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The Place Of Tolerance In Islam By Khaled Abou El Fadl (Book Review Sample)


I was tasked to write a review on the book The place of tolerance in Islam by KHALED Abou El Fadl. attached is the sample work of the review.

The place of tolerance in Islam by KHALED Abou El Fadl
After September 11, the relationship between tolerance and violence among the Muslims has been discussed widely. Many non-Muslims around the world find it difficult to understand how the two aspects come together. Many critics have made an effort to paint Islam in one monolithic view which is not in relation with the dynamic and diverse humanistic experience. Islamic leaders around the world have many times come forth to defend their religion as a tolerant one, especially after periods when individuals in the name of Allah have undertaken mass killings, claiming that the perpetrators involved are not Muslims and do not represent Allah in any way. The perpetrators themselves have most often said their actions were legitimate and informed by writings from the Qur’an. Academics and intellectuals of Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have contested the advancement of this stereotype by stressing that a) Islam is not one sided and that there are many exegesis of Islam regarding geography, time and other conditions; b) The core and main values of Islam embolden tolerance and not violence; and c) Even if self-defense is necessary at a time of violence, Islam lays out limits on the use of force. One of these scholars is Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He discusses the place of tolerance in Islam in his book by the same name.
This book is an endeavor to counter the impression of Islam especially held by the United States people after the terrorist attacks in 9/11. The book begins with an essay by El Fadl about the issue of tolerance as understood in Islamic theology and how it is interpreted among Muslims. He begins this engaging debate by contending that Islam is a profoundly tolerant religion. He very well refutes away the terrorist’s intolerant and skewed interpretations of the Qur’anic writings by insisting that a better and more precise interpretation of the holy book would consider the historical contexts of verses. He further notes that the terrorists do not look into the Qur’an as a whole thus contradicting other passages which are more central and tolerant to the practice of Islam. He states that the problem of misquotation and misinterpretation of religious texts is not unique to Muslims only but also other religions as well. While El Fadl urges from a central view of tolerance, justice and kindness in Islam, he insists also that the Qur’an just like all other religious texts provide “possibilities for meaning not inevitabilities” thus the argument in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism can’t simply be textual.
The second section of the book is made up of eleven reactions to El Fadl’s essay by noteworthy individuals such as Professors John Esposito, Amina Wadud and others. The book then closes as El Fadl follows up and reflects on the opinions of his co-authors. The all-inclusive effect of reading all the three parts is rather one of ambivalence; the reader becomes deeply engrossed in discourse with each writer, growing in the realization with each engagement how complicated and multifaceted the issues faced by modern Muslims are.
It emerges therefore that while theologically Islam is tolerant of non-Muslims, there are individual Muslims who harbor views that are intolerant, unjustifiably picked from the Qur’an. El Fadl condemns these views as eisegesis. In two particular scintillating essays, Abid Ullah Jan and Tariq Ali compellingly contend that the west is the one which is sometimes intolerant and taken “advantage of Islamic tolerance to force Muslims into greater subservience.” A majority of the responses are well thought out and key in an advancement in Islamic theological perspective.
According to El Fadl, the outstanding reason for the increase of misleading versions of religions is the insistence to be looking for the “pure” interpretation of religions. However, by erasing the Qur’ans moral and historical context, the puritans end up with a watered down text bearing a long list of legalistic commands and morally non-committal standards. The puritans build their discriminatory and intolerant theology by studying the Qur’an in seclusion, as though the passages were clear and had direct meaning - as though historical context and moral ideas were not relevant to their interpretation. He further states that one of the puritans was Osama Bin Laden who claimed to be “purifying” Muslims from traditional divergences, misrepresented and misunderstood Islam. For instance, they misuse and misplace the word Jihad. According to the Islamic religion, war is either justifiable or its not but it is never holy. This is in contradiction to what the Puritans ascribe, “the highest form of Jihad is struggle waged to cleanse oneself from the vices of the heart” (pg. 19). Nonetheless, because there is a void of religious leadership in Islam, the on the boarder puritans, may find companions.
El Fadl notes that the puritan Muslims are the ones who are intolerant of other Muslims and religions. This viewpoint is grossly in disagreement to what the Qur’an says,
“ Those who believe, those who follow Jewish scriptures, the Christians, the Sabians, and any who believes in God and the final day, and do good, all shall have their reward with their Lord band they will not come to fear or grief”
(5:69, 2:62)
El Fadl insists that the unadulterated message of Islam is accessible and open to tolerance and diversity. He points that there is no coercion in issues of faith in Islam. He again quotes the Qur’an:
“To each of you God has prescribed a law and a way. If God would have willed, He would have made you a single people. But Gods purpose is to test you in what He has given each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God, and He will resolve all the matters in which you disagree,”
Refutations to El Fadl’s essay are inscribed by a number of popular and well known scholars. Many of the respondents do not agree with El Fadl line of reasoning. Two Pakistani respondents appear to be the most critical, changing focus from theological factors to political factors. Some of these critics argue that his type of Islam will only attract students in “liberal divinity schools” and westerners and that serious significant religious discourse in the Muslim world needs dramatic political changes. Some critics insist that terror can only be attributed and explained by social and economic reasons and therefore El Fadl’s theological religious discussion is of no use.
Other critics conclude that the theological line of argument is irrelevant, because the actual cause and driver of terrorism in the Middle East is past Western colonization and present day Western infiltration and domination in the region. They go ahead to argue that the West went in destroyed and ultimately interfered with the natural Islamic ways of life. The resulting instability played a major role in destabilizing the average Muslims levels of tolerance. Tariq Ali argues contending that the Muslim world needs non-religious political change and not liberal theology. El Fadl responds that, even though social and economic triggers cannot be ignored, theology is pertinent, because Islam “remains central to the dynamics of public legitimacy and cultural meaning” in most Islamic countries. Based on this viewpoint, it is therefore critical that a theological perspective be considered when in search of solutions for and socio-political and socio-economic problems of Islamic societies. Both the socio-political and theological perspectives need to be considered so that a solution will be reached that is inclusive of all potential triggers.
Al Fadl goes on to add that blaming the west for the issue is counterproductive and does not contribute or offer any solutions to the problem. The Western infiltration is not sufficient to alter such a core structural establishment. He argues that Muslims should be able to respect and preserve the unadulterated message of Islam, despite having been oppressed by the west. The core messages of Islam need to be int...
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