Reflections on Ijtihad and Moderate Islam

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Louay Safi

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Abstract

My remarks focus on two central themes addressed in the preceding debate:
moderate Muslim and ijtihad. Although my assignment requires me to
engage the five illustrious interlocutors, I have chosen to refer to salient
aspects of their statements, particularly those that help in clarifying the two
themes alluded to above. Given the brevity of my remarks and the limited
space allocated to comments, it is not possible to expound on the epistemological
and ontological underpinnings of the arguments. The following
arguments, therefore, take the form of a number of assertions that lack theoretical
grounding. This will be felt particularly by readers who do not
share the basic assumptions upon which the arguments are premised. But,
I guess this is exactly what the editor has intended: to explore diverse views
within and without the Muslim community.
Still, this intellectual exercise provides an important backdrop for the
current debate about the significance of Islam in the profound transformations
occurring in contemporary Islamic thinking. I also believe that the
debate reveals the complexity of the process of Islamic reform and diversity
of its forms and manifestations.
Moderate Islam
“Moderate Islam” has become a most contentious term, as the debate above
shows. The word moderate is frequently used in reference to the political
centrist: “A person who takes a position in the political center.” Amoderate
is a person who is neither on the extreme left nor on the extreme right of
the political, moral, or religious spectrum of ideas.
Defining moderate becomes tricky when one takes a historical view of
mainstream society. From a historical point of view, the terms moderate
and extremist immediately loose their absolutist standing and acquire a ...

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