Islamic Studies Progressive Islam and Progressive Muslim Thought
by
Adis Duderija
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0230

Introduction

The religious authority of traditionally educated Muslim scholars (ulama), the fashioners and perpetuators of the classical Islamic tradition, has been seriously disrupted and contested by a number of actors, among the most influential of whom are apologists, puritan fundamentalists, public intellectuals, and what are termed scholar-activist proponents of progressive Islam / progressive Muslim (PM) thought. PM thought is an umbrella term covering approaches to the Islamic tradition and (late) capitalist modernity, which, at times, employ the words “progressive” or “critical” (e.g., the magazine Critical Muslim published in the United Kingdom) when self-labeling themselves or which fall into PM thought as defined herein. PM thought emerged in the shadows of the tragic events of 9/11. Although the origins and the main theoreticians behind this modern Muslim thought are to be traced mainly to Muslim academics and intellectuals residing in the West, the proponents of PM thought can be found both in Muslim majority and Muslim minority contexts. Importantly, PM intellectuals and activists include a significant number of females. PM thought is best characterized by its commitment and fidelity to certain ideals, values, practices, and objectives that are expressed and take form in a number of different themes. These themes primarily concern issues pertaining to their “critical” positioning in relation to (1) the hegemonic economic, political, social, and cultural forces from the Global North, (2) hegemonic patriarchal, exclusivist, and ossified interpretations of their own inherited Islamic tradition, and (3) both the values underpinning the Age of Enlightenment modernity as well as radical forms of postmodern thought. This critique simultaneously challenges both (neo-)traditional and puritan Islamic hegemonic discourses on many issues (including the debates on modernity, human rights, gender equality and justice, democracy, and the place and role of religion in society and politics) and Western-centric conceptualizations and interpretations, embedded as they are in the values and worldview assumptions underpinning the Enlightenment. Commitment to social and gender justice (including indigenous Islamic feminism) and a belief in the inherent dignity of every human being as a carrier of God’s spirit are fundamental to PMs’ Weltanschauung. The centrality of spirituality and the nurturing of interpersonal relationships based on Sufi-like ethico-moral philosophy and principled prophetic ethics of solidarity is another important characteristic of this thought. Bringing about and strengthening the multifaceted and dynamic aspects of the inherited Islamic tradition and resisting its reductionism and exclusivist interpretation founded on patriarchy, misogyny, and religious bigotry is an important additional trait of PM thought. Another significant attribute of PM thought is its epistemological and methodological openness and fluidity. PMs do not subscribe to commonly employed dichotomies such as tradition versus modernity and secularism versus religion, or simplistic generalization such as modernity equals Western or Judeo-Christian intellectual/civilizational tradition. As such, PMs are engaged in permanent dialogue with the progressive agendas of other cultures, drawing inspiration not only from faith-based liberatory movements such as liberation theology but also from movements that are premised outside a faith-based framework, such as secular humanism. Progressive Islamic hermeneutics is characterized by its emphasis on the role of context and history (i.e., nature of previous communities of interpretation) in interpreting the foundational Islamic texts without questioning their ontologically divine nature. It is these characteristics that set them apart from other modern reformist-minded movements such as those associated with traditional islah and tajdid (see Duderija 2011, cited under Theoretical Framework). Therefore, the material selected under every heading in this article meets the described relevant criteria or is consistent with them. Methodologically, PM thought is here identified as a “community of interpretation” in the sense employed by a modern literary critic, Stanley Fish (b. 1938). Hence, the proponents of PM thought share certain interpretational assumptions, be they epistemological, hermeneutical, or methodological, when conceptualizing and interpreting the turath and its foundational texts, as documented in Duderija 2011. The proponents of PM thought should not be seen as an entirely internally homogenous group or as a rigid conceptual category; the concept of PM thought should primarily be seen as a heuristic tool that may be used to define and delineate a particular type or way of being a Muslim.

Theoretical Framework

A handful of Muslim scholars primarily residing in the United States have contributed to the theoretical framework behind PM thought. The pioneering work is Safi 2003 (further developed in Safi 2006), especially its introduction to the edited volume and chapters in Moosa 2003 and Esack 2003. Moosa 2007 and Duderija 2011 provide the most theoretically sustained arguments on defining PM thought.

