matters of religion and daily practice; and the things approved (al-ma’ruf) and disapproved (al-munkar) in matters of moral life. None of these can be denied or explained away.

This does not mean, however, that the details concerning these matters are free of disputations. For example, no Muslim doubts the oneness of God, but the nature of this oneness, or other Divine attributes have always been hotly a debated issue. The Islamic intellectual history has witnessed approximately one hundred theological schools, if we take the sub-divisions into consideration. There are around ten legal schools, more than two major philosophical traditions and a variety of sufi (mystical) paths or orders. Like all other great world religions, Islam cannot escape pluralist interpretations. Understanding this not only as a historical fact, but as a theologically inescapable situation, may be an important prerequisite for a productive relationship to pluralism. Not only the theological schools developed fully after the formative period of Islamic thought and practice, but the manifold interpretation of the Qur’an from the seventh century onwards could be defined as “pluralist” with their own environment. Islam itself has nolens volens created, a plurality of interpretations to the point of schism. Here it is worth to remember al-Ghazali (d. 1111) who says that “the Text” (or the Book) is one but the meanings are many. Some interpretations, or rather explanations, heavily rely on “the external” (zahir) meanings of words, phrases, as well as on the “occasions of revelation” (asbab al-nuzul). Some interpreters concentrate on legal, some on philosophical and spiritual (mystical) dimensions of relevant verses. This poly-interpretive activity is still going on, although with some serious difficulties as I will explain later on. To see this it is enough to have a brief look, for example, at the works of two contemporary thinkers, both are coming from the same religious environment, i.e., Pakistan: Fazlur Rahman and Al-Mawdudi, the former is being regarded as the modernist Muslim par excellence, whereas the latter has sometimes been labeled as the fundamentalist par excellence.

Coming to the modern times, the general scene is quite similar. The overall activity of rethinking and interpreting Islam is astonishingly rich and divergent, although none of them seems to have been fully grown into a systematic school of thought. There have been traditionalist and neo-traditionalist, revivalist and neo-revivalist, modernist and liberal approaches to understanding and interpreting Islam as a faith and culture. Each of these approaches has a different view of pluralism, although they all have many things in common: they all accept religious diversity as a historical and social fact. In the few last decades the ideas that favour religious dialogue and pluralism began to draw more attention. In fact, some modernist and liberal Muslim thinkers regard pluralism, for example, as a part of Divine design and, thus, richness. This is not something new. Concerning the intra-communal differences the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that “divergence of opinions is a mercy.” Commenting upon the verse which says that “if thy Lord had so willed He could have made humankind one community (umma) but they will not cease to dispute” (11: 118). Ibn Kathir, the well-known early commentator of the Qur’an, states that divergence will continue among people in regard to religions, sects, denominations and opinions.[3] I think, despite some deviations here and there, the Muslims have taken notice of the Qur’anic attitude toward religious plurality. They –at least most of them- did not fail to see that the “Text” sees the plurality of races, colours, languages and creeds as a result of Divine decree. I have already referred to a Qur’anic verse pertaining to this fact. Now, I would like to quote o few more verses which deal with the status of “the People of the Book”, i.e., the Jews, the Christians and the Sabians. This status has always been the starting point of the pluralistic thinking in Islam. Especially the inclusion of the Sabians created the possibility of extending the Qur’anic spirit of pluralism to the adherents of some other religious groups, not mentioned in the Book, when Islam grew geographically and culturally. For example, the Muslim rulers treated the Hindus in the same way as they did the People of Book.[4] Now let us read the following verses:

Say: We have faith in God, and in that which has been sent dawn on Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and that which was given to Moses and to Jesus and the Prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them, and to Him we have submitted. (2: 136; cf. 3: 84).

Another verse clearly refers to the People of the Book in a more direct fashion.

Those who believe [Muslims] the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians –whosoever believe in God and the Last Day, and do good deeds, they shall have their reward from their Lord, shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they come to grief (2: 62, cf. 5: 69).

The Qur’an, while exhibiting this inclusivist attitude, criticizes the Jewish and the Christian exclusivism directed against each other during Muhammaed’s preaching of Islam. Here are the relevant verses:

The Jews say ‘the Christians have nothing to stand on’, and the Christians say ‘the Jews have nothing to stand on’, while both recite the same Book, (2: 113). They say, ‘no one shall enter the Paradise except those who are Jews, or Christians –these are the wishful thoughts (2: 111).

It was on this Qur’anic foundation that the early Medinian community of the Prophet Muhammad fully recognized the existence of other faiths and laid down the principles of peaceful co-existence –usually referred to as “the Medina Charter” which did not only guarantee the freedom of faith and worship but also moral, socio-political, therefore, legal self determination.

