Dialogue on Irshad Manji and Project Ijtihad in ‘On Faith’

Irshad Manji is a featured Guest Voice on the Washington Post’s Blog, On Faith, where she writes about Ijtihad– the process of critical thinking in Islam which thrived for several hundred years until the end of the 12th Century– in the context of Islamic inter-faith marriage and women’s rights.  The comment stream, 187 at last count, and my comment hasn’t made it on to the thread yet, runs the gamut from knee jerk rejection of critical thought in Islam to thoughtful questioning of how the concept can be re-introduced into the mainstream of today’s Islamic theological debate.

What is Ijtihad? Ijtihad (Arabic اجتهاد) is a technical term of Islamic law that describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qu’ran and the Sunnah.

Based on my own research and thinking on this subject for the past five years,  Ijtihad presents the only viable solution to the conflict between faith and reason that prevents many Muslims from embracing modernity and is at the root of the crisis in Islam today.  There is historic justification in Islam for the validity of Ijtihad dating back to the Golden Age of Islam– which happens to coincide with the Dark Ages of Western thought and the ascendancy of the Iberian Peninsula.

One commenter on the Post blog asks how do you "undoctrinate the indoctrinated"?  The answer, in my view, is that you have to start with a process, and you have to capture the minds of progressive thinkers who are willing to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  It takes brave, committed people to get there.  Thankfully Irshad Manji is one of them.

To learn more about Project Ijtihad: click here


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