  • Duderija, Adis. Constructing Religiously Ideal “Believer” and “Woman” in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims’ Methods of Interpretation. Edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl. Palgrave Series in Islamic Theology, Law, and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230337862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date source concerning the definition of PM thought and its theoretical framework. It also situates and describes PM thought and its approach to interpretation of sacred texts both in relation to the Islamic tradition and with respect to late modernity and its episteme.

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  • Esack, Farid. “In Search of Progressive Islam Beyond 9/11.” In Progressive Muslims; On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. Edited by Omid Safi, 78–98. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    Offers useful insights into dilemmas associated with definition of progressive Islam and how PMs differ from liberal Muslims, especially in relation to their response to western political and economic hegemony in general and to the 9/11 events in particular.

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  • Moosa, Ebrahim. “The Debts and Burdens of Critical Islam.” In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. Edited by Omid Safi, 111–128. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    Provides an important discussion on the kind of questions and debates modern Muslims face pertaining to the nature of the Islamic tradition and its conceptualization and interpretation.

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  • Moosa, Ebrahim. “Transitions in the ‘Progress’ of Civilisation.” In Voices of Islam. Vol. 5, Voices of Change. Edited by Omid Safi, 115–130. Praeger Perspectives. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    Provides a very significant theoretical engagement about what progressive Islam is and is not and the perils associated with its definition. It contains an important discussion on how the concepts of “progress,” “history,” and “tradition” are conceptualized in PM thought.

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  • Safi, Omid, ed. Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    Describes and situates PM thought and its major concerns and themes, as more or less described in the Introduction. The fourteen essays are grouped into three themes as reflected in the book’s subtitle: social justice, gender justice, and pluralism.

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  • Safi, Omid. “Progressive Islam in America.” In A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America. Edited by Stephen Prothero, 23–43. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

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    Usefully situates and describes progressive Islam in the context of North American Muslim communities and the challenges they face.

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  • Safi, Omid. “Introduction: Islamic Modernism and the Challenge of Reform.” In Voices of Islam. Vol. 5, Voices of Change. Edited by Omid Safi, 17–34. Praeger Perspectives. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    This work builds on Safi 2003 and Safi 2006 and helpfully situates and delineates progressive Islam from other Muslim modernist movements, including secularists. It also discusses the issue of Islamic reform from a progressive perspective.

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Intellectual Predecessors

While a lot has been written on reformist/modernist Islam since the 1970s and 1980s, in general few works focus on the intellectual relationship between PM thought and its modern forerunners. Progressive Muslims’ closest intellectual predecessors in the modern condition are those associated with Islamic modernism in the second half of the 20th century, including figures such as Fazlur Rahman (b. 1919–d. 1988), Muhammad Shahrur (b. 1938), Amin Al-Khuli (b. 1895–d. 1966), Abdulkarim K. Soroush (b. 1945), Mohammed Arkoun (b. 1928–d. 2010), T. Husayn (b. 1889–d. 1973), Ali Shariati (b. 1933–d. 1977), and Asghar Ali Engineer (b. 1939–d. 2013). Duderija 2011, Jahanbakhsh 2009, Moosa 2003, and Bamyeh 2008 contain useful discussions pertaining to intellectual genealogies of progressive Islam, especially in the modern period.

  • Bamyeh, Mohammad. “Hermeneutics against Instrumental Reason: National and Post-National Islam in the 20th Century.” Third World Quarterly 29.3 (2008): 555–574.

    DOI: 10.1080/01436590801931512Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces an important concept of “hermeneutic Islam” as the equivalent of progressive Islam and usefully delineates it from what Bamyeh terms “instrumental Islam.” While the latter essentially gives primacy to the organization of society and cultural identity in the context of nation-states, the former is embedded in a postmodern, postnational worldview that emphasizes questions of universality, human existence, and epistemology.