Historically speaking, this attitude paved the way for the Muslim policy of the ‘the protected minorities’, or “the People of Pact” (dhimma) and later on for the Ottoman “millet system”, which worked reasonably well for centuries.

So as to give you a clear idea about the general Ottoman attitude toward religious minorities, I would like to refer to a decree (ferman) of Sultan Mehmed III, “which clearly states”, as Bernand Lewis points out, “the obligations of the Muslim state toward the dhimmis. The date of the document is 1602.[5]

“Since, in accordance with what Almighty God the Lord of the Universe commanded in His manifest Book concerning the communities of Jews and Christians who are the people of the dhimma, their protection and preservation and the safeguarding of their lives and possessions are a perpetual collective duty of the generality of Muslims and a necessary obligation incumbent on all the sovereigns of Islam and honourable rulers. Therefore, it is necessary and important that my exalted and religiously inspired concern be directed to ensure that, in accordance with the noble Shari’a, every one of these communities that pay tax to me, in the days of my imperial state and the period of felicity in composed Caliphate, should live in tranquility and peace of mind and go about their business, that no one should prevent from this, nor any one cause inquiry to their persons or their possessions, in violation of the command of God and in contravention of the Holy Law of the Prophet”.

Here it is worth nothing that the obligation towards the People of the Book, which is a duty laid down by Divine Law, ought to be taken account not only by the ruler but by every Muslim. To abide with the Law is not only a political obligation but an ethical and religious obligation as well.

During the long Ottoman-Turkish experience the “Millet System” had changed considerably. From the Tanzimat period (1839 is the date of “Declaration of Tanzimat”) onward it moved towards a kind of constitutional citizenship which is now unanimously defended in the Muslim countries, even on theological grounds[6]

Those who are familiar with the content of the Qur’an know well that the Book provides us with some clear instructions from which it is quite easy to deduce some general principles in regard to pluralism, dialogue and so on. To begin with, it identifies Islam, in its primordial sense, with all religion, preached and practiced by the previous messengers of whom the Qur’an says that God sees no differences (2: 285). Secondly, as we have noted above the multiplicy of religion is considered by the Qur’an as the result of Divine decree (6: 93; 11: 118). God says “[For each one of you, i.e., as several communities] We have appointed a Law and a Way of Conduct... that He may be tested you; so compete in goodness. To Allah shall you all return” (5: 48). Competing in goodness is what God asks from all believers. But if mutual understanding and cooperation fail, compulsion should not be the alternative course of action. In such cases the Qur’an tells the Prophet Muhammad to say “Your religion is yours and my religion is mine” (109: 6). Thirdly the Qur’an seems to relate the freedom of faith to the nature of faith itself. In an oft-quoted verse it is said that “there is no compulsion in matters of faith” (2: 256) which has been interpreted to mean that other religions should be tolerated and thus their followers must never be “compelled them to come in.” When we interpret this verse in the light of the verses which narrates Abraham’s existential search for God (cf. 6: 88-9), it becomes clear that religious faith can only be acceptable to God if it is held knowingly, willingly and lovingly. These cognitive, volitional and emotional elements of faith were commented on and fully elaborated especially by the Hanafite-Maturidite school.[7]

What I have said so far in relation to the Qur’an and the Muslim historical experience provide us, I believe, with a sound ground to approach the religious pluralism in a fairly positive manner. Bu we have to remember that pluralism too has its own limits. To begin with, all the great religions of the world have developed easily recognizable self-images some elements of which have their roots in the relevant holy scriptures. Let us take the problem of “uniqueness” as an example. It is said that the Islamic attitude towards “the uniqueness of the Qur’an as Word of God”, and the belief that Islam, as the last revealed faith, is the most perfect and complete form of all theistic religions do not make things easy for pluralism. I believe that such an attitude, whose roots are in the Qur’an (5: 2), is not inimical to a realistic conceptions of pluralism. For example, it does not obstruct the way to a religious pluralism which is defined in terms of recognition, toleration and co-existence. In fact, it supports it and makes it an obligation upon the Muslims, as I have said a little earlier on. But it does not support a relativist kind of pluralism which amounts to believing that any religious faith is as good as any other. Such relativism becomes more problematic when it is accompanied by a moral relativism. In fact many Muslims fear religious pluralism, since they believe that it may lead to some sort of ethical relativism or at least to moral indifference. They claim that if a religion, any religion, sees nothing wrong in an illicit behaviour, which is totally condemned by Islam, do we have to regard it as pluralist richness? If we regard it so, how can we give our children the required moral and religious education?

