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Is Islam 'Exceptional'? -- Atlantic.com
where theologians like Martin Luther famously fashioned a dialectic between faith and good works, these two things are inextricably tied together in Islam. Faith is often expressed through the observance of the law. The failure to follow Islamic law is a reflection of the believer's lack of faith and unwillingness to submit to God. Salvation is impossible without law. This has implications for the nature of the Islamic state. If following the sharia -- for example, refraining from alcohol and adultery, observing the fast, and praying five times a day -- is a precondition for salvation, then political leaders and clerics alike have a role in encouraging the good and forbidding evil, a role they played, to various degrees, for the entirety of the pre-modern period.

[...] Hard-won independence offered a gleam of hope in the 20th century, but the promise of secular nationalism ultimately disappointed, with young nations descending into dictatorship. Perhaps God had forsaken the Muslims, punishing them for straying from the straight path. After all, God had promised glad tidings for those who followed his commands, and he had, seemingly, delivered for centuries. The most devout -- the prophet, his companions, and their earliest followers -- had enjoyed unimaginable success, conquering the entirety of North Africa, then spreading out through Spain and into France within a hundred years of the prophet's passing. This must have been evidence of their righteousness. That, though, could only mean that the territorial contraction of once-great empires must have been evidence of sin and decadence.

[...] The prophet Muhammad was a theologian, a politician, a warrior, a preacher, and a merchant, all at once. Importantly, he was also the builder of a new state. It is difficult to know when he was acting in one role rather than the other [...]

[...] the basic idea of extracting general principles while emphasizing the historicity of their application has, in less explicit form, been advocated by a growing number of "progressive" Muslim scholars, many of whom live in the West. There are reasons, though, that these theories have struggled to gain adherents in the Muslim world. First of all, they're not very easily explained to those without a background in Islamic law. For many Muslims, the point of Islam is that it is accessible and straightforward, at least in its broad outlines.

by das monde on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 11:49:44 PM EST

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