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  • Duderija, Adis. Constructing Religiously Ideal “Believer” and “Woman” in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims’ Methods of Interpretation. Edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl. Palgrave Series in Islamic Theology, Law, and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230337862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In chapter 5 of this work (“Progressive Muslims: Conceptualising and Engaging the Islamic Tradition”), we find a useful historical contextualization of PM thought in relation to its intellectual predecessors from the modern period, in the context both of the Muslim majority and Muslim minority worlds. Duderija argues that how PMs conceptualize and engage with their tradition has important epistemological and hermeneutical roots in the thought of European romantic criticism.

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  • Jahanbakhsh, Forough. “Abdulkarim Soroush’s Neo-rationalist Approach to Islam.” In The Expansion of Prophetic Experience: Essays on Historicity, Contingency and Plurality in Religion. Edited by Abdulkarim Soroush, and Forough Jahanbakhsh, 15–17. Translated by Nilou Mobasser. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004171053.i-355Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Jahanbakhsh’s analytical introduction to Soroush’s book contains a comprehensive discussion of neorationalist Muslim thought, which is in many respects identical to that of PM thought, especially from an epistemological vantage point, with its emphasis on historicity and contingency of religion, religious experience, and religious knowledge.

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  • Moosa, Ebrahim. “The Debts and Burdens of Critical Islam.” In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. Edited by Omid Safi, 111–128. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    Usefully situates PM thought in relation to its most recent historical forerunner, Islamic modernism, and the kinds of continuities and discontinuities between the two.

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Women, Gender, and Religious Authority

As mentioned in the Introduction, issues pertaining to women and gender are a very important element of PM thought, including issues pertaining to gender equality and female religious leadership. While there are many works on the topic of the status and rights of women in Islam, most of these are not written from the perspective of the PM thought as defined. In this regard, Ali 2003; Ali, et al. 2012; Zine 2006; and Shaikh 2006 should be regarded as pioneering, of particular importance, and having strongly influenced the work of more-junior scholars, such as in Hidayatullah 2014, Duderija 2015, and Duderija 2014.

  • Ali, Kecia. “Progressive Muslims and Islamic Jurisprudence: The Necessity for Critical Engagement with Marriage and Divorce Law.” In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. Edited by Omid Safi, 163–189. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    Ali’s engagement with the deeply patriarchal and gender-hierarchical assumptions embedded in classical Islamic jurisprudence is an excellent example of PMs’ approach to the gender aspect of the inherited Islamic tradition and the kind of arguments and solutions that are germane to PM thought as they relate to gender issues.

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  • Ali, Kecia, Juliane Hammer, and Laury Silvers, eds. A Jihad for Justice: Honoring the Work and Life of Amina Wadud. Akron, OH: 48Hr Books, 2012.

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    This is a collection of essays by various PM scholars honoring the life and work of one of the pioneers of feminist Qurʾanic hermeneutics and proponents of female religious leadership/authority, Amina Wadud. Available online.

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  • Duderija, Adis. “Islam and Gender in the Thought of a Critical-Progressive Muslim Scholar-Activist: Ziba Mir-Hosseini.” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 25.4 (2014): 433–449.

    DOI: 10.1080/09596410.2014.931043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Duderija provides a useful overview of issues pertaining to gender, women, and Islam through the scholarship of a leading PM scholar writing on gender issues, Ziba Mir-Hosseini.

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  • Duderija, Adis. “Toward a Scriptural Hermeneutics of Islamic Feminism.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 31.2 (2015): 45–64.

    DOI: 10.2979/jfemistudreli.31.2.45Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Duderija develops a number of mechanisms pertaining to Islamic scriptural hermeneutics that are affirmative of the very concept and goals of Islamic feminism and at the same time address the skepticism about this project, as argued in Hidayatullah 2014 and Ali 2006 (the latter cited under Islamic Ethics).

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  • Hammer, Juliane. American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism: More Than a Prayer. Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture 28. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

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    Through the conceptual lens of a Friday congregational prayer led by Amina Wadud, this book provides important insights into how progressive Muslims are participating in modern discussions on religious authority, tradition, community, and representation.