Belief in the uniqueness of some characteristics of religion is not “unique” to Islam; it is almost universal. It seems that from 1960s onward, when religious dialogue and pluralism gained a fresh momentum, the term “unique” began to play a unique role in religious (especially in the Catholic) discourse. In many official or semi-official Catholic literature references to “the uniqueness (even absolute uniqueness) of Jesus” is abundant. Just a year ago in Newsweek[8] journal we read a statement by the Pope John Paul II, whose contribution to religious dialogue is greatly appriciated. The Pope says: “Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique. If He were only a wise man like Socrates, if He were a prophet like Muhammad, if He were enlightened like Buddha, without doubt He would not be what He is.”

The dominant Muslim discourse does not greatly differ from the spirit and intention of this speech. A Muslim, by just replacing the word Christ with the Qur’an or Muhammad in the quotation and using exactly the same form can easily produce a similar Islamic rhetoric: “If the Qur’an were a wise Book like the New Testament... etc.”

I do not think that it is necessary to spear a great deal of time to explain and evaluate “the uniqueness of Jewishness.” Even some liberal Jewish thinkers sincerely believe that Judaism contains the fullest divine disclosure to a particular people –a people with an absolutely unique historical mission.

I am not saying all this for the sake of criticism, let alone blaming, but for the sake of pointing out almost a universal feeling, or idea and attitude towards one’s own faith. This brings me to the question of commitment and loyalty of which I said I would say something more.

It seems to me quite obvious that in order to recognize, tolerate, defend and even encourage religious pluralism one does not have to leave one’s commitments to one’s own faith at the door. Psychologically speaking, without certain commitments and loyalties we cannot meaningfully talk about a religious personality or religious community. Talk of plurality and religious dialogue gains full meaning when it takes place between people with commitments. In such serious activities like dialogue, it is the commitments that meet each others. Interest in such activities shown by those who have no religious faith, in the sense I am talking about here, or are indifferent to it, have other, mainly socio-political, cultural or historical aims in mind. I agree with Paul Knitter, the American theologian, when he says that one may have a deeper commitment to one’s spouse, and at the same time may appreciate the truth and beauty of other. As a matter of fact, faithfulness brings about more security to marriage life which can enable the person to appreciate things true and beautiful fearlessly.[9]

This analogy is a good example that shows us how far the overall majority of a committed people can go in the direction of religious pluralism: Our religion exhibits the light, the truth; but they do not prevent us from appreciating other religions which have some light, some truth.

Perhaps it is due to the same reason, or reasons that the philosophical idea called “pluralism thesis” do not have enough supporters amongst religious people. This thesis claims, as I have said earlier on, that the Divine reality reveals itself in many ways and forms with equal value. If you can climb to the submit, the prennialist thinkers claim, for example, you can see that each way is a positive response to the Divine presence. Sayed Hossein Nasr, the well-known Muslim thinker, says pluralism or religious dialogue is not for ordinary people who cannot live in more than one religious universe, since they are not in a position to penetrate to the esoteric dimension of religions;[10] only the elect could appreciate the onness in manyness.

In Islamic history the roots of a mild version of this philosophical thesis go back to al-Farabi (d.950). He believes that unlike the philosophical discourse, the language of revelation is symbolic in nature. It is the work of creative imagination (al-takhayyul). Some symbolic forms are better than others, since they reflect the Truth (al-Haqq) in the best possible fashion, whereas others have fallen far away from the Truth to such an extend that one can hardly see which truth they symbolize.[11]

Al-Farabi does not tell us about which symbolic form represents which religion. He may have Islam in mind when he talks about the best form; and idolatry when he mentions the other, perhaps the weakest form. Between these two there are many more symbolic forms which represent other religions with which he was familiar. Ibn al-Arabi (d. 1240) developed this idea and seems to have claimed that no religion can provide us with an adequate conception of “the God-known-to God”; they are all approximations. It seems that Ibn al-Arabi has had a certain influence upon some Traditionalist (with capital “T”) and Prennialist thinkers such as Nasr, R. Guenon, F. Schuon and the like.

This philosophical thesis has its merits as well as some serious difficulties with which I am in no position to deal here. It seems that its major premises (i.e., that God cannot be known, and religions are responses, etc.) are generally accepted; but most believers find it difficult to accept one of its main conclusions, i.e., “one response is as good as any other, if understood and interpreted wisely”.

