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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: October 2020

2 - Neither Conciliation nor Confrontation


There are two dominant approaches to Christian engagement with Islamic ethics, both of which hinder understanding of sharī‘a, fiqh, and their place in Islamic political discourse. One claims Islam is theocratic and necessarily in competition with Christian views of the distinction between the spiritual and earthly. This perspective depicts Islam and Christianity as locked in a clash of religions that is rooted in the core scriptural and theological identities of both communities. The second approach understands Islam to be trapped by its past, but nonetheless able to evolve, as Christianity did in the West, through adopting secularism. Islam is at its core a religion of peace, but this truth is best realized when Islam follows the lead of secular liberalism by privatizing religion. Neither approach amounts to an honest engagement with Muslims’ own differing and diverse accounts of the importance of sharī‘a and the moral world that it imagines and ritually enacts. By relegating sharī‘a to only absolutist law, Christian theological engagement with Islam forgoes opportunities for genuine dialogue, mutual learning, and constructive disagreement in political theology.

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