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  • Hidayatullah, Aysha A. Feminist Edges of the Qurʾan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359561.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Builds further on the efforts of the critique in Ali 2006 (cited under Islamic Ethics), with special focus on modern feminist Qurʾanic hermeneutics, raising some important theoretical questions about the possibility of Islamic feminism.

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  • Kugle, Scott Siraj al-Haqq. Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. Oxford: Oneworld, 2010.

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    This book contains the most systematic position of PM thought pertaining to questions of non-heterosexual sexual orientations in Islam, from theological and juristic perspectives. It also contains a critical deconstruction of mainstream Islamic tradition, including Qurʾanic commentary, Hadith, and fiqh.

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  • Shaikh, Saʿdiyya. “Knowledge, Women and Gender in the Hadith: A Feminist Interpretation.” In Islam and Other Religions: Pathways to Dialogue; Essays in Honour of Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub. Edited by Irfan A. Omar, 87–96. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    This work employs a critical faith-based feminist hermeneutic on a selection of Hadith pertaining to gender, simultaneously exposing much of patriarchal ideology embedded in them as well as providing alternative readings of the material, informed by commitment to gender justice.

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  • Silvers, Laury, and Ahmed Elewa. “‘I Am One of the People’: A Survey and Analysis of Legal Arguments on Woman-Led Prayer in Islam.” Journal of Law and Religion 26.1 (2010–2011): 141–171.

    DOI: 10.1017/S074808140000093XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides the most comprehensive survey and analysis of legal arguments on women-led prayer both in premodern and modern Islam, in the light of the 2005 Wadud-led Friday congregational prayer in New York in 2005.

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  • Zine, Jasmin. “Between Orientalism and Fundamentalism: Muslim Women and Feminist Engagement.” In (En)gendering the War on Terror: War Stories and Camouflaged Politics. Edited by Krista Hunt, and Kim Rygiel, 27–51. Gender in a Global/Local World. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Muslim women’s critical, faith-centered, antiracist feminist epistemology is an engaging exploration of politics of possibilities for Muslim women to connect their struggles for identity and liberation within what Zine terms an antiracist feminist paradigm, by means of a critical, faith-centered discursive framework of theory and praxis. It is representative of the kind of ideas and arguments indigenous to PM perspectives on feminism.

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Sufi Thought

While there are numerous works on Sufi thought, the majority of them are written from a historical perspective and are primarily descriptive in nature. Of the works that adopt a decidedly gendered lens, the majority also adopt a historical lens (e.g., the works of Laury Silvers). Mainstream Sufism by and large functions or functioned in the service of mainstream androcentric if not patriarchal Islam. As noted in Safi 2003 and Duderija 2011 (both cited under Theoretical Framework), in many ways PM thought is an intellectualized form of certain feminist affirmative forms of Sufism. The work of Saʿdiyya Shaikh (Shaikh 2012) is most representative of a PM approach to Sufism and is the only one this author is aware of.

  • Shaikh, Saʿdiyya. Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn ʿArabī, Gender, and Sexuality. Islamic Civilization & Muslim Networks. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5149/9780807869864_shaikhSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the most sustained and pioneering discussion of a PM scholar’s engagement with feminist, affirmative, premodern Sufi thought (in the tradition of Ibn Al-ʿArabi, b. 1165–d. 1240) for the purposes of challenging patriarchal interpretations of gender in Islam.

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Political Thought

There is a vast amount of literature on the issue of Islam and politics, from various perspectives (e.g., democracy, religious freedom, political philosophy, radicalization, postcoloniality, violent extremism, governance, human rights, gender, development). There are, however, few works that approach these issues from a decidedly PM perspective. The theoretical frameworks in Abou El Fadl 2003 and An-Naʿim 2008 have been most influential in this regard. In relation to issues pertaining to the role of Islam in early-21st-century world politics, Esack 2006 and Esack 2013 are, from a PM perspective, of particular prominence.