Before I conclude I have to touch upon one or two points which are also relevant to our presentation. It is stated that “Islam is substantially founded upon the Qur’an which is believed to have been conveyed, by revelation of God, to the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, the Qur’an is often referred to as inverbation of God, or ‘scripturizing’ of God. Now this premise  has considerable implications and strengthen, such views as theonomous worldview, community oriented outlook, the rule of God and so on.

Do these implications render difficult or even impossible to meet the challenges of some forms of pluralism? Well, it depends on how we understand and interpret those implications. If they are interpreted in a ‘fundamentalist’ fashion, so to speak, especially some versions of pluralism may have no chance to gain roots.

Stating it briefly, Islam, as I have just pointed out, is ‘a religion of the Book’. The importance of the Book in the individual and collective life of the Muslim (including his or her social, economic and political life) is beyond any discussion.

Needless to say, the Qur’an is not a book on social or on economic theory or system. But this does not mean that the Qur’an is not a source of inspiration for the life-experiences I have just mentioned. Deducing a social, political or economic system is one thing, and taking the Book as a guide or source is something else. Such an attitude does not have to blind us to see the original socio-historical context to which the Text primarily addresses. One of the first aims of the Text is to create a deep and strong God-consciousness in the individual self and to prepare him and/or her to see the world through that consciousness.

Secondly, the other central aim of the Qur’an, as Fazlur Rahman says,[12] “is to establish a viable social order on earth that will be just and ethically based.” The Book asks the believers (the Umma) to work for the establishment of goodness and the elimination of evil. The best community is the one that locates itself in the happy medium and thus becomes witness upon humankind. (2: 143; 3: 110; 4: 135; 49: 10). The Qur’an insists on social clemency, on the moral fabric of social living, including its political aspect which too ought to be designed under the Moral Law. This is the meaning of community oriented social vision which requires the social virtue, a strong sense of duty and responsibility. Does this mean that the Text ignore the individual, and eventually subordinate “right” to “good” in communal life? I do not think so. Such clear distinctions are usually made in the books on moral philosophy. Speaking from the Qur’anic point of view, securing the fundamental rights of the individual constitute the moral foundation of the communal life. In a society where the rights of the individual are systematically violated, the community dimension of ethical living may have little chance to grow.

In the Muslim world there are serious human rights problem and the Muslim ruling classes are rather authoritarian. But religion as a social fact is only partly responsible for this situation. The roots of the problem of authoritanianism should be searched first in the dominant political culture, in the unbeareble economic condition, in the webb of international relations, and then perhaps in the modern Islamic thought and practice.

In other words, religious pluralism ought to be taken account in connection with all other relevant social factors. In a society where the rule of laws and social justice are established, the demand for democratic participation is met, a broad range of roles is allocated to every one, violence is systematically reduced and lastly a general political culture of constructive conflict management exists, the religion and the religious life will get more chance to be more religious and less political, ideological and the like. But if a country does not have a pluralist constitutional framework, political culture, a just socio-economic system, it can never develop a pluralist vision even if there are certain liberal tendencies in religious life. We know well that the modern Islam has witnessed many liberal attempts in the field of religion from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The movement initiated by the Ottoman Young Turks in1860 s[13], the so-called modernist trend represented by such personalities as Shah Waliyyullah Dehlevī, Seyid Ahmed Khan in the Indian sub-continent, by Afganī and Abduh in Egypt, and by Said Halim Pasha, Mehmed Ākif and others in Turkey had strong liberal and liberational elements in their ideas and thoughts. In some sense they all failed or, at least, did not reach the level which was hoped for. The reasons for this failure were many: the existence of a strong conservative, even reactionary impulse, the misuse of religion for mundane purposes, anti-democratic political structure, military intervensions and the lack of liberal educational institutions. Western ethno-centrism, emperialist international politics and the Christian missionary activities have added a pinch of salt to the wound. All these contributed, in their turn, to the rise of the so-called political Islam with its now fairly well known agenda whose major items are political rather than religious. Religiosity in the sense of moral and religious sensivity and consciousness, which the Qu’ran calls taqwa, is not always abundant, as we sometimes naively think it to be.

Still, I am not pessimistic. The need for a viable democracy and socio-economic justice is becoming urgent, the number of Muslim intellectuals is increasing. They are also aware (and luckily so) of the Western achievements and failures. Many of them seem to realize now that the way to solve at least some of these pressing problems passes through an area which extends between a rather abstract, procedural liberalism, and suffocating, regressive communitarianism. Having the well-established Islamic values and the results of modern thought and science in mind, the Muslim intellectuals have to develop a new understanding of what one may call “a communitarian liberalism”. While trying to do this they have to try to be thoroughly familiar with the Western experience, including the Christian dimensions of that experience in order to learn on the one hand, and not to repeat the same mistakes on the other hand. I personally share the views of those Western thinkers who believe that especially from the Enlightenment onward Christianity has not been doing enough in its efforts to combine the rational, scientific and liberal values with ethico-spiritual values of religion.

