Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think

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1 Sahil Badruddin = ""Once a reasonable interpretation of the rise of Islam in sixth- and seventh-century Arabia has been formed, it is possible to trace how Muhammad’s revolutionary message of moral accountability and social egalitarianism was gradually reinterpreted by his successors into competing ideologies of rigid legalism and uncompromising orthodoxy, which fractured the Muslim community and widened the gap between mainstream, or Sunni, Islam and its two major sectarian movements, Shi‘ism and Sufism. Although sharing a common sacred history, each group strove to develop its own interpretation of scripture, its own ideas on theology and the law, and its own community of faith. And each had different responses to the experience of colonialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, that experience forced the entire Muslim community to reconsider the role of faith in modern society. While some Muslims pushed for the creation of an indigenous Islamic Enlightenment by eagerly developing Islamic alternatives to Western secular notions of democracy, others advocated separation from Western cultural ideals in favor of the complete “Islamization” of society. With the end of colonialism and the birth of the Islamic state in the twentieth century, these two groups have refined their arguments against the backdrop of the ongoing debate in the Muslim world over the prospect of forming a genuine Islamic democracy. But as we shall see, at the center of the debate over Islam and democracy is a far more significant internal struggle over who gets to define the Islamic Reformation that is already under way in most of the Muslim world."-No god but God, Reza Aslan "