  • Abou El Fadl, Khaled. “The Human Rights Commitment in Modern Islam.” In Human Rights and Responsibilities in the World Religions. Edited by Joseph Runzo, Nancy M. Martin, and Arvind Sharma, 301–364. Library of Global Ethics and Religion 4. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

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    This chapter provides an in-depth discussion on the kinds of theoretical and moral challenges faced by Muslims committed to human rights discourses, and how it is possible to overcome them from a PM perspective.

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  • An-Naʿim, Abdullahi Ahmed. Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shariʿa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.4159/9780674033764Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This important work on the relationships among Islamic law, politics, and the modern state, advocating that such relationships ought to be in accordance with principles of constitutionalism, “secularism” (in contrast with secularization), human rights, and citizenship, is a representative and most detailed discussion of the PM view on the relationships among Islam, state, and politics in Muslim majority societies.

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  • Duderija, Adis. “Critical-Progressive Muslim Thought: Reflections on Its Political Ramifications.” Review of Faith and International Affairs 11.3 (2013): 69–79.

    DOI: 10.1080/15570274.2013.829987Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes the political ramifications of PM thought, situated between two epistemic and political hegemonies—namely, Western secularism and Islamic fundamentalism, especially in relation to the issue of religious freedom.

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  • Esack, Farid. “The Contemporary Democracy and the Human Rights Project for Muslim Societies: Challenges for the Progressive Muslim Intellectual.” In Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static. Edited by Abdul Aziz Said, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, and Meena Sharify-Funk, 117–128. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    This work is a poignant critique of how hegemonic global discourses on human rights and democracy can often function as a “Trojan horse of recolonization” of the Muslim majority world. It also discusses challenges faced by progressive Muslim intellectuals in the context of their commitment to an Islamically inspired appreciation of human rights and democracy that is not based on neoliberal capitalism and Western-centric conceptualizations of human rights.

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  • Esack, Farid. “Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in the Contemporary Study of Religion.” In Special Issue: Research in Religion and Society. Alternation: Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of the Arts and Humanities in Southern Africa 11 (2013): 36–60.

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    This work presents an uncompromising critique of “liberal” (in the Western sense of the word, associated with the philosophy of political liberalism) and secular Muslims, including some prominent academics and intellectuals (and their Western imperial/colonial masters, who construct Islam through a prism of the West and its history and institutions) who are seen as apologists for global injustices perpetuated by the capitalist, colonialist, and imperialist Global North, whose epicenter is the United States.

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Qurʾan-Sunna Hermeneutics

There are an increasing number of scholarly works that aim to critically investigate many assumptions informing traditional Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics. In this regard, Barlas 2002, Ramadan 2008, and Duderija 2011 represent pioneering work in this subfield of PM thought because they are more encompassing and systematic than other works. Duderija 2011 provides a detailed explanation of the assumptions governing PM Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics and delineates it from neotraditional salafi and mainstream “madhhab-based” ones. Kodir 2007 is a detailed discussion of PM hermeneutics applied to Hadith material pertaining to gender issues. Kodir 2013 is a continuation of this, with special reference to concepts of qiwama and mahram. Mir-Hosseini, et al. 2013 provides detailed insights into issues of justice, gender equality, and reformation of Muslim family laws incorporating PM hermeneutics, especially as they relate to the issue of (male) guardianship (wilaya) and authority (qiwama) over women. Ramadan 2008 contains a critical assessment of traditional Islamic legal theory (usul ul fiqh) and outlines a new methodology of usul ul fiqh that is in line with progressive Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics. It applies this new methodology to a number of concrete case studies pertaining to Islamic ethics. The contextualist approach to Qurʾanic hermeneutics in Saeed 2014 also falls into this category.

  • Barlas, Asma. “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qurʾan. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

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    This work provides an important discussion on the importance of interpreting the Qurʾan holistically and with sensitivity to its historical context.

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  • Duderija, Adis. Constructing Religiously Ideal “Believer” and “Woman” in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims’ Methods of Interpretation. Edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl. Palgrave Series in Islamic Theology, Law and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230337862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work provides a detailed explanation of the assumptions governing PM Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics and delineates it from neotraditional salafi and mainstream “madhhab-based” ones.