There are, of course, many other things that they have to do. For example, they have to work hard in order to create a socio-political climate where the dialogical and “communicative action”, to use the well-known phrase of J.Habermas, can take place without a fear of suppression. Only in this way can a new cultivation of the public space, where plurality of all kinds meet, becomes possible. This cultivation will enrich the practical life which seems to have its own special logic. Most good changes come into being not as the results of some well-defined and vehemently pursued projects but nearly as by-products of practical living of “libenswelt”. Many Islamist movements, for example, considered the multi-party system with different programmes as something un-Islamic, even anti-Islamic; but now-a-days they themselves want to be accepted and registered as political parties.

In all great traditions, a new understanding and interpretation of the sources and the rich historical experience are indispensable. Due to many historical and political reasons, the cultural elements that are favourable for dialogue, pluralism and commonality may have remained uncultivated in all cultures. Now they too have to be brought to the foreground.

Here a double movement may be helpful: To go from reality, from real issues and problems to the sources, and from sources back to reality. In other words, both inductive and deductive methods should be employed together. While doing this, it must be remembered that all the relevant methods concerning historical, cultural, linguistic, literary and philosophical studies may –in fact do– have something to contribute. Both the so-called hegemonic religious reason and religious essentialism ought to be the subject-matter of this comprehensive scientific approach. I am sure that the results of scientific endeavour will pave the way for the removal of many naive and irrational beliefs, unfounded prejudices, many ideas and practices which are traditional and historical rather than religious. This, if happens, will clear the floor for internal pluralism, i.e., pluralism at home, which is desperately needed in many the so-called developing countries. I would like to emphasize this point. Historically speaking, for example, the general Muslim attitude toward other faiths have always been more tolerant than the attitude toward internal divergences. This was not perhaps very destructive in times when social homogeneity had the upper-hand. But in our multi-cultural, multi-religious time the mind which is open and sensitive to plurality ought to start growing at home. To be sure, divergences are not to be  (and perhaps ought not to be) acceptable in every condition. No serious Muslim will be ready to accept, for instance, an interpretation which can not be argued and defended on rational and textual (in a very broad sense which includes a substantial part of tradition) grounds as Islamic.

Nevertheless, innovations and new approaches, which might aim even to the study of basic sources, including the Qu’ran, by the help of modern scientific means, need more encouragement and space. It is here that some Muslim intellectuals meet disturbing reactions coming from the unenlightened conservative and traditionalist sections of the Muslim community (umma). But even in such a social condition the Muslim world needs more rational arguments, more freedom and more democracy under the supremacy of the rule of law without which no plurality of any kind may have a chance to grow.




[1] For more information see Mehmet S. Aydin, “An Islamic Evaluation of the Modern concept of Rationality”, in Islam and the Challenge of Modernity, ed. Sharifa al-Attas, ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur 1996, pp. 73-79.

[2] Islamo-Chistiana, 11, 1985, pp.268, 270,271.

[3] See his Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim, Beirut, 1980, vol., 2, p.466.

[4] see I.R. al-Faruqi, “Towards a Critical World Theology” in Towards Islamization of Disciplines, Heindon, I.I.I.T. 1989.

[5] Quoted by b. Lewis, The Jews of Islam, Princton U.P. 1984, pp.43-4. Cf. Adnan Arslan, Religous Pluralism in Chiristian and Islamic Philosophy, Curzon Press, Surrey,1998, pp.199-200.

[6] See Fehmi Huwaydi, Muwatinun la Dhimmiyyun (Citizens not Dhimmis, Beirut 1985).

[7] For more information se Toshico Izutsu, Belief in Islamic Theology, Tokyo 1965.

[8] March, 2000, p. 73.

[9] Paul Knitter, No Other Name, New York 1985, p. 201.

[10] A. Arslan, Op. Cit., p. 259.

[11] For more information see, Mehmet S. Aydin, Islam en Dialoog, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 53-61.

[12] See his Major Themes of the Qur’an, Chicago, 1980, pp. 37 f.

[13] According to M. G. S. Hodgson, they were mostly convinced Muslims [who believed that] Islam, properly understood, contained essential principle of Western liberalism. See, The Venture of Islam, 3, University of Chicago Press, 1974, p. 325.

nced Muslims [who believed that] Islam, properly understood, contained essential principle of Western liberalism. See, The Venture of Islam, 3, University of Chicago Press, 1974, p. 325.