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  • Kadivar, Mohsen. “From Traditional Islam to Islam as an End in Itself.” Die Welt des Islams 51.3–4 (2011): 459–484.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006011X611632Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kadivar’s concept of “Islam as an end in itself” entails an important discussion of Islamic hermeneutics that feature prominently in progressive Islam, as well as a critique of classical ones, with special reference to Shiʿism. Its core argument is that the standard for the legitimacy of a religious verdict is justice in accordance with the way of reasonable people of any particular time, and not just that of the time of revelation.

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  • Kodir, Faqihuddin Abdul. Hadith and Gender Justice: Understanding the Prophetic Traditions. Cirebon, Indonesia: Fahmina Institute, 2007.

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    This book is a detailed discussion of PM hermeneutics applied to Hadith material pertaining to gender issues.

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  • Kodir, Faqihuddin Abdul. “Gender Equality and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad: Reinterpreting the Concepts of Maḥram and Qiwāma.” In Gender Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in Islamic Legal Tradition. Edited by Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen, and Christian Moe, 169–190. Library of Islamic Law 5. London: Tauris, 2013.

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    Kodir’s chapter is a continuation of his previous work (Kodir 2007) and provides a detailed discussion on how to reinterpret the concepts of qiwama and that of a mahram from a PM perspective.

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  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen, and Christian Moe, eds. Gender Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in Islamic Legal Tradition. Library of Islamic Law 5. London: Tauris, 2013.

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    This edited volume provides detailed insights into the issues of justice, gender equality, and reformation of Muslim family laws incorporating PM hermeneutics, especially as they relate to the issue of (male) guardianship (wilaya) and authority (qiwama) over women.

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  • Ramadan, Tariq. Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331714.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book contains a critical assessment of traditional Islamic legal theory (usul ul fiqh) and outlines a new methodology of usul ul fiqh that is in line with progressive Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics. It also applies this hermeneutic in relation to issues pertaining to medical sciences, arts and culture, gender issues, economy, ecology, society, education and politics.

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  • Saeed, Abdullah. Reading the Qurʾan in the Twenty-First Century: A Contextualist Approach. New York: Routledge, 2014.

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    This work presents the most systematic discussion regarding the methodology of contextualist interpretation of the Qurʾan and applies it to various theological and jurisprudential issues.

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Islamic Theology

Since near the end of the 20th century, an increasing number of scholarly works have examined or reexamined the relationship between Islam and other religious traditions from a pluralist perspective, as well as looking at the very nature of the concept of revelation in Islam, which aims to revive rationalist Muslim theology. In this context, Abou El Fadl 2014, Esack 1997, Sukidi 2009 (on Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd’s theories), and Soroush 2009 are particularly noteworthy. Khalil 2013 is a more recent attempt to gather some of the most prominent Muslim scholarly voices on the question of salvation of the non-Muslim Other, Khalil 2013 is a more recent attempt to gather some of the most prominent Muslim scholarly voices on the question of salvation of the non-Muslim Other. Some of the contributors do so from a PM vantage point. Also, PM theology is by definition liberation theology. The works of Farid Esack, Hassan Hanafi, Hamid Dabashi, and Shabbir Akhtar (e.g., Akhtar 2011) are of particular importance in this respect.

  • Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shariʿah in the Modern Age. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

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    This is a magnum opus of a leading PM theologian and jurist that provides a comprehensive and poignant critique of early-21st-century morally “ugly,” misogynist, exclusivist, and authoritarian interpretations of Islam. It argues for the need of a more rational and ethically more beautiful conceptualization of Islamic theology (and jurisprudence/ethics).

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  • Akhtar, Shabbir. Islam as a Political Religion: The Future of an Imperial Faith. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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    In chapters 3 and 4 of this book, Akhtar lays out a complete conceptual framework for an Islamic liberation theology. He contends that Islam is paradigmatically and unapologetically a political religion (and thereby answers criticisms from certain Christian corners that find this aspect of Islam theologically troubling), in the sense of absorbing and sanctifying politics into religion. He argues that Islamic theology is quintessentially liberationist in character.

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  • Duderija, Adis. Constructing Religiously Ideal “Believer” and “Woman” in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims’ Methods of Interpretation. Edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl. Palgrave Series in Islamic Theology, Law, and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230337862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains how interpretational assumptions governing PM and what the author terms neotraditional salafi interpretational models of the Qurʾan and Sunna are responsible for constructing religiously inclusivist and exclusivist Islamic theologies.

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  • Esack, Farid. Qurʾan, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity against Oppression. Oxford: Oneworld, 1997.

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    This work employs the concept of “contextual hermeneutic of religious pluralism for liberation,” which is an important contribution to the idea of formulation and advancement of theological pluralism within Islam and how to rethink the way the Qurʾan defines a concept of a “believer” (Self) and “nonbeliever” (Other) so as to have room for the righteous and just Other.

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  • Khalil, Mohammad Hassan, ed. Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation, and the Fate of Others. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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    Contains several essays by some PM scholars grappling with the question of salvation of non-Muslims.

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  • Rizvi, Sajjad H. “Oneself as the Saved Other? The Ethics and Soteriology of Difference in Two Muslim Thinkers.” In Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation, and the Fate of Others. Edited by Mohammad Hassan Khalil, 180–203. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199945399.003.0008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rizvi engages with Islamic religious-pluralism philosophies of two prominent Shiʿi thinkers, Abdulkarim Soroush and Mohammad Shabestari, which signify a turn away from Qurʾan-centered exegesis and scriptural reasoning to a more hermeneutical and epistemological approach a la Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur.

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  • Soroush, Abdulkarim. The Expansion of Prophetic Experience: Essays on Historicity, Contingency and Plurality in Religion. Edited by Forough Jahanbakhsh. Translated by Nilou Mobasser. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004171053.i-355Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work offers a novel understanding of the concept of phenomenology of prophethood and the nature of revelation (wahy).

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  • Sukidi. “Nasr Hāmid Abū Zayd and the Quest for a Humanistic Hermeneutics of the Qurʾān.” Die Welt des Islams 49.2 (2009): 181–211.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006009X458393Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sukidi provides a useful summary of Abu Zayd’s theories of revelation (wahy) and the revival of rationalist theology current in modern Islam.

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Islamic Ethics

The academic field of Muslim ethics has been gaining increased attention both by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. Few Muslim scholars have adopted a PM approach to Islamic ethics, but the most-prominent studies include Moosa 2007, Ramadan 2008, and Ali 2006.

  • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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    This book is a systematic, critical, feminist, faith-based engagement with a plethora of issues pertaining to sexual ethics. In particular, the ethical and moral perils of applying classical Islamic juristic legacy are discussed, as are the many assumptions on which they are premised to modern Muslim subjectivities surrounding sexual ethics, which are so radically different from those of the revelatory period and classical Islam.

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  • Moosa, Ebrahim. “Muslim Ethics?” In The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics. Edited by William Schweiker, 237–243. Blackwell Companions to Religion. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470997031.ch26Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article on Muslim ethics contains a succinct but highly informative description of PM thought as an emerging trend in Muslim ethical thought. It usefully situates and delineates PM thought with reference to other more-dominant modern approaches to Muslim ethics.

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  • Ramadan, Tariq. Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331714.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This important book contains a critical assessment of traditional Islamic legal theory (usul ul fiqh) and outlines a new methodology of usul ul fiqh that is in line with progressive Qurʾan-Sunna hermeneutics. It applies this new methodology to a number of concrete case studies pertaining to Islamic ethics.

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Islamic Philosophy

The modern works of Islamic philosophy that are not heavily based on a historical approach are very few in number. Even fewer are those written from a PM perspective. Akhtar 2008 is an attempt to revive Islamic philosophy in general and from a PM vantage point in particular.

  • Akhtar, Shabbir. The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam. London: Routledge, 2008.

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    The book is an attempt to revive among Muslims the tradition of philosophy itself by a critical engagement with the Qurʾan in the era of late modernity’s secularism and political liberalism. Of special relevance is the final chapter, in which the author examines the possibility of rational theology in all three Abrahamic religious traditions. In the author’s mind, this can serve as a useful springboard for a revival of all branches of Islamic philosophy.

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